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Acres of Ancestry by Jess Jill

Poem

Acres of Ancestry

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
Now

I’m thinking about the Combahee River Raid and Ma Tubman
How she kept saying:
My people ARE free
Now

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