hannahthepoet

Canada

Message from Writer

Hey guys! I'm a 17-year-old spoken word artist from Toronto Ontario, Canada trying to change the world one poem at a time. I'm always writing and I have so many poems that I will be posting soon. I do it for the cause, not the applause. Please check out my YouTube channel: hannahfloresthepoet and subscribe for more updates on my poetry short films and new projects I'm working on! My poems focus on race, gender, mental health, love, immigration and, in my most recent poem: "If The World Was A Movie," finding hope amidst this global pandemic. I hope to encourage more young writers to find their voice and realize that what they have to say is important!

To The Only Black Person In The Room

July 18, 2020

A Letter By: Hannah Flores


To the only Black person in the room,

You are, simultaneously, the most invisible and visibly distracting presence known to man.  Learning the art of being Black in a space is a process to carry out over a lifetime, as you are taught the myriad ways that Blackness can be undesirable.  This is a painful but essential discipline to practice.

You are the greatest balancing act to ever grace the tightrope: staying true to your identity while prioritizing the comfort of everyone else.  Making yourself small to make others feel comfortable has become your second nature and first instinct.

White picket fences lace the neighbourhoods where you are not meant to plant your flag, your garden, your foot.  You keep your wallet and identification handy, as many may question your residence within the confines of their sacred fence.  They call it "an intrusion."  They name you the plague that festers in their quiet little town.  Take notice that the neighbourhood watch committee is religiously watching the only Black house on the block.  Hold your keys tighter.  Spectators peek into your backyard to get a whiff of the sun-baked cookout.  You return the favour and revoke their invitation.  Families on your street do not knock on your door to send over welcome pies as kind extensions of fellowship.  Your neighbours exercise their collective ability to ensure that your home seems most foreign to you.  The message is clear: get out.

The executive team will not see you as a seasoned analytical strategist, but as an authority on race relations.  Some of your ideas will receive an absence of any response, while other times, their essence will seep into the board room, spreadsheets and campaigns but leave you and your name detached from all association.  You are the epicentre of the diversity quota, being noticed not for your intellect, but rather, your physical attributes.

Employers will stress the fact that they have given you a chance, so you flush out their ears with gratitude and keep your chin low.  You stray from becoming the Black employee with a mouth, with a conscience and with a problem.  Nothing you produce, present, or become will ever suffice as professional enough.  Black skin has always been told to stay out of offices and meeting rooms.  This is an oppressive stamp of denial.  Colleagues assume that you feed off of hand-outs, that you are constantly searching for a saviour.  On the contrary, you have been the only one with enough of a spinal cord to save yourself.  Your radiance will pierce through the opaque walls of corporate doubt regardless.  

When the professor begins the lecture on slavery, you are the ultimate distraction.  Eyes from every direction walk up and down your image as the classroom lights make you take centre stage.  You are the topic of discussion on everyone else's tongue.  You are what everyone is thinking but what no one dares to say.  The fact is that you are a friend to all, until you are not.  Your attempt at assimilation is aspirational, exemplary even, so they call you "the exception," the exception that proves their bigoted rule.  They will praise you for not being like the others and you will question the sound of those words, wondering if you should interpret them as a compliment or not.  You will wonder if you should say something, but to protect your reputation, your scholarship, you keep smiling and nodding.  Unfortunately, the only Black student in the class is the anomaly if they succeed and the expectation if they fail.

The only Black person in the room is the token of everyone else's appropriation, wanting all that you possess but none of who you are.  You are the assumed expert on all things pop culture and sports commentary, with a master's in Ebonics, a certificate to recognize your expertise in rap lyricism and a doctorate in historical studies of the ghetto renaissance.  In times of trauma for brown skin, others will look to join book clubs in order to wrap their heads around it. 

Some will travel abroad and volunteer in countries home to people who look like you and call it service, only to selfishly call it an empathy-building, cross-cultural experience on college essays and use it to strike up good conversation in a job interview.  People will convey the message that your Blackness is solely defined by adversity and sympathies, in an attempt to compete with your authentically-lived experiences.  You are the primary source, while everything that surrounds you can only wish to be secondary.  You are in the middle of the world, with kinetic forces naturally revolving around your person and pulling towards your spine for you to carry all burdens and blessings.  Public eyes render you a piece of coal, until they compress you enough to call you “diamond.”

Being the only one of you in the room, on the boulevard, in the office, in the class and in the group is a subtle and imprecise art: performative, yet largely invisible to its intended audience.  Each instance, taken in isolation, may seem trivial.  But it is the cumulative effect that wears you down.

Liberate your mind as this racialized amalgamation paces circles inside of your conscience, but do not move.  Stay right where you are.  Unpack this baggage that you carry, but do not leave the room.  Increase in size and volume, as your hair testifies against the gravity holding you down and the glass ceiling keeping you back.  Allow for the glass to break.  Remember that the glass is always transparent.  Do not conceal the complexity of your emotions.  Your smile alone has caused the fall of many empires.  Practice the habit of drowning the world in your excellence and resilience as the masses turn to you: the room's greatest focal point.

Sincerely yours,

The little voice in your head that says you belong

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19 Comments
  • Poppy.M

    And congratulations for your extremely well deserved win!!!!!!!


    3 months ago
  • Poppy.M

    This is absolutely incredible. I have no words...


    3 months ago
  • Kyadickson

    This is amazing! The work choice, imagery, everything. Congratulations, I can see why this piece won.


    3 months ago
  • Huba Huba

    Congratulations! I love this piece, and your style of writing!


    3 months ago
  • Audrey_W

    Congratulations! Your prose is rhythmic, your metaphors striking, and your message pertinent. Well done =)


    3 months ago
  • Writing4Life

    Beautiful! This seems almost like a poem :D Wow, I thought I had a chance of winning...until I read this D:


    3 months ago
  • ~wildflower~

    I love the whole letter and the last line was just perfect! Congratulations!


    3 months ago
  • sunflowerbelle11

    Congrats!


    3 months ago
  • Tula.S

    Congratulations!!


    3 months ago
  • sunny.v

    congratulations on the win!!


    3 months ago
  • sci-Fi

    congrats!


    3 months ago
  • birthdaycandles

    sincere congratulations, a very well-deserved win indeed!


    3 months ago
  • Thejasri_Narayanan

    Congratzzzz!


    3 months ago
  • inanutshell

    congrats on the win! I'm not qualified to comment on the aspects of the experiences here but I think you've managed to convey such a rich variety of emotions here - this letter also holds so much power & portrays tenacity. congrats again!


    3 months ago
  • Ghoulgirl2020 (#Queenie's Halloween | I have been called Cool before if you know what I mean) ;)

    Congrats! ;)


    3 months ago
  • crow_e

    congratulations on the win! it's well-deserved


    3 months ago
  • Century Friend

    Congrats on the well-deserved win! This letter is so strong and is something that needs to be said.


    3 months ago
  • EliathRose

    Oh my word, this is such a good piece. It definitely deserved to win. Congratulations!


    3 months ago
  • poetri

    congrats on the win! this truly is a beautiful letter :)


    3 months ago