Black History Month Poem: Resilience

Resilience

To observe the annual Black History Month, we are pleased to present “Resilience,” a poem by Arianna Shaprow Crain, age 12, a seventh grader in Nevada. Arianna was interviewed this morning and was asked to read her poem by KTNV News, on their ‘Good Morning Las Vegas’ show. The poem will also be published in our upcoming Spring 2024 issue (Mar. – Aug. 2024). You can also download the poem here.

“Resilience” explores the African Diaspora and chronicles the struggles of the vibrant, defiant members of my family. In the midst of our tragedies, my ancestors were able to find peace and navigate the rough terrain that lie ahead. They were slaves in Holly Springs, Mississipi. After the Emancipation Proclamation, they migrated to Chicago for more opportunities. In Chicago, they had to endure racism and segregation, which negatively impacted their employment. My great grandmother became a maid at a hotel and raised 13 children. She had to endure an endless cycle of poverty. Much of our history was lost, because we were stolen from our homeland. Even though our cultural identities were dismantled, my ancestors found comfort in music, stories, and our love for one another. We are resilient, and we are survivors. I know that I am a survivor, because I am here to tell you my story.

We were taken
from our homelands
our prosperity and sense of community
stolen from us
our families torn apart
cultural identities dismantled
forgotten…

forced to work all day
beneath the blistering hot sun
dehydrated and burned out
bruised knees, scraped elbows
wounded from whips
desperately yearning for a way out
but their cries were never heard

They locked us
in an endless loop of poverty
mental illness
disease
and depression

from Holly Springs, Mississippi
and the shackles of slavery
to Chicago
seeking independence
and “liberty”
this was the journey of my ancestors

We were never freed
after the Emancipation Proclamation
never freed
from generational trauma
and pain

rejected
from schools
unable to receive the education
that we deserved

Oppression
Segregation
Stereotypes
and racism
Poverty naturally followed
Haunting us…

A never-ending maze
with no exit
only dead ends.

My relatives suffered
rat bites and tuberculosis as babies
gunshot wounds and addiction as adults
no money for doctors
unstable living conditions
poor ventilation
never knowing
what’s next…

Surviving paycheck to paycheck
Food stamps, welfare
Evictions and discrimination
13 of my aunts and uncles
lived in a tiny apartment
5 slept on a single, soiled mattress
a drumline of tragedies

Many of them
broke the cycle
my grandmother became the first
African American female Assistant District Attorney
in El Paso, Texas
scholarships and hard work paved her way

My mother is a survivor
of PTSD and panic attacks
a single mother who cares for me
with unwavering love

We don’t know
much of our history
or where in Africa
we come from

The knowledge of our history
was stripped away from us
buried deep in our family’s past
it remains a mystery…
One thing that will never
be taken away from us
Is our culture
We have created
a rich culture
Through centuries of oppression
our coping mechanisms
soothed us
comforting melodies
gospel
jazz
blues
and soul

What do we have?
We have our imagination
We redefine and reframe
To make us sane

documents detail our ancestors’ stories
Defiant
And bold
full of vibrant characters
riveting music
and soulful dishes

When I am fearful
I remember to be courageous
I remember I have ancestors
who were beaten and lynched

My ancestors were
Slaves
Survivors
Refugees
Migrants

This is my lineage
This is my history
We are resilient
Resilient survivors

—Arianna Shaprow Crain, age 12, grade 7, Nevada.

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