Three poems by Hakim Bellamy






These poems are part of a special section of the Mid-Atlantic Review, Celebrating Black History, and selected by editors Khadijah Ali-Coleman, Carolivia Herron, and Rebecca Bishophall. To learn more about this series read a blog post on the Day Eight website here.

“But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if
any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” – 1 Corinthians 15-16

Either way
it is your birthright

Whether matrilocal
or matrilineal.
By gender.
By God.

Manifest destiny claims your kingdom,
and acts like we are doing you “a solid”
by calling you queen.

By calling that “a crown”
without understanding the proper rules of engagements.

That Sundays aren’t just the Lord’s Day.
It was a feather in the cap of the slave,
the couple dollars you could squeeze out of being overworked
and underpaid to bless yo’self to something nice,
to the the only place you could afford to wear it, no cover.
Sunday is also the Pageant of Christ.

1.Don’t wear a hat wider than your shoulders.
2.Don’t wear a hat that is darker than your shoes.
3.If your hat has feathers, make sure they are never bent nor broken
4.No sequins in the daytime.

5.No borrowing under absolutely any circumstances (if you give it, YOU GIVE IT!
as an heirloom, as a gift).

6.You should never look lost in it.
7.Attitude. You have to have one in order to wear a hat well, dahling.
8.Easter hats should be white, cream or pastel — even if it’s still cold outside.
9.When they sacrifice your son, find one as big as his smile

to wear to his funeral.

Keep them in boxes too.

A brand new one for every such occasion,
Mother’s Days and Resurrection Sundays included.
Sadly and gladly
by the time you are a grandmother
you will have enough to go around…

as reminders.

Remember, veils render them convertible, all purpose,
any occasion, just like Big Mama’s little black dress.

As you recount the parable of Jesus washing the disciples feet,
I learn from watching you
to interpret that
as God never wanting me to set foot in a church without looking clean.

A sign of prosperity
because in the hood and the holla
God smiles upon our people in church hats and sneaker heads.

But I refuse to call that “a crown”
because you are not who you are
simply because of who you married.

Because man confers kings and queens, not God.
God’s in the business of putting wings on the backs of moms.

I prefer to think of it as a halo,
because unlike a crown
it never comes off
not even when you are at work
bussing beer bottles on the night shift.

Because Monday through Saturday you are a walking miracle.

But on Sundays,
you are a walking museum.


In school today,
the concept of suffering
was introduced.

as a path to freedom,
to liberation,

to happiness.

Our own war,
six years in the making,
was my entire high school career
to date.

The year after the first mortar fell,
school was canceled.

An entire year of middle school,
up in smoke.

Schoolhouse turned
Red Cross
turned rubble.

But when
the same flag caping
that first shell casing
rebuilds you a school

you put on your best manners.
Pretend you asked for it.
Take their history books and lessons
because it is better than being drafted.

In world history class
we learned that Birmingham, Alabama
came to be known as Bombingham,

for a summer.

Our very own summer
is six

going on seven.

Towards a Common Utopia
(after Margaret Walker & Amiri Baraka)

“History is always dangerous, the world of history is a risky world; but it is up to us at
any given moment to establish and readjust the hierarchy of dangers.” -Aimé Césaire, Martinique Poet, Statesman and Godfather of the Negritude Movement

For my people building families with heart, and transplanting those same families
on their backs; seeking village as refuge from violence; went from sit-ins to cook-
outs; Jim Crow to James Byrd Jr., Jubilee to Juneteenth, yet with all this
modernity somehow still can’t revolutionize a way to put all this history between
us…behind us. Past as prologue but not prophecy. Not meant to retard us but
rather to remind us…maybe even repair us, in time.

For my people birthing businesses from scratch; only thing worse than being
orphaned from the system is being orphaned from the family… the warzone is
Warbucks, and starting a “start-up” is no joke and no cap. Like trying to strike
water from a rock, to put Black names on the Google maps. X marks the spot for a
people who used to BE contracts, so we John Coltrane instead of John Hancock on
dotted lines. Black cards and Black dollars. When we gon’ sovereign Black-
onomics like McDowell’s? Reminding one another that we are the wealth that we
are looking for, taking pride in the fact that there is no Wall Street without
us…just look down…even the asphalt is Black.

For my people who make pride out of prejudice look as easy as making meringue
pie out of lemons…and look good doing it! Who, if you catch’em on the wrong
day, turn micro aggressions into massive contusions. My people who don’t play
that but do play Tonk, Pinochle, Dominoes, Spades, Bidwhist and Horseshoes…
because this native language of laughter and love is the only tongue that wasn’t
severed as we were shipped across the Atlantic. So we’ve perfected non-verbal
communication, elaborate handshakes, high fives and hugs… cakewalk and do the
Dougie, Harlem Shake and cold shoulders… truth be told, sometimes we ain’t
warmin’ up to one another… and we can feel it.

For my people pushing pedagogy and policy, pulpit poetry and property responsibly.
Responsible to the generation on deck. Modern day Jackie Robinsons showing this
sandlot of second and third gens how to hit, pitch and catch. Unafraid for your
records to be broken…because just like those ceilings and barriers you battered,
that’s what records are meant for…to be broken. So that we can be whole. So my
people can grow old in praise and at peace knowing that their legacies live on
through us … long after the record stops spinning.

For my people humble enough to know that not knee-checking our egos is almost
akin to a knee on the neck. That kneeling to pray is powerful, but kneeling in
solidarity is a superpower too. That the best way to show love is to show up…like
so many of you have done today. Because time is our most precious resource and
our life expectancy already has us at a disadvantage.

For my people who know that one of us in the room, can be all of us in the
room…if we play our cards right. For my people that know that our impression on
one another is indelible. For my people that know that our impression of one
another is incredible. For my people who can’t help but see promise in every
single Black baby’s face. For my people who know no covenant more beautiful
than another Black smile. For my people still recovering from the past and its
traumas, for my people enlisted in a revolution of resolution, my people rooted in
the resolve to resurrect ourselves and all my people still engaged in the
Reconstruction within.

In a world that is lonely enough, let us be more continent than island…and
eradicate aloneness…together.

For I
am nobody

…but for my people.

Hakim Bellamy served as the Inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Albuquerque (2012-2014) and recently completed a four year Mayoral appointment as the Deputy Director for the Department of Arts & Culture at the City of Albuquerque. Bellamy is a W. K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network Fellow, a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, an Academy for the Love of Learning Fellow, Western States Arts Alliance Launchpad Fellow, Santa Fe Arts Institute Food Justice Fellow, New Mexico Strategic Leadership Institute alum and Citizen University Civic Seminary Fellow. In 2012 he published his first collection of poetry, SWEAR (West End Press/University of New Mexico Press), and it landed him the Working Class Studies Tillie Olsen Award for Literature in 2012. In 2019 his book We Are Neighbors (co-created with photographer and book designer Justin Thor Simenson) was shortlisted for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. His latest title Commissions y Corridos (UNM Press) published in 2022 is his seventh book. With an M.A. in Communications from the University of New Mexico (UNM), Bellamy has held adjunct faculty positions at UNM and the Institute of American Indian Arts. A National Poetry Slam Champion, Bellamy has performed his work in at least seven countries and continues to leverage his art to transform his communities.

Featured image in this post is: “Art outside the Alabama Criminal Justice Center, Birminingham, Alabama”, by Carol M. Highsmith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bourgeon’s mission, through our online publication and community initiatives, is twofold: to increase participation in the arts and to improve access to the arts. Bourgeon is a project of the not-for-profit Day Eight.
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