To Overcome What We Undergo

We commissioned Kurly McGeachie, Birmingham Poet Laureate Finalist, to write a poem for the launch of Black Country Roots, our new book about the African-Caribbean community in Sandwell and the Black Country. Read an excerpt or listen to Kurly read the full poem ‘To Overcome What We Undergo’ below.

Each story of migration consists of familiar themes
As with this one
It begins
with
dreams, desires, hopes,

And a call from the ‘Mother Country’, the opportunity that knocks (in more ways than one)
Many, including my grandmother caught a ship across
The vast seascape, like being given a magic box that unlocks the potential
To realise these dreams, meet desires and fulfil hopes
Which were all kept afloat on board a boat going abroad; course heading
To where prospects were considered better
From the Islands of white sands and red sunsets
To this Island where the weather is much wetter

From warmth
To much colder climates
Came, a vanguard of migrants
Unwelcomed in many cases facing the brunt of verbal hostility and violence,
A community whose voice was smothered and muted out by…. (silence)
A community, under siege by ignorance
A community overtly under scrutiny, and at times from within the black community
Yet I’ve heard many stories of how many adapted and handled it so beautifully
Though such a difficult task at times
As victims of Human Rights violations and institutionally undermined
It didn’t have to shout it out, its that way by its design
Later came the noise of the National Front, with further afronts to justice
Which has nothing to do with ‘law’ and ‘order’
Tragically this disparity could pull a person down an infinite more times than gravity,
But thankfully
What emerged through these accounts was a sense of pride and strength from solidarity,
Enabling one to stand and move forward despite the often constant feeling of fatigue,
Even turned away from praying in local churches for strength despite Jesus’s teachings so you made your own! And I believe
Stories like these put emphasis on why each proceeding generation owes a debt of gratitude to the last,
As each generation is most likely born out of the resilience and blood spilled from the past,
Last week a 71 year old black lady spoke to a ethnic minority audience and eloquently asked..

“What is the return on their investment?
“What is the return on their investment?”
“What is the return on their investment?”

I stop in my tracks
And ask myself this question

“What was the return on my grandmother’s investment?”


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