Black Poetry Commission: Tanisha Barrett’s ‘The future awaits’

Read Tanisha’s uplifting poem that centres Black joy, rest and self-care

The future awaits

[C]
It’s a new world;
Conserving energy is more than a trend
You can say no to family and friends and it doesn’t cause offence
they understand it’s not about them
At work, needing a few days or weeks to take it slow doesn’t fill you with dread
because there is no consequence
This place was built with humans in mind

[A]
We have arrived!
In all of our queerness, with sparkle and glitter to spare
We are not concerned about acceptance from family or peers
We are not fighting for rights or respect
Cuz we’re the norm now
Shame and stigma are reserved for those who choose to perpetuate hate
The old ways have been scattered to the wind
Dissolved like snow after rainfall
Washed to the gutter

[R]
Rest has been calling;
Finally, a break from bobbin’ and weavin’
The balls of my feet have stopped aching
Once it was eternal fists; now it’s open palms
Dark skinned kids are not taught to work twice as hard
They are not striving and fighting to belong
They are free to be
Just as they are

[E]
This place was built with humans in mind
That means wrongs have been put to right
In this new world colour is not a burden;
It’s a blessing
Black excellence is still here, but we can be mediocre too
I can get shit A-levels and still get a house with a view
I can walk the earth in pursuit of beauty and joy
Pause, breathe deep, lounge like I have days to spare
Lie under duvets because sleep is a form of self care
We can occupy this place or that
Cross borders without getting questioned or attacked
Find freedom in blazing sun and midnight skies
Live like it’s not a luxury to enjoy our lives
We’re here creating new customs and rites
Living like joy and pleasure are our birthright

More about the poet

I grew up in the West Midlands and am a second generation immigrant. I moved to Bristol seven years ago and am a mental health nurse by background. I deliver therapy and deliver teaching on antiracist practice within mental health. I love reading (a stack of books follow me around my house!) and on weekends you’ll find me on walks with my partner and my dog

During lockdown I had more time to reflect on the kind of world I wanted to get back to. This poem is about that place. It’s a new universe where those of us who live in othered and marginalised bodies live freely, where we are the norm. Black people have always had to contend with racism and white supremacy; in light of BLM it feels particularly important for black people to have the option to prioritise rest, self care and joy. In this alternate place queer people feel safe to hold their partners’ hands in public and don’t have to continuously come out. Most importantly, it’s a world without stigma and shame. It’s a future I hope is waiting for us.

The overarching theme of my writing is self acceptance. I write about mental health, race, being queer, body acceptance and body positivity. These are the issues that so many of us battle with throughout our lives, often feeling that we are not enough, or we’re too much, too big, too dark, too queer… I write about the messiness that comes with working through these things and coming to a place of acceptance and loving ourselves for who we are.

There’s lots of good stuff on the horizon! I’m going to be featured in some anthologies that are being published this year, I have a poetry pamphlet coming out and have a podcast brewing. You can find my poetry and posts on Instagram: @blacksugarising.

Poetry commissioned and edited by Malaika Kegode, Asmaa Jama and Aisha Sanyang-Meek

All photography of the poet by Qezz Gill

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