I am a young Caribbean woman, currently a student in China. My first year in China I was still struggling to acclimatise not just my body but also my mind to a very, very different world. Sometimes, just seeing another face which looked like mine was a small ray of sunshine on a clichéd cloudy day. It brought about a sense of comfort, that others like me were here too, living, and hopefully thriving. Seeing another Black person would trigger a (perhaps silly, but true) feeling of safety, that there’s someone here with me.
Brown Face was written one day after I saw a Black stranger on a random street. It was nothing extraordinary, we exchanged the typical “chin up and slight smile”, then continued along our way. I went home and decided to write about it, and that’s how the poem Brown Face (below) was born.
To the brother who inspired this piece, I don’t know you, but I hope wherever you are, you’re living your absolute best life! Peace, light and love. This piece conveys our shared histories and connection.
Another brown face in an ivory crowd
A stranger, on the outside
But a brother somewhere within
Within our hearts which pump blood and under our melanin-rich skin, we are kindred
For the sweat which mats our brows is the same as that of our forefathers, who labored for centuries, so that we could be where we now are
The blood which courses through our veins carries the history of long-forgotten tribes, cultures rich and languages so colorful and full of flamboyance
that people automatically whip their heads when it slips off our tongues
Looking to find the source of the difference in tone, texture and lilt
Our eyes catch
Followed by a barely noticeable lift of the chin
Acknowledgment of similar kin
Small fish trying to find their way in a big ocean
Opportunities for advancement, but also so many nets
Unspoken hostility, unkind stares and expectations unmet
But we sail on
Navigating the tides of this foreign land, in the deep blues
Hoards of the same faces in yellowed crowds
But, every now and then, you glimpse a burst of color
Brown skinned, sisters and brothers.
Michelle Allyshia Belle – currently studying Psychology in China – is from the Commonwealth of Dominica. Her eyes have been opened to a vast kaleidoscope of peoples and cultures, which have fashioned her life’s perspectives. As a young black woman, she navigates through the vagaries of life: capturing thoughts, fantasies, hopes and fears uniquely through writing – and loving it! Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org