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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


by Vincent F. A. Golphin

Why do Black men have to be so angry?
A white man asked.
His tone and eyes told me
His heart was too small
And will too weak to understand.

So the nine words hung in silence.
The crowd in the library auditorium,
Sat up straight and still like eager scholars
Anxious to hear me drop knowledge,
Or at most fluster into silence as if the truth were mystery.

Why do Black men have to be so angry?
I would not tell them that
Dancin’, singin’ and callin’ on Jesus only go so far.
A real Black hurts where they cannot see,
And cleverly hides his scars.

Why do Black men have to be so angry?
The crowd waited near a minute, eyes trained,
On my smile, while my mind danced through youthful memories.
I used to try to educate the ignorant,
And speak already clear realities that many refuse to know.

Why do Black men have to be so angry?
Because their faces tire from grins.
And hearts bleed to scream to those that ask,
Stepin Fetchit is dead, and
A good black in white minds,
Is a minstrel trying hard to court illusion.

Why do Black men have to be so angry?
The crowd eased forward as my mouth opened.
I said, ‘cause they crave dignity, justice and truth,
And see this world offers their color little of either,
And they ache nearly everyday because they can say nothing.

Vincent F. A. Golphin teaches Creative Writing in the Rochester Institute of Technology Department of English. For nearly 30 years his work has appeared in magazines such as Christianity Today, National Catholic Reporter, Emerge, Washington Living, and Upstate New Yorker, and literary journals such as Bridges, Drylongso, Fyah, Ishmael Reed's Konch Magazine, Mental Satin, the Southern Poetry Review and The Southern Quarterly. His most recent poetry collection is Like A Dry Land: A Soul's Journey Through the Middle East.