Cover for Southern Exposure's Southern Black Utterances Today cover featuring a woodcut print of a Black man's face gazing upward, by Atlanta artist Lucious Hightower

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 3 No. 1, "Southern Black Utterances Today." Find more from that issue here.

The following article contains anti-Black racial slurs.

The Following Poems Are From Images: Us, A Student Publication of Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta, Georgia.



i had for you

something i thought

was love


maybe it was




it could have been

physical attraction


(you know there's a lot of that

going around these days)

— Uhuru Ra



i got an afro

but i remember when

i didn't have it


and i remember when

i had to put

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly

in my hair to keep it

as straight as a white lady's


and i remember back when

mama would straighten

me and my sister's hair

every Saturday night

then we'd go take a bath


and every time she'd send

us each to the tub with a warning

Don't you let that hair get wet

cause if you do, you're goin

to church the way it turns out


but that ain't so now

cause i got an afro

— Uhuru Ra



and dem dudes

on de cona

hang on de cona


dey is

uptight, outasight

what's happening now

with de badest

rap dis side

of de Mason Dixon

and don't know what's happenin'

after their high


but dey still

jest go on sayin'

dey don't need

no leaders

'cause dey knows

where dey goin'

cause dey be flying

straight up

and ain't nowhere else to go






— Uhuru Ra




You keep sayin'

''You holdin' up the struggle"

But You don't understand

That junkie, that wino — they all like they are

cause nobody gives a damn

You don't want to care or help them

You want somebody else to do it

You don't want the struggle to come so's they can get straight

But you want them to get straight so's the struggle will come

And then what?

- Jacqueline Barkley


She said


was a controversial word



ain't the controversy



— Jacqueline Barkley


and black children must go to school

because we need black knowledge

to survive

to love

and to live


black children must do more than learn

reading and writing and 'rithmetic

black children must learn to question

not to passively accept


black children must learn to analyze

to understand

black children must be educated

to govern

to love

to make peace

and to find freedom


and black children

must be BLACK children

because black IS beautiful

and black children

must be BLACK children

because black IS beautiful

— Jacqueline Barkley



I saw a young Black man

on the bus

The future was (is) in his face and hands

Our lives depended on him and others like him

He promised a beautiful liberated future


He took out a pack of KOOL's

(the great menthol smoke)


He will progress to pot

Then to coke

And then to hashish .. .

And the revolution will be put off

another day.

— Jacqueline Barkley



So much is lost between

the thought and the word—

Humiliating frustration to one,

but quite relieving

To my articulate adversary.

— W. O. McClendon



My freedom is within me and my people.

Hope is what keeps me pushing with the struggle.

Pride is what won't let me give up.

Being Black lets me know that only the strong survive.

Freedom is the state in which I want to live.

Hoping won't make this true, but struggling will.

Pride is a very powerful force; it keeps me going.

Being Black is Beautiful. And Black is what

I want to be.

— Robin Love



That's me over there hiding behind

That big oak tree because I'm ashamed.

That's me there, running from what's

Really part of me.


That's me too. I'm looking for my

Future on the wrong road.

That's me again! I'm laughing because

I realized how stupid I was to

Be ashamed of what I really am.


This is me now full of pride, dignity and hope.

I've made it home.

— Elandis Willis



And out of desperation

we compose poems that will be read

we sing songs that will be heard

we love because it's so hard to do

we search for beauty because it's so hard

to find

we try to understand

when it's not hard to do

if you really try

but trying is the job


And out of feeling secure

we talk about what the people do

when the people is us


And out of desperation

we say things that mean so much

and yet nothing


And I write this poem

saying much of anything

and little of nothing.

— Aliya Rashida