On being black: “Black Is”

I don’t write about race all that often; I rarely write about anything when I feel that I have nothing new or different to add.  I wrote this piece a while back, and then a good friend, Bridget Minamore, got in touch to say that she really liked it and that I should bring it out again.  I have only performed it twice but I’m looking to change that.  In the meantime, I’ve provided the text along with a free download below.  Here, then, are my short thoughts on media portrayals of being “black”, whatever that means.


“Black Is”

What is black?


Black is rap;

Black is jazz,


Black is Hackney as a habitat;

Black is

“No backchat to your mum, she’s a battleaxe”…

Barack is the new black;

The old black,

Back when they sold black,

Was trapped in the shadow of the gallows…

Black is a straitjacket;

Black is a lower-than-average paypacket;

Black is not gay!


Black is Man!

Black is a brag, a swagger;

Black is baggy jeans, an urban teen with a dagger;

Black is –

Twice as long a wait getting through Customs;

Black is “I don’t know what it is about those boys on the corner, but I don’t think I trust them”;

Black is millions of Billie Jeans –

Single mums with sons whose dads were gone before their delivery;

Black is laughter and anger,

Richard Pryor and gangland pistol fire,

Black is hardcore, Darfur –

Black is a victim…

Black is a street-corner yelling evangelical Christian;

Black is a true story more compelling than fiction –


Black is black-and-white, always the extremes, it seems;

Either President or menacing,

Either thief or first-class degree in medicine…

But my black is grey –

Most, if not all warts on display;

My black doesn’t worship God, but his friends are saints;

My black is not on the Pele, Othello, Mandela level of melanin;

But every day, it’s a little more genuine.


One comment

  1. ellesbells says:

    I love this. I remember reading this a long time ago, or maybe hearing you read it. I always loved the grey line, I always felt grey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *