Women's Activism NYC

Suzen Baraka

1984 - Today

By: Suzen Baraka | Date Added:

Suzen Baraka is a poet, artist, activist and attorney. Suzen is passionate about civil practice law, and performs original poems that emphasize race and gender issues. This entry is a poem she composed about about her own lived experience." The Outsider 나는 한국 사람 (Nah-nun han-guk sah-dahm) My Korean language teacher laughs at me: “No. You are 미국 사람.” (mee-guk sah-dahm) I am 한국 사람 too. But this is always a statement met with disbelief As if black faces all look alike And like nothing familial Only familiar with drugs Only synonymous with crime And though I can’t get past the first 3 minutes of Menace II Society Perpetuating stigmas cause my people not to desire me I am the black girl in class, Even though the other pupils are as Korean as my eyes They do not see me As if blackface is the ultimate disguise “Why are you here?” And every time I hear it I want to crawl in a hole And sit fetal style in my mother’s womb SHE IS WHY I’M HERE And yet I don’t quite fit inside of her Can’t quite get comfortable in her silhouette She protects her stories by putting up language barriers and trip wire Understanding stumbles over her words So she tells lies with her shoes She’s not that tall She’s taller 수젠ㅏ She calls me 엄마 I call her I store kimchi in my heart Pumps pepper blood, spicy! My heart burns Korea And fried chicken burns my mouth I learned that from Black Grandma who grew up down South But on 5th Ave and 30th Street: Korean fried chicken and beer $18 all you can eat But this is more than a bulgogi and collard greens type thing Yes, my mother does do nails for a living But beyond that Customer service smile My mother has been through things A man who was supposed to be the answer to her dreams. A man who was meant to change her life forever and…he did. Her world was new with him: unexplored though it had already been discovered, and she was an OUTSIDER. She adventured for him to come home, and it was no home at all. His frustration tore into her like teeth in the flesh of Newark. That’s where we lived: Newark Where they threw rocks at her children for being different Where love spilled out of his pores for the first time and landed black on her skin, blue on her heart. This was not come true. This was reality. Devastation. Like leaving your friends your family your country for a man who has nothing except your dreams’ remains on the dinner plate he just left on the table for you to collect. Yes, my mother does do nails for a living, But she also owns that salon, owns two houses, and raised two Black Korean daughters on her own So when they ask me: Why are you here? What are you? I answer: “나는 한국 사람. Why? What are you?”

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