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Upon the Passing of Sandra Bland: A Poem


by Altheria Gaston

I remember Grandma referring to the White farmer from whom she bought fruit and vegetables as “Mr. Russell Dial” (although they were probably around the same age).

I’ve heard stories of Black women having to take orders from their little White mistresses, mere children who directed orders to fully grown women, as in “Add more sugar to my tea, Rosie” or “Iron my Sunday dress, Retha.”

I’ve read books about emasculated Black men being called boy by White slaveowners and later Jim Crow era employers, as in “Saddle my horse, Boy” or “Bring my car around, Boy.”



The “Yes, massah” time has come and gone.
This culture demanded that Black people
step off the sidewalk to allow Whites to pass
bow their heads and remove their hats when Whites entered the room
obey unjust laws
choke on their unspoken rebuttals
The “Yes, massah” time has come and gone.
We will no longer--
bite our tongues
grant white people undue reverence
cower in the face of injustice
follow unjust laws for fear of repercussions
agree with whatever the white man authority says is right
be co-conspirators in our own subjugations
The “Yes, massah” time has come and gone.

We will
Speak our minds
Demand to be regarded as equals
Stand-up and demand justice
Create new laws that give us the dignity we deserve
Express our disagreement with white authority
Be collaborators in our own liberation
Even.if.our.very.lives.depend.on.it.

The “Yes, massah” time has come and gone.

Photo: Facebook

Altheria Gaston is a regular contributor at For Harriet.

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