we have always loved each other

Lucille Clifton


For African History month, here’s a lovely poem calling upon oppressed groups to believe in themselves and love themselves. The relationship between discrimination and low self esteem is such that a wise mother like Lucille Clifton must remind us that we are loved.

In the face of reality’s slings and arrows, a protected inner place is needed to guard this truth (“keep this in the place you have for keeping”). Initially, people who have been beaten down don’t believe they are loved so Clifton assures them with an indirect declaration (“we have never hated black”). As she patiently explains the situation, however, breaking down certain words for emphasis (“always” into “all ways”), the truth blossoms into an affirmative (“we have always loved each other”).

Fortunately, one needn’t rely entirely on oneself. The community will find ways to communicate the truth, just as it passed along subversive messages in slave times. Once one fully believes, all things are possible.

listen children
keep this in the place
you have for keeping
keep it all ways

we have never hated black

we have been ashamed
hopeless      tired      mad
but always
all ways
we loved us

we have always loved each other
children         all ways

pass it on

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