He’s Black and I’m Proud


proudI help run an after school Poetry Club and last week while celebrating Black History Month, I had my high school students read, “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton. In it, Clifton talks about celebrating her life as a black woman who had few guides in this world to model herself after. This, of course, made me think about my own black son. He spends most of his time with my mother and me, both white women, or at school with almost exclusively white, female teachers. Who does he have to model himself after? So, taking inspiration from Lucille Clifton, my amazing students, and my son, I wrote a poem of my own.

He’s Black and I’m Proud

He’s Black and I’m proud,

as all mothers are, and

also as no mother has ever been before.

I adore

his tan skin

which I cannot see myself in.

But, it’s easy to know he’s mine when he asks to paint,

or cook,

or when I catch him staying up too late to read in bed.

And, in summer, when the sun paints some

of his curls like red, desert mud

you can see my love.

He’s Black and I’m proud,

but also ignorant

of what’s to come.

How can I teach him to survive,


as a Black man in America?

How can I teach him to stay safe in this place where

my privilege has made my safety a given?

I can’t give that to him.

My skin is protected by the SPF of history

but my son burns so easily.

I try to cover him

like a beach umbrella,

but I can only stretch so far.

He’s Black and I’m proud,

and scared.

Skin like his

is in every newspaper  

crime blotter,


and on headstones.

I wish my womb was bulletproof,

but it’s not.

He’s Black and I’m proud,

and ignorant,

and scared,

but not giving up.

There is too much life in him to throw my hands up

or to surrender to fear.

Yes, history is clear

but the future is his.

He’s Black and I’m Proud.