Emergence Magazine

Acres of Ancestry by Jess Hill

Acres of Ancestry

by Marlanda Dekine-Sapient Soul


Marlanda Dekine-Sapient Soul is a poet, social worker, and fourth-generation descendant of Black land stewards living on family land in Plantersville, South Carolina. She is the author and recording artist of i am from a punch & a kiss. Marlanda is the founder of Speaking Down Barriers, co-founder of Writers Well Youth Fellowship for Black femmes, and has served communities as a child therapist, crisis therapist, community trainer, and as a child abuse forensic evaluator. Currently, Marlanda is pursuing her MFA in poetry and is serving as the 2020 Healing Justice Fellow with Gender Benders.


Jess Hill received her BFA in Printmaking, with a minor in Art History, at the University of West Georgia in 2016. She is a recipient of the 2018 Heinmark Artist in Residence at Brown University and the 2017 Emerging Artist Residency from Atlanta Printmakers Studio. Jess Hill’s art explores the resilience of Black Womanhood/Motherhood, African folklore, quilted patterns, and symbolisms.

For the descendants of Africans living in the USA pursuing justice for 1.5 million acres of Black-owned land.

As long as I have a pig and garden, no one can tell me what to do.

— Fannie Lou Hamer

Mine our lineages

You will find fortitude and insistence

I grew up on Heirs Property

A family blessing and a United States problem


Took 15 years for me to come back down

My granddaddy’s dirt road and see

His wild green field free

And Black like me


Secretly purchased marshland

From his father who was born a sharecropper

My daddy tells me how my grandma and granddaddy

Turned a swamp into firm land for a house


Hogs, cows, vegetables, broom grass, and chickens

How Granddaddy Silas did this with mental

And soul injuries on brown and Pall Mall since age 13

How Grandma Lizzie listened to neighbor stories on the porch


How her children and granddaddy watched fields reap

How she prayed over our family

How they knew the land like God



I’m thinking about the Combahee River Raid and Ma Tubman

How she kept saying:

My people ARE free



My mind is jumping loops of Grandma Thelma boiling pine

“Trust a doctor for who?”


How one day the police pulled up the drive and I watched

With eight-year-old eyes as granddaddy said, “Get the Hell

Off this land”     No blink


How my kin and the Earth ground me

Make me ask what’s 12

When I’m seeing 20/20

And the neon sign of stars read:


Sankofa: The Land says return to me

Sankofa: The Land says return to me

Sankofa: Mine your lineage for fortitude


I insist


Ain’t nothing wrong with us

But we been contortin’ and bendin’ Black

To earn our way to freedom

But these days


The little one and I are outside

Growing squash and sage in grandma and granddaddy’s field

We watch the birds

We sway with the pine


Seem like every time

I go outside I find

An artifact

Smooth blue glass, oyster shells, and brick


The USDA got rules and regulations

We mine our lineages for fortitude and insistence

In this place of European land grants

Black codes and unjust generational wealth


We are a listening people

Who know without having to speak

And we don’t mind watching the wind do work

Clear as day, in a vision, my Granddaddy Silas comes to me:


Chile, who you asking for freedom?

Don’t you know how to aim?

How to grow?

Don’t you know you Black as God

As the dirt all green grows up out of?

Don’t you know buildings go up and down every day?

Nature can takeover all dem ting dem folk

Worshippin’ and you ain’t a thing beggin’ to be seen, chile, BREATHE

You was born free


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