An Introduction to Tasha Jones’ Poem “From Pyramids to Plantations to Projects to Penitentiaries.”

I first heard Tasha Jones’ poem “From Pyramids to Plantations to Projects to Penitentiaries” when she performed it at a “Resist” Poetry Reading after the recent election. Twenty-five people read poems, but I don’t remember a single one of the others. I could not forget Tasha’s. I don’t know of any other poem that projects an accurate arc of history. The very title of the poem sums up the history of black people in the United States, from their distinguished origins elsewhere to the unspeakable tragedy of slavery and the unrelenting persecution of their race through a series of ingenious forms of legal and social diminishment.

The distinguished poet Karen Kovacik, professor of English at Indiana University- Purdue University at Indianapolis, and former poet Laureate of the state of Indiana, highly recommends the poem “for those who still imagine we live in a post-racial society.”

Tasha Jones not only gives us the arc of this shocking history, she personalizes it in images and phrases that are as vivid as they are valid. Most remarkably, she
makes beauty out of horror, and evokes for me as a Christian the sorrow and compassion of the Jesus of the Gospels:

“Follow me to the good book
Where people are metaphors for trees
And peace is found
In the stillness of streams
Follow me to the good book
Where the end is known in the beginning
And the beginning is known in the end…

Follow Tasha Jones’ poem to a deeper understanding of injustice and endurance, of suffering and survival. Pray that we who call ourselves “white” may not forever be blind, that words like these may teach us to see.

Hear Tasha Jones perform her poem tonight on “Uncle Dan’s Story Hour,” 9 PM on WFYI (90.1 FM.)

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Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield