People Get Ready

by Ron Dowell

Lit torch in the dark

                                                                       after “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below,                                                                        We’re All Going to Go.”
                                                                                 Curtis Mayfield

                                                                       Mayfield lit the torch in black dark,
                                                                       said Keep on Pushing when kept apart
                                                                       from parks, restaurants, movies.
                                                                       My face turned black-hot when called
                                                                       a nigger. So, I love music
                                                                       that interrogates ears, tastes
                                                              like conflict, has disorder’s stench,
                                                              a chance to abandon my challenge.
                                                              Bayard Rustin said, tuck your black
                                                              bodies in places so wheels don’t
, and Mayfield, our winter lion,
                                                              readied me for the cold with nouns
                                               and verbs that catalyzed, images
                                               that showed and didn’t tell, and I
                                               stood next to Josephine Baker’s
                                               sensual fire after telling
                                               of great black kingdoms they reject.
                            My story showing I deserve, am
                            worthy of respect. I felt Black
                            and Proud, said it loud when Mayfield’s
                            flame passed to James Brown; die on your
                            feet rather than live enslaved on calloused
                            knees. GET UP, STAND UP—fight, Sly Stone’s
                            lyrics racked, burned my cerebrum.
                What enters Black heads leaves through black
                hands—join together to fight this
                holy battle, Bob Marley incites.
                Mayfield passed to Lauryn Hill, and
                Tupac, the flaming stick to Nas,
                and to Public Enemy’s Chuck D.

I’ve got to keep on pushin’ (mmm-hmm),
someway, somehow. I can’t stop now.
What Black oracle will clasp the torch?

Category: Featured, Poetry