by Nicola Karesh

The winners of the The Mary C. Jenkins Community Center Black History poetry contest.

Last Saturday, with a bit of a nip in the air and snowflakes from time to time, the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center held its retreat for board and committee members. This was immediately followed by the Black History Poetry Awards Ceremony. Thank you to the Transylvania County Library for the welcoming indoor space, where we were safely able to gather, later joined by families and other community members in the afternoon. The reception was simply lovely. Nothing beats hearing a poet add their own voice to their words. The delivery was quite moving. We heard the 1st and 2nd place poems in adult, high, middle and elementary age categories. Here is what we were blessed with:

A Tribute to James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
© The Rev. Dr. Judith Davis, April 12, 2021
(Adult winner)

You lifted our hearts to sing for liberty.
You filled a scroll with your beautiful images
of farewell to the dark past
and a new rising sun of hope.
You unlocked the stone defeat of slavery.
You showed us a love of ourselves
to carry us through muddy times
and to look to the purple mountains of love.
You found us a key to the locked door of fear.
You opened that door to vast freedom
with our God training us to be soldiers of truth
and teaching us to live in the light.
You led us into the light.
You gave us a sundial of truth
to direct us beneath God’s hand,
and to stand at last in the glow of God’s love.

If You Took My Hand in the Dark
by Eloise Shepard
(Adult Honorable Mention)

If you took my hand in the dark, you would not know the color of my skin.
If I took your hand in the dark, I would not know the color of your skin.
If the back of your hand was wrinkled or smooth, I might know if you were young or old.
By your fingernails or bracelets, I might make a guess at your gender,
But probably not.
If you had certain rings on certain fingers, there’s a chance I’d figure out if you were married or single,
But it would be a guess.
The perception of race disappears in the dark.
Or if your eyes are closed.
The trick is to use your eyes to see the person and not just the skin.
To see how we are different, and how we are the same.
To appreciate the differences, truly appreciate the differences.
And allow the sameness to make us open to all those we see in the bright day.

The Experience
by Amya Humphries
(High School Winner)

It’s about the looks, the stares, simply because of your skin color.
It’s about being scared to go to a rural area, in fear of your dignity as a human being.
It’s about the feeling of not fitting in.
It’s about having all your history be compressed in one month.
It’s about the “momma, why don’t I look like her?”
It’s about the generational trauma.
It’s about your people constantly being killed.
It’s about the fear of the police.
It’s about crying to your family about your first racial profiling experience.
It’s about being upset over the fact that you don’t have the same opportunities as others.
It’s about creating a “norm” that shouldn’t be normal at all.
It’s about the African American experience

The African American Experience
By Miguelina Jimenez Tate
(High School Honorable Mention)

A place not welcoming to us is the place we live Through time we have been shunned and shown hatred Now we want a place to stand equal among you We fight for our right to simply exist in your world We will not be quiet We will not be thrown to the side We will make you hear us And we will prove we are stronger than you think We have faced the end of a whip and not backed down The barrel of a gun and stood our ground The face of a judge and demanded to be heard Our future will be shaped by us We will make this place our home And we will make it safe.

Black History Month Poem
by Ava Kate Snipes
(Middle School Winner)

Speak up don’t stay quiet If we stay quiet there will be no change The world is unfair, not right We need to speak up for each other Have the courage to do what is right Be bold, be brave, make the world a better place It shouldn’t matter our race we are all equal just the same Through the ups and downs, we should be together Making each other stronger not tearing down We all deserve freedom no one should be a slave We have to do something to make that change We are unbreakable, we are beautiful, we are more than people think We should be loved but to make that change we need to speak up Have faith for a better tomorrow We need hope for the present and the future We need peace and prayers for the community and world But most of all we need justice, not tomorrow but today Keep moving, keep moving Free at last!

I, Annabelle
by Roma Steiner
(Middle School Honorable Mention)

My name is Annabelle
A slave I am and will ever be
Never, ever will I be free;
Keep working I will
Until I die.

Bread and rice
Was all I got;
And in an old pot
Some horrible meat
Discarded for bad.

I work all day
Harvesting tobacco
The overseer says,” Hurry ho!”
He whips us if we are too slow

All I had was
Dresses of rags
Out of old flour bags;
Mistress’ gowns
Dirty and old.

I hated my master
With all of my might
I was in such a plight
With God and man,
I wished to run away.

I knew that if I ran away,
Flogged at the stake I’d be
He’d hurt and maybe ruin me
I am worth nothing
To anyone but God.

I did not know soon
I would be free
To look and see
Anything I wished
And make my own living.

Abraham Lincoln in his speech
Let all the slaves be free
(I couldn’t believe that meant me!)
To work to get payed
Although we weren’t treated well.

I was elated
And happy, and pleased
For that meant all slaves (even me!)
Could live on our own,
And die as we willed.

Brown Girl Curls
by Ava Lytle
(Elementary School Winner)

It’s morning again and my hair just won’t do!
It looks like a crazy tangly zoo!

The curls are all frizzy, stubborn, and wild,
My brushes get stuck, my frustration gets piled.

I call my big sisters. Their hair is like mine.
Only one is much thicker, the other more fine.

I tell them I hate this mess, it just isn’t fair!
They tell me the magic of my brown girl hair

All the way back to Adam and Eve,
God made our hair something to see!

I try lotions and potions, some grease and some goops,
the wetter it gets the nicer the loops.

The brown curls are huge, a little more tame,
I’m beginning to like the look of my mane.

It’s natural, enormous, unique and it’s free,
It’s powerful, beautiful, and wonderfully me!

by Charlotte Coan
(Elementary School Honorable Mention)

We will stand through the dark, empty, and cold
When one pushes us down
Over something we were told
Told what we can’t love
Blamed by our skin
How we identify
Our culture and religion
This feeling is lonely empty and numb It makes us feel as if we weren’t one
But NO you are good enough
From now we’ll stand fight for what we believe
That is a command
We will march with a movement
A power so strong
To prove no living being should be treated wrong
Here we march to a song so sweet
Standing up strong
Drumming with the beat
We won’t stop we continue to sing
Sing till we hear freedom ring
Ringing from the north ringing from the south
Letting nothing drown are voices down
We won’t stop till this injustice is broke
Standing tall shouting CHANGE we spoke
We won’t stop equality until it’s done Fairness and freedom for everyone
Doesn’t matter your age
Neither your race
It’s never too late to stand for change
Join your neighbors
Strangers, and friends
Stand tall and join hands
March to the beat sing with the song
Stand together and freedom should come along.

Newsworthy items for submission for Rosenwald Community News are welcomed from community members, churches, clubs and groups. If you have an idea for a story or interview for me to capture, please let me know – Nicola Karesh at nicolakaresh@ or call (828) 421-8615