Wed | Dec 6, 2023

Testimony of First of August Negroes: the Last to Be Set Free

Published:Friday | August 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A maquette of a statue at City Hall, London, which stands as a permanent slavery memorial.

 A poem by Lorna Goodison - Poet Laureate of Jamaica 2017 -2020  

I tell my friend Quasheba, stop up you ears with this beeswax,

so that the bantering song of all who get fi leave scotch free

don't mad we who still bind to cane piece. We who get left back

because spiteful Massa say: "Emancipation is like an aged white

rum so strong not every Negro can imbibe at one time, lest they

grow drunken and stagger." So him water down freedom, share

it out little little and what left in a barrel bottom is fi me and you.

I say, Don't bawl Q, we wait long already, we can wait more still.

She say: "Since them carry me come from Guinea me want go home."

Me too. But if is one thing me learn from what Saint Paul preach is: They that wait. No, is not him say that, must be the prophet

Isaiah or one other man who help write Massa bible with the lock

and key. My friend say she don't want hear no comfortable words

today. My heart string stretch out too. Me disappoint. Me tired pray.

Bend down! Full-free hurrycomeup dem a come down the road

like a Syrian wolf upon the fold. I no rightly sure what that mean,

but me like how it sound. Turn you back and bend down lower,

inspect grass hard like a cruel overseer. Bend down, chop furious

and cuss like wicked slave driver. Tell grass how it good-fi-nothing,

lazy, and no make fi flourish. Say it bad like sin that Ham commit.

Them gone? We can stand up now. Our day of Jubilee a come.


Address to the weed in the cane piece:


Pretty little grass weed, to me you are a sweet rose,

even though some don't think so. According to them,

it matters not that you bud and blossom, you do not

count as flowers, therefore you not good enough

to cut and put in a water vase and set pon table

in a big house. So them order me, a human weed,

to dig you down, and root you up, and fling you

to one side, although your roots bind the ground

together. You're as good as any other growing thing,

you are just planted where you're less counted.

To me little weed you are sweet as any roses.


Last Words


Yes, is true. Some who get freedom first,

walk past and mock the first of August Nayga

the last to get emancipation. Yes sir.

We had was to bear all the commotion

and bangarang of old pan as them galang

past we out a the estate.

Some believe all the foolishness hard heart people say

bout freedom not for any and every one.

How some need to be

led with bridle and bit like mule and horse.

Not because some get let go first,

always remember this:

It matters not when you did leave.

Every single one of a we

come out a the cane piece.