photo jackson-mahalia.jpg
mahalia jackson’s contralto voice carried us
like a mother carries a fetus inside her womb but
through back doors to rear sections of jim crow places
past lunch counters wiped clean
of black faces
it bore us up
under the weight of wrong as we watched
maimed flesh dangling from branches
it strengthened us
after every blow from the billy club
as leashed dogs barked us back into second class
it renewed us
after the water hose drenched us unequal
it marched us
to washington to selma to montgomery and back
it kept rosa in her seat
we sing
not because we’re happy but because we have to

-Dana Stringer

This poem was excerpted from Dana Stringer’s book of poems, In Between Faith. It can be purchased here.