This is a love letter
To the African-American community.
Black, if you wish,
Or simply “neighbor”.
To the African-American community-
My people would not be here if it were not for you.
Here as in alive,
Not as in the states,
Because we came to the states to be alive,
Something that would not have been possible back home,
But you helped us stay that way,
When our trades were not accepted
People of the US.
When we came here to escape death and oppression,
We were welcomed not by the blonde-haired, blue-eyed people we saw in the advertisements from the war,
We did not step off of the boat and into the arms of the benevolent angels we had heard of,
We came to America and found you.
At the time,
You hardly had a home to give,
And yet you offered it to us when we had none.
Your culture was ravaged by war and slavery,
And yet you encouraged us to preserve our’s.
My people came here with no English and no education,
And to the residents here,
The two are synonymous.
Though skilled in trades handed down by generations of people in our tribe,
Father to son,
And mother to daughter,
Our traditions were passed down,
But when we arrived in the new world,
We were like babes in arm,
Hardly knowing how to walk.
This is a thank you,
For taking my people by the hand and pressing their fingers into the soil,
Teaching us how to coax life out of it.
Teaching us how to translate our language of terracing in the mountains
To sowing in the fields,
When none would take us for work,
Season after season
Of my family hushing the mother language off the tongues of our children
So that they would sound less foreign,
You taught my family how to prepare for a blistering Texas heat,
When they were built to withstand an Eastern chill.
You showed my people what it was like
To build a life from the ground,
You took my people and led them out of the darkness of oppression and corruption
And into the light of the real American dream,
The one where people who have been beaten into the earth can rise up like a Phoenix.
You showed us what to do with the dirt and the sandy loam
Until we built upon it churches,
Harvested from it sustenance,
And within it,
Buried our dead.
This is a love letter,
Because love is the only reason I can think of
As to why you had mercy on my battered, broken people,
Accepting our calloused hands in thanks,
As we had nothing else to offer.
This is a thank you,
From the small, inconsequential non-natives,
Round and sturdy,
And the savage language with unfamiliar roots,
From my people,
With un-American eyes,
Coal-black and slanted,
On behalf of my ancestors for the actions of your’s,
Your people were not the ones that struck the beads and herbs from our hair,
Snatched the language from our lips,
And took the ribbons tied to our shoulders and wrapped them ‘round our throats,
Choking the accent out of our mouths,
That was not you.
Within God’s walls,
The ones built on the ground you brought us to,
We are told not to condemn the descendants of those who hurt us,
But to praise that of those who did not.
So here I am,
Writing you a love letter
Because all I have to offer
Is my thanks.
And void of the language and traditions that they were told to abandon,
Stand strong today,
Just as stout and ungraceful as the tribe that bore me,
I am educated.
I not only learn English,
But I master it.
I earn my money and I keep it,
No man takes it from me,
Or refuses to sell me land because I am unmarried,
No government can remove me
And thrust me into a camp
Or a foreign country where I will not be a bother,
And although my people have been stripped of their name and placed under the color-coded category of person
On the spectrum that everyone seems to abide by,
Stood by us.