Happy Kwanzaa and Merry Christmas!
It’s been a while. As 2018 comes to a close, I wanted to share a poem from the book, A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories, which is a collection of Christmas stories written by African Americans from the 19th and 20th century. The works of notable African American writers, including WEB Dubois, Langston Hughes, and Alice Moore Dunbar, are included in this book.
Historically, Christmas has not included the experiences or voices of African-Americans, which is partly why Kwanzaa came into being. A Treasury of African American Christmas stories was compiled and edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas. It is truly a unique book, which I was gifted for Christmas. It’s a wonderful treat for any holiday, including Kwanzaa or a birthday.
The following poem is by Mary Jenness, 1920s:
A Carol of Color
“I may not sleep in Bethlehem,
Your inns would turn me back
Because, said Balthazar, unsmiling,
‘My skin is black.’
‘I may not eat in Bethlehem,
Your inns would frown me down,
Because,’ said Melchior, uncomplaining,
‘My skin is brown.’
‘Alone I ride to Bethlehem,
Alone I there alight,
Because,’ cried Gaspar, all unheeding,
‘My skin is white.’
Not one, nor two, but three they came,
To kneel at Bethlehem,
And there a brown-faced Christ-child, laughing,
For me, this poem represents inclusion and God’s unconditional love for people of all colors and backgrounds.
I think it is fitting that the second principle of Kwanzaa, is Kujichagulia, which is about self-determination and defining ourselves. How fitting that this poem defines Christ as brown-skinned and loving as the savior of all.
What does this poem mean to you?