by Raymond Antrobus
I might spit in a bag and wait to find out
I don’t have enough African in me to be
excellent. Afua says
one drop and you’re black but I still remember
Ebony, who is herself mixed, tagging me
on Facebook, “LOL @RaymondAntrobus
IS NOT BLACK!” just as I was visiting
Bob Marley’s grave and he came back
from the dead as a duppy and laughed
at my hair as he sang Slave Driver
and threw his shoe polished dreadlocks
across the cemetery.
My middle name is Sulaiman.
An African name. It’s always made people
look at me sideways, even other
mixed race people look at me like the ghosts
of Picasso’s African masks.
I was drawing myself as a blue hedgehog
before I was drawing myself
as Alex The Kid, before
I started making friends with other
mixed race boys in London with African names.
Je-Je, Eli, Dawit, all of us, secretly needing
each other’s praise. Sometimes
I just want to sit on Dad's lap again, watching
Titanic while he yells
“white people are crazy!”
and tickles under my armpits
while I squirm, laughing
as the picture of Marcus Garvey
stares from the wall––
that’s why I laugh now
when Drake spits “Black excellence!
but I guess when it comes to me
it’s not the same,” the line pulling me
out of my body, pinning me
to the wall. What happens if I spit
in a bag and find out I don’t have enough
African in me to be my own portrait?
Last updated December 07, 2022