As another black history month comes to an end, I think about what it has meant, and will continue to mean moving forward. Its very existence is the embodiment of a nation’s racial wound unable to heal. I wish its glorious celebration of African American heroism were only a supportive role in a celebration of a nation no longer in need of healing. In my new painting, Defiant Alliance, I imagine as metaphor an alliance in a struggle for equality. In the complimentary poem I present two seemingly opposing views; one, White Only, suggesting a hopelessness about fighting racism, and another, Colored Only, wherein there is optimism from change of the past 400 years, born of persistent defiance by black Americans, but also from a necessary alliance with whites.

“White only”

A 400-year birthright

For simply being White

Yesterday’s overt

Is today’s covert

Amorphous aberration

Can’t see, touch or feel

Often thought not real

Everywhere but nowhere

This progeny of privilege

Fueling a caste system

Corrosive in its disparity

So systemically ingrained

Hopes for a change

No more than aspirational

When self-interests

Won’t be sacrificed

At the altar

Of the golden rule

“Do unto to others….”

But yield rather

To human nature’s rule

When even Don Quixote

Knows a “fool’s errand”

Is in a windmill’s whirlwind

Of “White privilege.”

“Colored only”

An artifact of history

Freedom’s thirst

Still not quenched

In air not free

From screams we hear

“I can’t breathe”

Ringing in the ear

An endless song of hope

In a yin/yang metaphor

No light without dark

No right without wrong

No evil of racism without

Good in those who oppose

Born of optimism

From a half empty glass

That is in fact half full

Of anti-racists who unite

Black, Brown and White

As history has shown

A struggle shared is owned

By all the abolitionists

Who insist to resist

With courage and sacrifice

That which is essential

Defiant alliance.