Arts featured Racism

Guyleigh Johnson: So then where do you go when you’re broke and broken?

Screenshot of I grew up in Dartmouth, Guyleigh Johnson. See below.

Visible minority
I think that means by the look of me I’m less
Probably make you second guess
But I check the box anyway
Overqualified, under pay
No privileges
Just practice
Suddenly brings me back to
11 years old
I remember being froze
Because we couldn’t afford heat
Yet everyday mama’s tired from standing on her feet
Table full of bills that eventually lead to debt
Blood tears and sweat
Make me hang my head low in rage
Minimum wage
Still don’t get paid
Enough to support
Yet it’s hard when you’re black to even get in the door
So it’s almost like being forced to be poor
They push education
Yet barely provide opportunities
It doesn’t matter if I spoke french fluently
The color that caresses my skin and face
Makes certain people hate
Literally ‘race’
Then they’ll want to debate
Whether I’m the person they should take
To the point my resume is only good enough
When I’m not ‘hood’ enough
Like the address at the top
That says I live by the block
I guess automatically makes me a victim for the cops
We’re always supervised
With extra eyes
Because the media portrays us as animals
Uncivilized and dangerous
Or let me guess
My name is too difficult for you to pronounce
When you envision me saying it you see me bounce
Hands clapping, really extra,
Loud and aggressive
The same skin that caresses my body
Suddenly threatens
The lack of diversity
Makes me think there’s no point in university
Because it doesn’t matter how many degrees
Somehow I’m still facing defeat
The problem is there’s other youth like me
statistics , stereotypes, stigmas
And no advancement
No first or second chances
Training or programs in place
To give me a fair start in running this race
People that constantly have to prove
That you’ll make the right choice if you choose
We work twice as hard
To get the job let alone keep
Because it’s hard enough to sleep
When you ain’t got no heat
Survival mode
Fighting to be stable
So one day the bills on the table
Won’t worry our children to the point they go to bed in fear
And can sleep throughout the night without a care
One day I pray that my presence doesn’t make you uneasy
That underneath the skin that caresses my face
You really see me
Me the human
Team player
Goal oriented
Always prepared
And regardless if I’m black
You’ll see more to me after that


I wrote this poem because something that’s been tugging on my heart is the lack of employment in the black community, especially amongst the youth.  

I want to not only bring awareness to key factors that often hold us back but to encourage black youth to challenge businesses in their communities, to hold the government accountable in offering the proper programs or training that could help level the playing field, and more importantly, to break barriers.

It’s hard enough to provide let alone progress, but in order to create change you not only have to speak up but you must take action. Too many youths fall under the radar. Bare disappointing. Rather than be discouraged I believe in stepping in and figuring out ways to help.

Having a job creates a sense of security, and not having a sense of stability also affects your mental state. Mental health is a touchy subject in our communities. The stigma of being weak and the fear to ask for help keep so many stuck.

So then where do you go when you’re broke and broken?

The lack of employment puts black youth in vulnerable situations where they have to make survival choices. A lot of the time people on the outside are focused on looking at where we’re at instead of trying to understand how we got there.

Anyone who’s ever had a job knows that it gives you responsibility, accountability and confidence. After so many hours, hard days/nights eventually you start envisioning your own future, your own businesses, your own path. It’s important to build the youth up give them that same confidence so that they can contribute positive things back into society and let the cycle continue.

We need to peel the stereotypes and judgements that are often placed on black youth in order to witness their true potential. If I could say one thing to the youth in black communities it would be to ‘never give up’. I know that sounds stereotypical but the only way to progress and move forward is to carry the strength of your ancestors everyday. To know where they came from and the things they suffered and sacrificed so we could get to where we are today. Today still isn’t perfect, and that means we have to do the same for the ones that come after us.

You’re going to be told no in life, not once but many times, you will get rejected, feel like a failure and hopeless. Throughout it all keep pushing, reminding yourself and those around you not only how smart you are, how capable you are, and how important you are to society.

Our job is to role in trying to end racism and discrimination now, especially in business environments, and to break down is to improve the systems, to take away all that holds our people back from elevating and progressing.  

In 2016 Guyleigh Johnson published Expect the unexpected – Voices from the North End, her first collection of spoken word poetry. It’s very good. It’s published by Pottersfield Press. And it is in a bookstore near you.

See also: Weekend video – I grew up in Dartmouth, Guyleigh Johnson 

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One Comment

  1. i think what you wrote is beautiful Nova Scotia is terrible to make a living and the government should not be paid so much to give more to the people There are
    so many beautiful and smart talented black people .

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