Enslaved Black folk in America used to play a game called “The Dozens.” The object of the game was to tease and ridicule each other in order to develop a thick skin and high critical tolerance against the verbal insults of the enslavers. This was very important because if you reacted the wrong way you could get yourself and or your loved ones tortured or killed.
This poem, “Ain’t Yo Mama Black,” flips the script and uses the dozens in a positive way!
Yo mama so Black, she put the hue in humanity
And colored the future of the world over 4 billion years ago
And her dye ain’t faded yet! Now ain’t yo mama Black?
Yo mama so Black, when she jumped into the tub of life
She left a ring around the universe!
And from her purpleblueBlack essence
She gave the suns, moons and stars birth. Now ain’t yo mama Black?
Yo mama so Black, she got oil running through her veins like Black gold
And afro puff clouds that rain life sustaining liquids on Earth’s mahogany-lipped terrain
As her ubiquitous carbon soul is compressed into diamonds
Underground and oppressed into Black pearls
Like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman above ground.
Now ain’t yo mama Black?
If life and love and all creation is born out of darkness into the light
And the life giving sun rises up every morn like a baby new born
Between the earth’s black mountain thighs, out of the womb of night
Ain’t yo mama Black?
Ain’t she a carbon copy of one of the Daughters of the Dust?
Ain’t Eve short for evening, dark like the end of the day and the beginning?
And if the rivers of humanity flowed like the Blue Nile from the center of the World
Out of heart-shaped Africa, to the four corners of the earth
And if even your anthropologists say the oldest human remains discovered
Belonged to an African they call Lucy
And if Oprah is America’s billion dollar nanny, because you prefer
Your housekeepers and baby sitters and gurus to be swarthy! Ain’t yo mama Black?
If civilization was Greek to the Greeks before they were suckled by Mother Africa’s teats
And if they secretly worship a Black Madonna in the Vatican
And if Muhammad and Buddha and Krishna came out of inky India
And the Mediterranean, whose roots are African
And if the bible says the Messiah had wooly hair and feet of bronze
(Wasn’t his mama and) ain’t yo mama Black?
Ain’t yo mama kind of tall and skinny like a Zulu? Short and sinewy like a Bushman or Bantu?
Wide like a kinky headed Samoan?
And round or almond-eyed like a Black Egyptian, Indian or Asian?
Is she royal blue Black like the people of Senegal?
Or is she a pale, blue-eyed Black blonde Albino?
Cuz Big Mama is the only mama who comes in all colors, shapes and sizes!
And if yo mama is Black like my mama, and if in essence all living creatures
Have the same mama and we are all brothers and sisters of the same root race
Can we not slow the pace and be more considerate of our Mother Africa
Our Mother Earth and our Mother Nature? Ain’t yo mama … Black?
Paradise is president of the International Black Writers and Artists, was honored with his own day, Oct. 6, by the city of Oakland, and may be heard performing at True Vibe Records Presents. Find him on Facebook at Paradise Freejah Lovesupreme. This poem originally appeared at The Great Library of Afro-Classical Poets, Poems & Poetry: Classic Black Poetry.