The photo above was taken by Bri Santoro, we had partnered together for Words Incarnate, an event that blended poetry with photography to depict its message. 

Bri said that as soon as she read dirt, she could visualize 3 stages of photos & that what you see displayed here at De Fer Coffee & Tea at the Strip District in Pittsburgh. 

The fact that strangers were admiring my work, posted on a wall was amazing to me. & there began my thought of
 what will I leave behind for other's to admire. There's much to leave behind for a legacy & so much of mines will
 be in the forms of words, letters to my future great great grands. Books, mini manifestos, songs & notes all 
reminding them of how beautiful they are, their hue, and their essence, because the world can often times cause us to forget and sadly, I believe wants us to.

I wrote this to encourage girls who think that their skin is like dirt, I felt employed to write this when I saw a little black girl write on the internet ' Black skin is like a curse, why did God give me skin like dirt'
It took me back to a place in my youth & reminded me that there are STILL young girls who feel like this.
They need to see US being proud of who we naturally are, unapologetically and ENCOURAGING them along the way.

So Dirt is an ode to my blackness, something that once was seen as a negative consequence. I hope that this sparks self love & encourages every black and brown person to honor their skin no matter how it feels and how heavy it gets.

entry #1  Dirt
Skin like the soft soil from which everything grows
From which life itself receives its life
The beginning of the cycle
I am constituents of Eve; her beauty was me
A moving diaspora stretching across all 7 continents
I am everywhere, I'm like kin to air
Someone has to do the dirty work 

And I… am dirt 
Created from it and reflecting it in a clairvoyant form
Brown cinnamon, burnt orange, 
all bleeding into new definitions
I am the rainbow of God’s 1st color.
Reluctant to remove the impurities you bestow
Always feeling the soles of souls who hid in attics for years 
for freedom
and who've undergone thick slits 
and bone marrow screaming for justice, while being licked.
And licked. 
And licked. 
Falling upon me face first and burying tears where I soak in and turn into gold. 

 I am dirt.
Seeing millennia of pitter pattering feet upon my face
falling down and pushing upon my breath to get back up
without me there would be no grace. 
The created and creator of your precious diamonds and thangs, 
soil moist and rich nutrients
are the way of my hips, lips, down to my uterus. 
Trace the energy flowing
find my ribs and take in my oxygen that I apply for your shade. 

(You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl)
I must ask you to respect me.  I must ask you to respect me. 
I know you’ve been afraid 
but it’s a mirage from your inability to see the beauty in my 
gravity defying plants
growing from my garden - coarse vine like things. 
God planted them into flowers and I 
consumed those very seeds from me, falling on me 
and indeed, remained a beautiful product of the son. 

So, in the Summertime,
I soak up the rays and become the true color of light. 
A shimmering dark bright
 and in Springtime I give you joy and scents of nature’s sweets
Wintertime I sit and soak up all of God's tears 
because of his children’s failing ability to see my beauty
Taunting me like it's a joke, 
Failing to realize I am dirt, earth, 
that without me existence would cease. 

The raw God placed in my spirit and planted. 
I am planter and plaintiff of the earth 
Respect my worth!
I must ask you to respect me, I must ask you to respect me.
I am Dirt.

entry #2  untitled.
A lot of black kids don’t know what it feels like 
to be hugged long enough
until their anger turns into tears.

For some of us, anger was our language from the womb…
A lot of black girls don’t know what it feels like to be hugged 
long enough by their daddies…
until the pain washes on the floor....

A lot of black kids don’t know what it feels like 
to be hugged long enough
until their anger turns into tears.

entry #3  excerpt  from “The Pink-Purple Book”
Underneath was a dark small hollow space that revealed a notebook covered by brown paper bag material with pink and purple colored stripes and dots. Instantly getting excited, I grabbed the non dusty, worn out journal and I opened it to a blank page. I turned it to find the words “I’m Not Beautiful” in black ink.

I continued to read which was somewhat of a diary. A daily log of the experiences of a very dark skinned girl and her plights because of her skin color. I came across poems and prayers where she asked God why he made her skin so dark apart from the rest of her family members and why no one else seemed to understand the rude comments and lack of interest from boys she liked. After reading the first few pages of the journal, I sat it on the floor next to me, buried my head in my knees and began to cry. Did she know that I’m not dark skin and wished the exact opposite? 

I’ve always looked at dark skin in awe... like my mother who was very beautiful, Spanish and Black, and then there was my White father who I felt abandoned the idea of her beauty by marrying a white woman right after her death. 

Copyright 2020 Erika D Johnson
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