Ancestor Instructions

Often heard in my house breaking the silence of speech and hum of heat…”You betta say that poem Gwendolyn!” or “You betta lecture that truth Langston!” or “You betta read that essay Zora!” or “You betta speak that unrest DuBois!” or “You betta sang that song Mahalia!” Black ancestors were full of fuel and food, so it makes it easy for me to survive and thrive off their words.


When I’m tired, I hear Sojourner say “take a rest nah, but ain’t I a woman too? You betta keep goin.” When I’m weak, I hear King say, “every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle, but you betta keep fighting.” When those around me seem not to care about the state of Black Americans in this country, I hear Baldwin say, “The primary distinction of the artist is that she must actively cultivate that state which most people, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone, but you betta keep writing poetry about it.”

I stand very tall on the shoulders of those great Black Men and Women ancestors who left all of us with wisdom and instructions to guide our steps. I see my Brothers and Sisters regardless of race or ethnicity stepping in sync. The recent protests in Chicago targeting systems of injustice, political figures, and disruption tactics are awe inspiring. I wonder how the ancestors feel about us? Are they proud? I hope so.

Kai Love