Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from “Black Magic: Afro Pasts/Futures”

Yesterday was the anniversary of Nat Turner’s rebellion, and with the growing controversy surrounding the film due to Nate Parker’s rape trial from 17 years ago, my desire to watch the film has been mostly vaporized. But last weekend as I went through my photos, I came across Delphine Fawundu’s “Mende Woman on Nat Turner Plantation” and the other artworks exhibited at the Black Magic: Afro Pasts/Futures exhibition in May. Looking at the art again inspired a new set of poems from me (in addition to Beloved, which I read in full last week). Read the poetry and take a look at some of the art below:

This collection of poems is called, Black: Where Past and Future Become One; Where Magic Is Birthed.

Butler’s “Mutual Feelings”


(Inspired by Arnold Butler’s “Mutual Feelings and “Duality”)

Love for us is a quiet collision

a conspiracy: a revolution against

a current state of being

we want to breathe together

blend boundaries of becoming

be the atoms of your body

reacting with mine


we have been broken

and rearranged

to be

something new


formed in the shape

of home

a bond so unbreakable

that we exist as one another

and no point exists where you and I end.

Can you see

your face in me?

The face of another



McElroy’s “41 Cents and a Dream”

41 Cents and a Dream

(Inspired by Soraya Jean Louis McElroy ‘s work of the same name)

How much of a dream

could I buy with just the change

left in my pocket?


If the altar was

its resting place along with

my blood and broken


reflection, is it

enough for the collection

plate, does the emptied


shells I offer, my

dark mask, scraps of hearts and friends

be enough to buy


a dream to outlive

me, wash me clean, not let a

future erase me.


McElroy’s “Shame of America”

Shame of America

In memory of Laura Nelson and other Lynched Victims

(Inspired by Soraya Jean Louis McElroy ‘s work of the same name)

A rocking chair

Find mama inside

Fall asleep

In her chest

Neck breaking


Let me kiss

The marks on your neck

Hanging man

Stand your ground

See the world

Upside down

Iron Bit drowns tongue

Suckling metal

I want milk

Her breasts

For me?

I can’t rest head


See the bridge

When is the train coming?

A Woman was

Lynched today

I see her

In the water

Swaying with wind

Her name




Her name




What happened to my baby?


Fawundu’s “Mende Woman on Nat Turner Plantation”

What Ifs

(Inspired by Delphine Fawundu’s “Mende Woman on Nat Turner Plantation,” “She Remembers the Turner Plantation and “Mende Woman Sees the Turner Plantation” from the Deconstructing She series)

I can’t help but think

Of what ifs

Of remembering distant memories

Of visions from another space

Of reaching my black hand across oceans

Of reaching past the sun

Of singing codes

Of body switching

Of my family taken instead

Of my family staying

Of plantation by another name

Of plantation by another time

Of revolutions and machetes

Of fugitivity and migration

Of the sanctuary of trees

Of growing with master’s farm tools

Of ancestors in masks hovering behind

Of conjuring memories in costume

Of ritual and possession

Of what it would be like to be another

Of names I never knew I could be

Of you become me and I become you

Of histories that find themselves at my door

like long lost cousins

and finding out we both

have the same shoe size.

From DJ Underdog’s video slideshow

Shadow Puppetry

Inspired by a photo -not the one above or below- in DJ Underdog’s video photo slideshow)


My shadow contained

the universe in its self

and I bowed to it


From DJ Underdog’s video slideshow


Cosmic Quilt

(Inspired by Charles Jean Pierre’s “Invisible Barriers” and “Cultural DNA”)


Portals opened: eyes

deciphering patterns in

stitches of fabric


cross culture spiral

spirit’s twisting code: I am

in tune with design.


Listen to Roger Bonair Agard’s “How the World Was Made Super Crown,” which was featured at the exhibition:

2 thoughts on “Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from “Black Magic: Afro Pasts/Futures”

  1. I’m just experiencing this! Thank you for creating language to compliment/be in conversation to my work and others. What gorgeous offerings!

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