February 12, 1963

I am born on a Tuesday at University Hospital
Columbus, Ohio,
USA—
a country caught
 
between Black and White.
 
I am born not long from the time
or far from the place
where
my great-great-grandparents
worked the deep rich land
unfree
dawn till dusk
unpaid
drank cool water from scooped-out gourds
looked up and followed
the sky’s mirrored constellation
to freedom.
 
I am born as the South explodes,
too many people too many years
enslaved, then emancipated
but not free, the people
who look like me
keep fighting
and marching
and getting killed
so that today—
February 12, 1963
and every day from this moment on,
brown children like me can grow up
free. Can grow up
learning and voting and walking and riding
wherever we want.
 
I am born in Ohio but
the stories of South Carolina already run
like rivers
through my veins.
 

Jacqueline Woodson, "February 12, 1963" from Brown Girl Dreaming. Copyright © 2014 by Jacqueline Woodson. Reprinted by permission of Jacqueline Woodson.
Source: Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin, 2014)
More Poems by Jacqueline Woodson