Melanin Roots

By Kay Blac (They/Them)

With Inspiration from Maya Angelou’s Poem “And Still I Rise”

Not too long ago we were displaced,

Not too long ago we were erased.

Hidden from the world to see,

and lacking basic symmetry.

Forced to fill in our own lines,

Then we slowly erected our spines.

We found the joy in being shaded

and we broke the shackles that we hated.

With the compass in our hearts 

We knew where to start.

Healing our expression,

Healing our heart,

Healing our relationships 

and Healing our smarts.

Tell ourselves that we are worthy.

Tell ourselves that we deserve to not feel dirty.

Step forth melanin royal and collect your worth,

braid it from your head deep into the earth.

May the braids dodge the boxes here and boxes there

These square prisons seem to be everywhere.

Shackles a new but not forgotten;

Something that keeps us feeling rotten.

Keep your worth tight and wrapped with a bow because this rotten time will pass and now you know.

This gift is special to you and it is worth keeping,

So keep that black tea steeping.

Serve it up real and serve it up hot,

don’t pretend it’s something that it is not.


This poem is intended to empower the black community members that read it. This includes people with varying levels of melanin coursing through their veins. People who had to put the pieces back together for their own story that was supposedly finished long ago. This poem also references “boxes” which symbolize the “boxes” that are used to label us. Sometimes these labels apply and work with our identities and sometimes they don’t and it is important to dodge these labels that do not work for us and use our freedom to authentically come into our own without external structures influencing our identities by villanizing aspects of our identity that certain people may not feel serves a greater purpose or acceptance/validity in society.

Alternatively, this poem could also be used to symbolize a group of people who had to deal with displacement and erasure from societal structures based on their culture. Unfortunately, there are many different cultures that have been mistreated by colonialism, racism, and xenophobia so the overall message may apply to a variety of people. There are many moments in the writing that highlights things that are specific to a melanated person’s experience however that can be used as a metaphor for a specific cultural group finding connection with their heritage and embracing it because for so long they were told that aspects of them were wrong.

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