Thought I would respond to the challeneg of writing a poem to mark the end of the 200 year commemoration since the abolition of the slave trade. Also thought it might be interesting to write it from the perspective of a freed slave living in 1806. The slave is addressing an audience of cotton workers and talking about his expeirnece. He's also talking about how he managed to survive and the importance of his people. He also thinks about what things might be like in the future. See first two versus.
My Hands Were Made Strong (2008)
….The mill workers address…..
Yes, my hands were made strong, but not by the almighty
I strengthened them; they were strengthened with my people
And I wonder talking to you now, what will become of my people?
Where will they live in the future? Will what I have had to endure help them?
Will the tools I have used to survive help them to survive?
And what of my tools? I employed them well.
I developed a great determination and sense of justice
Surely it will help my people, nay all people, when I am gone.
Have you ever missed your family? Once at play, netted, then marching
Back bent with heavy yoked arms, split toes and lips with merciless thurst
Deaths’ ever present smell mixed with salt and the sound of lapping water.
Then suddenly white flapping material, puffed up like clouds.
I knew that this monstrous vessel was hell, for three months is was,
As so many of my people died, all different, but now dead
I survived accompanied by relentless horror and persistent pain
Despite the sharks my urge to jump was strong, but I thought of my people.
I was sold and inspected three times, three times denied my freedom
And why? Because I am black and to satisfy a need for sugar
To make palatable their bitter drinks. And to feed their greed.
I powered Manchester, launching her to become the worlds’ first industrial city.
I am the shot in the arm for the industrial revolution.
I suffered as you now suffer, but worse! You have your freedom,
Your life and your families. But you too are only small cogs in a global wheel.
You can be free from your dark satanic mills as I from cane and cotton.
See how proud we are; see how we employ all our waking moments,
Planning to be free. See how we crave a future even though our children are sold.
See how we behave, watch us put our culture to good use, we are subtlety.
See how we trick them into thinking that we are something else.
And have we not been ingenious? Our stops on the Underground Railroad,
Brother Douglass’s Northern Star bookshop, our songs and messages,
Sojourners powerful defiant shoulders, upon which others will take their stand
My people will reverberate throughout history, and so can yours mark me.
We shall not be moved, deep in my heart I do believe
We stood up on the Amistat, we made plantations unworkable,
As Nanny and Sam came down from the mountains to help.
We poisoned “masters” animals and killed whatever else needed to die.
This was our strength, and they did not know our spirit was unbreakable
But even though we fight together, I worry. It’s 1806 and change is going to come.
But I still worry. Lay down your looms good people of Manchester, think of the future
And in 200 years let them speak of what we have achieved today