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On the Question of Race,
Michelle A. Banks - 1991

ON THE QUESTION OF RACE

They ask me to write down my race
and I think and think very seriously
and consider writing down the truth
and have my answer read

I have another woman
who looks like me.
She comes to me when I am dreaming,
she is trying to teach me the words
to a language that I used to know.

I have a brown man
he is painting a picture
we share a secret,
it hides in the memory of a kiss.
I have an old man
he is singing patting juba
passing the tradition on
through the rhythms in his
hands.

I have all these voices
that have not yet learned to speak -
orisha
tormentsas
sewas
ancestors
a school girl in Bahia
and a young man cutting cane in Miami
inside this body.

Student Exercises

Students are invited to write a similar poem by making eight lists of the things that they have inside of them.
  1. Food: What are the foods that one has inside of them. They could be the breakfast that had at lunch, it could be the restaurants that they eat at e.g. McDonalds, Wendys. Sounds
  2. Smells: What are the Smells inside of them. Smells that bring back memories: When I smell cigar smoke, it brings back memories of my father. My wife whenever she smells Aold Spice@ she recall her dad.
  3. Voices / Sounds: What are the voices inside of them. Words that we have heard and that are always with us. It might be words of a song. Sounds like fire engines, gun shots, birds, dogs barking etc.
  4. Dreams: What dreams do they have inside of them. This could be about real dreams or goals that a student has for their life.
  5. Places: What are the places they have inside of them. The country, state, city, neighborhood that they are from, the school they attend is a place, they have inside of them, Church, grocery store, Resturarant, what are the places that identify one.
  6. People: Who are the people inside of them e.g. the relatives, loved ones, friends that they love or who are close to them.
  7. A Memory: What is a favorite memory they have inside of them, e.g. a first communion, first day at school, first swim,
  8. Games: What are the games they have played as children that are inside of them, e.g. t-ball, hopscotch, catch.
  9. Other lists can be substituted: The idea being the more words that the students have on their list, the easier it

Student Poems

ON THE QUESTION OF RACE, by Gilbert Guarjardo

LA PREGUNTA DE MI RAZA, by Jacqueline Eggers