Soliloquy to Mother Griot
By Beverly Fields Burnette
At the 25th Anniversary of our story
we set out an Ashanti stool for you.
You, in the flesh were not there,
but we saw your smile, felt your spirit,
knew the gleeful way you snapped our circle
We saw you, “fairy queen,” in your
yet, colossal in your boldness,
and in the bodaciousness of Zora!
We heard the words you'd always said,
and one by one we mounted the stage
that you and Sista Linda had set for us
a score and a half ago.
In silence, we bent knees to give you thanks
for the countless years of your giving,
for you gave, and FOR-gave
with a heart more infinite than others,
as you pardoned your absent father so many
and the man who silenced your young mother
when you were only three
and the woman who senselessly snuffed out
your only son’s brief breath.
You were always fearless,
as you rose against the struggle and the
to find precious “gilded bits” to share.
From Birmingham to Baltimore and beyond,
you brought your stories.
They were bigger than all of us,
and you tackled them;
found brilliant kaleidoscopes and rainbows
in the tears of life.
Your teachings went far beyond the classroom
that you held for thirty seasons,
and you envisioned each and every lesson
that you would share
when they dubbed you Mother Griot.
You stepped up with huge voice,
to master the masses with your African wit,
with Mother of Pearl wisdoms in poetry, song
And even in your mounting years,
you danced and pranced
in your head wrap;
graceful and agile at eighty.
You flashed your whimsical wink
and shared a frisky frolic in the
Then later, even as your eyes faded,
when your gaze was set for Glory,
and you saw the Master's summons,
you looked back from your bedside
to notice Bunjo and Baba Jamal,
two of the many strong beautiful black men
you said you'd miss.
and all of the story-bearers
who readied themselves,
to carry your cowtail switch,
and your peaceful message
beyond your resting place.
Mother Griot, your stories will survive.
They will revive us!
Your lessons will bring health,
and healing and hope
to a nation that clamors
for an answer to hold dear.
DANCE, Mother Mary!
Dance in the headdress,
which crowns your Queenly beauty.
Dance by the African tribal firelight,
to the resounding beat of the djembe drum.
Dance by the old-fashionedness
of a Warm Morning heater in Alabama,
whose hot coals still glow RED,
like the hearts that love you.
We climb tall hills behind you.
We Circle in your greatness,
and ride this storied journey
lit by the vibrant streak
of your radiant comet.
* * *