Race in America – Journey of the Black Male

Journey of the Black Male


Have you ever seen a black man walk straight?

Not shucking nor jiving, not strutting – but straight!

It’s a long time coming, this regal gait

Takes a lot of shedding, of self loving, forgiving

It’s like an awakening, to come into this trait.

‘Cause you can walk, like you own the street

Or sway, like you’ve got music in your feet

You can square your shoulders, but the fear is still there

You can put on a tie, Africanize your hair

In a million ways, you can loudly declare

Your existence! With insistence!

But the wound on the face of the earth is so deep

It will weep just ‘cause the morning has come.

And your ears can be listening ever so long

For the whispering sound of a blessing

And an oath that forgives its own listening.

An in all the world over it will be denied

As if a pitiless mother ignored your cries

This would tell, though with shoulders square

And this would weigh though your hands were bare.


But every once in while, when smoke clears

The horizon yields in the sun’s bleeding gold

The form of a man that walks so straight

you know it’s a rare sight to behold

He has reached deep within

And found he has treasure to share.

He has known his own soul

And found God standing there

He begs no admission, yet is not blustering

He commands while whispering.

Reveals secrets hidden from the collective

Honors the insights insisting

on springing from the heart’s wellspring

He knows from where he has come,

Can measure the distance between,

and in one breath

Forgives all they have done.

Yet has his sights on where to go.

That’s why I say that if you had ever seen

a Black man walk straight, unbowed

you would not have forgotten.

Because the seas would have parted to let him thru.

You would say, “he heads for the mountain,

And I go with him. We are kindred true.”

He would have a mind that was noble,

A heart of pure gold. He would light up

His eyes, and at once be humble and bold.

Ah, it’s a thing that is hard to explain

This elusive coming into one’s own

That makes a man conscious of race

Not as a brand but a gift of grace,

It is a treasure we all chase, young or old

It eludes most, this heavenly gait.

The change from the furrowed brow

To walking unbent, not cowed, straight.


Few can breathe easy in the smoke filled now

Or lay claim to a mantle and crown.

But it is truly a sight to behold.


Rhea Harmsen

Copyright 2012

About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at rheaharmsen.com
This entry was posted in biracial, freedom, national discussion, poetry, President Barack Obama, race, race in America, unity in diversity, women's history and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Race in America – Journey of the Black Male

  1. judibehrendt says:

    Wonderful poem Rhea, and so fitting after just watching President Obama’s acceptance speech. That man walks STRAIGHT all right!!!!! What a beatiful human being, and a deep loving soul. Thank you!

    • rheaharmsen says:

      Yes, I posted it because he definitely reminds me of the poem. I wrote it many years ago, thinking of my father and the men of my family, what their psychological struggles must be. Great to hear from you!

  2. Wandra Harmsen says:

    This is such a powerful poem! It speaks to the injustices of the past and the hopes of the future. It is evocative of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, but has its own powerful yet gentle wisdom and tone. Thanks for sharing this, Rhea.

    • rheaharmsen says:

      Dear Wandra
      You put me in such exalted company I don’t know what to say. Both of these poets are great inspirations to me. It is interesting to note that even when we are tired of the subject of race, there is still so much to be expressed. It is an evolution, and like you said, has both a painful and beautiful side to it. There is so much healing still to come.

  3. Wandra Harmsen says:

    Rhea, can you post this to Facebook? I left my comment but would like to share it. AS Julian says, sing it sister! Love, Wandra

    On Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 12:45 AM, Rhea Harmsen

  4. Scott says:

    Really really amazing. Thank you for sharing. Every word was carefully chosen and fit just right.

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