Editor’s note: In her poetry, Marlanda Dekine – Sapient Soul uses spoken word, a form of poetry based in performance and oral tradition and frequently used to comment on social justice and systems of inequality. Spoken word is meant to be listened to and experienced through sound, with meter and aural aesthetics as important components. She has provided her poetry in both written and audio format for Shuddhashar.
How Others Before Me Have Gone
I honor the freedom fighters who published & travelled the world to end lynchings while lynchings were ongoing, black women who risked their lives by speaking out loud when no one, even other women, wanted to hear them, black beings who sought justice as transgender, lesbian, and nonbinary people, and especially those whose analysis & lived examples offer a guide for today. I consider epigenetic trauma, vicarious trauma, and the short lives of these women: How did they live? Love? Celebrate? Die? I consider every smile and every piece of joy squeezed from their lived experience within the United States of America:
Although lynchings have steadily increased in number and barbarity during the last twenty years, there has been no single effort put forth by the many moral and philanthropic forces of the country to put a stop to this wholesale slaughter.
The appeal to the white man’s pocket has ever been more effectual than all the appeals ever made to his conscience.
–Ida B. Wells, 1862-1931 (died age 68)
Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.
What I really feel is necessary is that the black people in this country will have to upset this apple cart. We can no longer ignore the fact that America is not the… land of the free and the home of the brave.
–Fannie Lou Hamer, 1917-1977 (died age 60)
If I could take all my parts with me when I go somewhere, and not have to to say to one of them, ‘No, you stay home tonight, you won’t be welcome,’ because I’m going to an all-white party where I can be gay, but not Black. Or I’m going to a Black poetry reading, and half the poets are anti-homosexual or thousands of situations where something of what I am cannot come with me. The day all the different parts of me can come along, we would have what I would call a revolution.
‘Don’t let the fascists speak.’/ ‘We want to hear what they have to say.’ ‘Keep them out of the classroom.’ / ‘Everybody is entitled to freedom of speech.’ / I am a child of America /a step child raised in the back room yet / taught how to act in her front room.
–Pat Parker, 1944-1989 (died age 45)
Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.
It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.
–Audre Lorde, 1934-1992 (died age 58)
I’ve stopped taking it all so personally. The racism and capitalism and ecocide, the sexism and homophobia, how tired everyone in the United States seems even though they claim they are living the best life in the best country in the world. When folks are being worked to the bone and drinking poisoned water in their coffee every morning, there isn’t a lot of psychological energy left to figure out that this “best life” is all hoax and a wink. I imagine that anti-Blackness and capitalism and ableism are huge mindless machines hooked into people’s spines, making unable to stand for what is right, Every day I pray, not for the revolution, not a savior, just to have the strength to constantly disentangle myself from the machine.
–Mai’a Williams, (living freedom)
The Moon began as a free-write, reflecting on the limitless perspectives and insidious language that entrance beings across the globe, particularly regarding the United States of America, its global history of oppression, and the hope it inspires within. How might we disrupt the trance? The native or indigenous perspective is a beginning, an origin, a root. For me, my grandparents are a beginning, an origin, a root. Deliberately calling things as they are is liberating and life-giving. Breaks the spell, over and over again. Writing & speaking can result in personal exile from the self as well as communal exile; left to sort through the rubble of what is left of you and from where you come, you may find yourself faced with who you really are & called to go towards your true nature, with deliberate intention.
The USA is a brand. A marketing force of the American Dream. I am sure you have heard of it. Oppressed people of all backgrounds, including myself as a Black, lesbian woman from South Carolina, have believed in the promising imagery & language of progress & acknowledgement, hard work, be the next billionaire! Success. But, what does it cost of our humanity, our planet? With 45 in office (referring to the individual currently holding seat as President of the United States and Commander-In-Chief) while studying in Paris, I am often asked by Parisians: What’s it like with this President of yours? Isn’t it terrible? My answer: Yes, it is terrible. It has been very terrible in the United States. For centuries. 45 is a blip in this terrible story. May we each know that our power is in our willingness to go to the root, and dig. With grace and an open invitation for truth, healing, & justice.
-Marlanda Dekine-Sapient Soul, 1986- (living freedom)
by Marlanda Dekine-Sapient Soul
Click on image above or listen to The Moon on Soundcloud
“…they all had a story. They were not barriers. If a person wanted to get to the moon, there is a way; it all depended on whether you knew the directions…on whether you knew the story of how others before you had gone.”
-Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
“I ain’t had no good life. All I don’ was work, and da men ain’t do nuthin’ but fa’ talk…”
-My grandmother, October 2019
About a being named
Boy or girl
Without their choosing
In a country where gold
Used to be people
Now people are machinery
Grinding hard until death
The unsheltered is only
An occasion There are isolated
Incidents every day
Let me tell you how
The people get shot & die
How my country does know ritual
Let me tell you a story
About a being who wanted to be
More than a history carved out for them
More than the inclusion slice of cake
More than a thing melting in a pot
More than remembered at any vigil
Or in anyone’s poem
Let me tell you a story
About how belief is everything
How conditioned we are to believe
We are fixing everything ourselves
In this lifetime
Right here in my country
Right now with funding
& line items
Oh how we gather to tell your story
Your pain & pass the basket
& how it is all written off
My friend let me tell you
You are really rich My country
Has nothing to offer you The gold
Is lead coating faucets & building
Monuments to grinders & death
You might be from some place far worse
Than my country made it become but
Let me tell you the bars that cage
Are real ones & they have always been
Do not believe the story that destroys you
Do not work for the story
That maims you from inside-out
Let me tell you what I see when I look
Into your eyes An energy grid
Lighting the only dream you need
 Wells, Ida B.. “Speech on Lynch Law in America, Given by Ida B. Wells in Chicago, Illinois, January, 1900.” Civil Rights and Conflict in the United States: Selected Speeches. Lit2Go Edition. 1900.
 Wells-Barnett, Ida B. Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. Adansonia Press, 2018.
 Brooks, Maegan Parker, and Davis W. Houck. ““Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free,”: Speech Delivered at the Founding of the National Women’s Political Caucus, Washington, D.C., July 10, 1971.” The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: To Tell It Like It Is. : University Press of Mississippi, March 20, 2014.
 Bracey, Earnest N. Fannie Lou Hamer: the Life of a Civil Rights Icon. McFarland & Co., 2011.
 Smith, B., & Parker, P. (2000). Home girls: a black feminist anthology. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
 Parker, Pat. Movement in Black: the Collected Poetry of Pat Parker, 1961-1978. Crossing Press, 1983.
 Lorde, A. (2007). Sister outsider: essays and speeches. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.
 Martens, China, and Maia Williams, editors. Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines. PM Press, 2016.
Marlanda Dekine-Sapient Soul (She/Her/They; @sapientsoul) is of Gullah-Geechee descent & seeks no nation, rooted near the rice riverways in Plantersville, South Carolina, ways her ancestors carved out with hands as purchased beings, fueling rice economy which funded the USA, learning from the technique & knowing of which she descends, poetry means listening, speaking, tellin’ it like it is, language wielded, full and untethered, liminal space of love-making, freedom.