Arts featured Racism

Resilient roots, a poem by Guyleigh Johnson

Our elders paved the roads we now walk on, one day we’ll be the elders.

Guyleigh Johnson. Contributed.

Where are you from? & what is your background?
Always seem to insinuate a divide
What if I told you, your history books lied
and that on this land our roots are tied
there is something significant about being an African Nova Scotian
You can feel it when we talk, it’s potent
in the country they say there’s something in the potion
Because there ain’t nothing like a Scotian
shared language, values, community & faith
gathering as a collective we create a safe space
understanding the pain of the past as it relates
even through the darkness our ancestors escaped
So it’s confusing when you mix our pride with hate
Resilience embedded in the same soil that was damaged
our ancestors somehow managed
to grow, flourish, maintain and keep
some of them even worked on the same concrete
we drive, walk, run and pass without any reminder of who they are, what they did and why it is special
all of that begins to play on your mental
why am I proud to be an African Nova Scotian if Nova Scotia is not proud of me?
Structural systems to keep us oppressed usually go unaddressed
Because to acknowledge what was done would mean to take accountability
And that same accountability would have to come with some humility,
Humanity and hope
to view our perspective through the real scope
But as Black people our experiences are often stripped and silenced
Our cries for helped get conveyed as whining
and then they try and say you’re not trying
We are forced to thrive in employment and educational systems that are not created for us to succeed
And when we ask for better opportunities that gets conveyed as greed
How dare we demand equality?
We attend schools where the curriculum doesn’t connect
Where we often experience neglect in the form of lack of respect
Surrounded by classrooms that lack culture, diversity, and inclusive material to comprehend
the constant micro aggressions towards Black women
And the labelling stereotypes of our men
And for our white friends we see the rules bend
& the part that hurts is it doesn’t matter how hard you work
You’ll still be unqualified, under represented, and underpaid
regardless of the foundations laid
Our communities are over policed, targeted and under surveillance non stop
a disconnection with the cops
while violence and sickness plague the elders and the youth
our resistance helps us to continue to push through
breaking barriers by building bridges
our youth can cross and connect
dismantling years of oppression and neglect
we will one day live in a society where we reflect in all aspects across all boards
because we can only accept what we stand for
Rooted in our history and
Rich heritage
Ready to honour
Those who came before us
Recognizing the needs of those who will come after us
Where are you from? What is your background?
I’m an African Nova Scotian
From sea to land and land to sea
There’s no way you can see Nova Scotia
And not see me


I wrote this poem to represent the strong foundational presence of African Nova Scotians in this province, a presence that isn’t reflected in our everyday lives. Too often it gets forgotten when discussing the history of Nova Scotia and the Black people that have paved the way for us.

Guyleigh Johnson’s latest book, Afraid of the Dark, is published by Pottersfield Press. In 2016 Guyleigh published Expect the unexpected – Voices from the North End, her first collection of spoken word poetry, also by Pottersfield Press. Both books can be found in a bookstore near you.

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks you are so powerful and I hope you continue to do this work you are touching a lot of people in every race god give you a gift and as a young woman you are a powerful leader

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