by Margaret Walker
We Have Been Believers
We have been believers believing in the black gods of an old
land, believing in the secrets of the seeress and the
magic of the charmers and the power of the devil's evil
And in the white gods of a new land we have been believers
believing in the mercy of our masters and the beauty of
our brothers, believing in the conjure of the humble
and the faithful and the pure.
Neither the slaves' whip nor the lynchers' rope nor the
bayonet could kill our black belief. In our hunger we
beheld the welcome table and in our nakedness the
glory of a long white robe. We have been believers in
the new Jerusalem.
We have been believers feeding greedy grinning gods, like a
Moloch demanding our sons and our daughters, our
strength and our wills and our spirits of pain. We have
been believers, silent and stolid and stubborn and
We have been believers yielding substance for the world.
With our hands have we fed a people and out of our
strength have they wrung the necessities of a nation.
Our song has filled the twilight and our hope has
heralded the dawn.
Now we stand ready for the touch of one fiery iron, for the
cleansing breath of many molten truths, that the eyes
of the blind may see and the ears of the deaf may hear
and the tongues of the people be filled with living fire.
Where are our gods that they leave us asleep? Surely the
priests and the preachers and the powers will hear.
Surely now that our hands are empty and our hearts too
full to pray they will understand. Surely the sires of
the people will send us a sign.
We have been believers believing in our burdens and our
demigods too long. Now the needy no longer weep and
pray; the long-suffering arise, and our fists bleed
against the bars with a strange insistency.
Last updated January 14, 2019