A Mother Weeps

It is the year 1896,
And a black child born
In rural Louisiana
Sometime in 1865
Has just had her
Thirty-first birthday.
She should be happy--
Her newborn babe
Is healthy and although
They’re scraping
Tin cans empty,
Her family survives.
But how can a mother
Sleep at night
Knowing that
The child she nurses
And the others she’s raised
Have to carry misfortune
By wearing the skin
That others hate?
Because although her parents
Once nursed her
With the relief
That months prior
To her birth,
The Constitution
Of the country
That once
Betrayed their own
Would no longer
Enslave their newborn child,
She now lives
With a heavy heart.
She can’t understand
The reasoning
Behind this constitutional
“Separate but Equal” insult.
How can they expect
Equality when
Her children will grow up
Thinking they are “less-than?”
How can this be called progress
When enslavement
Has just been relocated
From the exterior
To the interior?
How can she feel free
When her children
Feel trapped
In their very own skin?
Her newborn child
Will be fifty-eight
When the United States
Will finally say,
“Hey, it’s okay!
We’ve decided you
Can go to other schools.”
But how can this mother
Stay hopeful if
Full equality will not
Start to impact the lives
Of young African Americans
Until she has passed
Her eighty-ninth birthday?
How can this--
How can this be
How can
Lady Liberty
Stand tall for
How can
The president
Claim to represent
A free nation
If her children
And the children
Of many other countless
Will sleep
With dreams of being
How can she be free?
She doesn’t know.
Will never know--
What her grandchildren
Will someday be,
The battles they will win,
And the lives they will change.
She doesn’t know…
And this is why
She weeps.

Guide that inspired this poem: 


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