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  • zenaedwardsis

When I performed with Baaba Maal July 2012 Pt. 1 #OneFromTheArchive

What An Absolute Honour...

.... a blessing of the greatest degree. To perform on the Queen Elizabeth Hall stage with Baaba Maal. To have him compose music to your poetry, to sing on the same stage and have him say in his alert, bright voice, "Yes you. Very good, you are very good. You have much sincerity"... I am still reeling.  Speechless. In the light of that performance, I shall be recording with Baaba, Lemn Sissay, Inua Ellams and TJ Dema this Sunday 29th July 2010 recreating the whole  QEH event at a private studio session with friends. It couldn't get any better(...or maybe it could!)

OK groupie attack over (just about), the reality is that I have been listening to Baaba's music and following his story of Blood Line Royalty to Musical Royalty since the early 90's and I would never have thought that Poetry could bring me to this place.

Lemn Sissay invited myself and many other prestigious international poets as part of the Olympic Poetry Parnasuss to write to the theme of the  journey of the African  diaspora. Word Sound Power was the title of the event and I  opted to write a poem based on the legacy of Harriett Tubman - inspired by her will, fuelled by my awe at the kind of emotions someone running from brutal subjugation and the likelihood of death of themselves and any family members with them might feel. Also with 27,000,000 people enmeshed in some sort of slavery in 2012, eg. indentured slavery, human traffiking and child labour, I wanted to capture the desperation, the pure instinct of survival and the driven hope for freedom in this piece, 'North Side Of The Trees'.


Written by Zena Edwards©

Once upon a time

A very real time, a time incomprehensible to now

A time when 3/5ths totalled less than human

When men were workhorses and women for stock-breeding

A time when the Word of a black book

Was beaten Into layers of black skin: it was a black sin!

To a time when trading in flesh was gravaliscious*

And humanity, bereft, was left wanting

People of a melanated skin would be running

Running north to a haven

Built with smouldering bricks of freedom

On the toes of their feet

They fled

From the south to the north

They fled

Blood beating in their chests,

They fled

Fear stoking their breath

They fled

And if the night was not merciful and the clouds hid the moon

If the stars turned their faces, if the night was still born

Those runners, those Freedom Seekers

Would feel the lash of the trees saps

As they ran their feet crack twig: snap!

They'd reach out their hands into the black

Of “I will. I must. I can.”

They’d feel For the mercy of the trees

Where the moss grew

On the north side

The north side of the trees

To the North, to the North

To the Freedom of Days

They’d reach out to

The north side of the trees.

History played a nefarious game

Chattel slavery was cheat

Harriet Tubman did greet Mother Nature’s brief; blatant and discreet.

"Look up for Polaris's* crown

If diabolic mists persist

Then reach out, bite your fear 

Bear forward till your eyes tear

Reach out for the north side of the trees.

Remember the DNA of freedom

Feel the pores of your skin breathe

Feel the bark's velvet coat,

drink the nestled dew

Rescue your parched, hungry throat

Extend blind hands, grasp the unknown tune

Of Spirituals made from the moss that grew

On the north side

To the North, to the North

To the Freedom of Days

Just reach out to

The north side of the trees.

The hem of Black Moses'* dress was enflamed with resolve

Once Slave bought, sold

"She is Voodoo Queen enraged with an evil eye, mystic powers untold 

She is myth, phantom, duppy, an Ancient of Old!"

They spoke in low whispers of the Underground Railroad.

But She freed minds and bodies obeyed Ashe!

The Grace of Our Mother

For the mercy of the forests double-edged embrace, Ashe!

5 centuries on and to what do we cling

When to suffer is to know the drought of compassion

When 27,000,000 still feel slavery's sting

Profit over people -  "Let Freedom Ring"

Drink the sweet water from the Drinking Gourd

Of the North Star within.

Hope is the soft moss that grows thick, beyond sight

The heart has eyes to capture the night

Her example is intact: Harriet! Agent of Hope, reached into black

"I will. I must. I can"

Free your mind and the body will obey

The Grace of Our Mother, Mother Earth, Ashe!

Feel for the north side of the trees

Where the moss grows

On the north side

To the North, to the North

To the freedom of days

Reach out for the north side of the trees.

“I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came up like gold through the trees, and I felt like I was in heaven.” 

- Harriet Tubman

Notes: gravaliscious - greedy Polaris – The North Star Drinking Gourd is a constellation of stars located pointed to the North Star Black Moses' – A name of honour given to Harriet Tubman




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