It Will Not Always Be This Way: Prophecy Poem or Impermanence After Phillis

5 12 2014
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“Frontispiece Remastered” Collage by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Last night after laying our bodies in the street in protest, while advocating and praying for our comrades who had been arrested, while grieving and grieving the loss of black lives, the audacity of state violence, while remembering the police murder of Fred Hampton and honoring the resilience of our beautiful communities, 5 black women gathered in the name of Phillis Wheatley.  230 years ago today Phillis Wheatley/Peters the first Black person to publish a collection of poems in the United States, witness to the American Revolution, acquaintance of a Queen and a President, died free, cold and poor somewhere in Boston.

Our conversation, blessed by the literary and historical expertise of Dr. Tara Bynum, ranged from the possibility of “ordinary” Black life in a context where just being a live and Black is framed as not just extraordinary but abnormal, to speculations of the layered and syncretic spiritual cosmologies present in Wheatley’s work and her correspondence with her friend Obour Tanner, to Morissonian (as in Toni) reflections on the normalcy of evil, to raw honesty about slave-funded academic institutions that continue to enslave black scholars, to just wondering where our friends are and if they are okay.

Inspired by Wheatley’s invocation of the sacred nine in her poetry, we mused a while and generated resources of laughter, love, epic realness, star-knowledge, movement, history, tragedy, song and hymns to share with each other as a reminder that the institutions that harm us are not our only sources of power, we are resources for each other.   Finally we created this poem together out of our outrage at this moment and our faith that our lives and our world can be different.  This is a prophecy poem offering on the date of Phillis Wheatley’s ascension.  May all of our ancestors receive it and join us in transforming life on earth.

Prophecy Poem (impermanence after Phillis)

by the participants in Bright Black Broadcast #3: Phillis Wheatley

black bodies disappearing into death, state-sanctioned choke-holds.

it will not always be this way

the impossibility of breathing.

it will not always be this way.

I listen to my ancestors when they say

it will not always be this way

to steady my steps I have to pray

it will not always be this way

it cannot always be this way

it will not always be this way

it will not always be this way,

i will continue to say

it will not always be this way,

as I smile remembering what’s gone is for yesterday

liberation is possible – perhaps not today.

it will not always be this way

hasten the change, no more lives should pay.

it will not always be this way.

y’all must got me f—d up

it will not always be this way

 

you must not know who taught me to pray

it will not always be this way

trickster teacher chaos clay

it will not always be this way

i’m gonna be here anyway

it will not always be this way

it will not always be this way

there is more than one way

gather the children and tell them

it will not always be this way

remind each other that

it will not always be this way

name your babies

it will not always be this way

the ancestors promise

it will not always be this way

baptize in the name of

it will not always be this way

we make joy

because it will not always be this way

i was born to love and play

It will not always be this way

we will dance into the black light of a brand new day,

it will not always be this way

#itwillnotalwaysbethisway

If you want your own limited edition print of the “Frontispiece Remastered” collage of Phillis Wheatley you can get on with your next $35 donation to Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind.   Be sure to include “Wheatley Print” and your current address with your donation: