Introduction by Cyd Chartier Cohn
Not long ago while having a conversation with a friend concerning an issue related to trauma I had experienced in my past, I was taken by surprise when my friend abruptly asked, “Are you ever going to get over this?”
For a moment, I was speechless. I didn’t explain to her that recovering from trauma is not a straight line, but a messy process. I didn’t tell her how much time and hard work it takes to “get over” the pain caused by traumatic events. I didn’t tell her how dismissed and criticized I felt by her question. And I didn’t tell her that I felt I could no longer trust her with my feelings.
It is from this experience that, I, a white woman, am able to comprehend, even in the smallest way, what it must be like for an African American to be told to move on from horrors of the past. Words from a Field Negro, a newly released book of poetry by Kevin Mitchell, is a powerful reminder that, for many of America’s Black citizens, the trauma of slavery and its aftermath is real and it is raw.
In this slim volume, a collection of poems addressing the continuing personal and collective trauma experienced by African Americans, Mitchell fiercely and unapologetically responds to the institutional racism which has persisted in America long after the abolition of slavery.
In his poems, Mitchell touches on such subjects as incarceration, police brutality, lynching, faith, love, and death. Ignoring the niceties of traditional grammar and punctuation, Mitchell emphasizes the brutal reality of experience over the decorative and the unnecessary. Mitchell’s words are spoken to, and in solidarity with Black Americans, but they are for the rest of America, too.
not for us
By Kevin C Mitchell
betsy ross sewed a symbol of freedom for some, but a noose for others
that waving banner had no bearing on shackled people
it flew while blistered Black hands picked southern snow to make bales
it has never been a comfort for our despised existence so despised
yet Black hands built their white house
and Black bones bore the weight of their white cruelty
as Black breasts fed their little white babies
but still coal bodies dangled from tree limbs
damn this ungrateful nation
and fuck your hurt when our knees drop to the ground
saying we refuse to connect our hands to our hearts to pay respect to assassins
only fools wish love and peace to their murderers
but we Negroes of the fields are no fools
we toil in the sun
plotting escape, only to return with more numbers
to liberate our families and destroy your plantation built upon stolen land
so from the thief we take back our existence
we take back our right to be human
our right to be