Nann Tsehay: Poets Corner

Welcome to MoAD Poet’s Corner, a space where our network of poets speak to their place in the African Diaspora as it exists today. The poets featured in this series are connected to MoAD through our MoAD Lit programs, which includes Poets-in-Residence, Third Thursday Open Mic, and Authors in Conversation. Here is a space where you can nourish your soul, feel inspired, and relish in the words that narrate the African Diaspora. In the words of the late, Toni Morrison at her Nobel Prize address, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

Far from Immigrant, Adjacent to Citizen, Close to Slave

 

Nobody cares that I speak English
Nobody cares that this is the only language I know
And that I’ve ever been taught
Despite the darkness of my skin
The round of my nose
Fullness of my lips
And kink of my hair
Nobody cares that I speak English
Or that my English was the hand me down of poor whites
Or the irony of white folk now complimenting black folk on their use of proper English
when they once made it a death sentence

Nobody asks, what country you come from?
Were you born here?
Are you legal?
Citizen?

Cuz what is a question of citizenship compared to one’s humanity?
To be reduced to a fraction
Three-fifths

Nobody questions my last name
Ridicules it or stares at it,
puzzled and completely distraught from having to pronounce it

They don’t question my last name cuz my last name don’t mean shit when I don’t belong to anybody

White folk don’t want a thing they can’t call their own
and if they can’t call it their own,
they despise it

So my first name gets passed over and thrown in the trash bin with all the other Negro first names

Cuz “Burt” ain’t enough and Rayshonda is too much
My blackness survived,
I remained colored,
and named in that fashion

They look over my un-native language
Like the pages that remind the present of the past
The Blacks of the West Africans
The pipeline of the slave ships
The micro-aggressions of the lynchings
The otherness that intends to fade out blackness
Fade out history and turn slavery into dreams
Chattel into agricultural workers
Into forgotten
Into it never happened
Into a language that overwrites and over talks,
and stands over me in 26 letters
Letters that will never formulate to sound out the name of home
Only the name of those who took me from myself, them, us

I am reminded that despite my black lips and tongue, my words and thoughts will always come

Out
Colonial
English
American
White
First

And by life I have been separated
As so by death
Like white relatives who refuse to acknowledge the dark side of their family history and I don’t mean
slavery
Simply by the words they choose
In a language I did not

And still, nobody cares

 

Artist Statement:
“Writing is the root of my art.” NANN’s writing reclaims the Black woman narrative. Her words trace the steps of Black girlhood to womanhood, recounting the ways in which ‘this Black body’ holds the story and tells the story. Growing up with limited exposure to Black women writers and tired of the superficial and stereotypical tales told by others, NANN opened herself to the minds of Black women thinkers and in turn found she had stories of her own. Her body of work shares with us the inner struggles carried in silence and placed behind distractions. What it means to walk in this Black body in America, in downtown Chicago or 1200 block of Menard. The aftermath of having an abortion, the discord one feels when entering womanhood or the strained relationship with self and others. She brings us in without filter or shame, piecing together dysfunction, depression, trauma, with understanding, compassion and healing.

 

Biography:
NANN is a multi-faceted artist, cut from the West side and South side of Chicago. Her poetry is a worthy dive, giving an introspective narrative of the life/love experience. Her lyricism is intentional, carrying a willful vulnerability and cool air. A self-taught music producer, NANN’s sound consists of hip hop, jazz, classical, and soul elements fused together to compliment her bright, brassy voice. NANN has been a featured performer at the 2018 San Francisco Pride, Oakland Pride and the 2019 Queer Arts Festival. She’s also been featured at Exhale Collective, La Pena Cultural Center & Women of Color Initiative, and the Museum of African Diaspora.
NANN is currently working on both her chapbook ‘Coloured Outside’ and music album ‘Bloom’.

 

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Categories:  MoAD Lit