What does it mean to be excellent?

For years, they told us that we couldn’t read.

Our hearts yearned to rip the ink away from the pages so we could eat them

Hungry bellies, yearning to consume more than the sunlight on our backside

Hoping that we’d hear content sharp enough to cut the shackles that bound us to oppression

Just a lesson that may warm our hearts more than the weather warmed our skin

But they told us that the words...and the stories did not belong to us

What does it mean to be excellent?

Our ancestors were wise enough to use the stars in order to chart safety but I never found a passage about them in my astronomy book

The Drinking Gourd pointed due North but when I look up today, it’s hard for me to connect the dots that connected the trot to security

What does it mean to be excellent?

For years, we’ve told each other not to read.

We’ve sat in the back of classrooms shunning the one in front of us who raise their hand...for something other than a pass....to leave the room

Hungry bellies...go unfed but try to look like they aren’t starving

Hoping that we’ll hear something that can penetrate years of generational curse and inspire us

But we’ve told ourselves...that the words...and the stories...don’t belong to us.

If you take out the ‘excel’ in ‘excellent’ and replace it with an ‘si,’ then you’ll have what they want us to be...silent

What does it mean to be excellent?

“If you wanna be somebody, and you wanna go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention”

But my eyes were wide shut to new experiences and only open to what was in my comfort zone

Average, no notoriety, because I didn’t want to be the deviant variable

We lower the bar, constantly convincing ourselves that less is acceptable

“I’m black and I’m proud” was never something that resonated with the skin that I was fated

My GPA and my skin tone don’t match up

And a 4.1 doesn’t give me self-gratification...it’s just a number that has wandered away from the statistic

Black, beautiful, and bright

--the alliteration sounds great but we’ve been always taught to hate who were are and where we come from

So teach me...how to love who I am and who we were

Because I’ve straightened the kinks out of my hair and can no longer use it to trace back my history

Show me how to chart stars again so I can rewrite books and include our names this time.

Tilt my head upward so I can see that the those very starts are brightness in us

Push me to succeed instead of saying that my melanin makes failure acceptable

And tell me...that it is okay to read books again.

Because we, we are excellence.


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