Join Friends of Pambazuka

Subscribe for Free!

Fahamu Bulletin Archive

About our Programmes

Donate to Pambazuka News!

Follow Us

delicious bookmarks facebook twitter

Pambazuka News

Latest titles from Pambazuka Press

African Sexualities

Earth Grab A Reader
Sylvia Tamale
A groundbreaking book, accessible but scholarly, by African activists. It uses research, life stories and artistic expression to examine dominant and deviant sexualities, and investigate the intersections between sex, power, masculinities and femininities
Buy now

Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya

From Citizen to Refugee Horace Campbell
In this elegantly written and incisive account, scholar Horace Campbell investigates the political and economic crises of the early twenty-first century through the prism of NATO's intervention in Libya.
Buy now

Queer African Reader

Demystifying Aid Edited by Sokari Ekine, Hakima Abbas
A diverse collection of writing from across the continent exploring African LGBTI liberation: identity, tactics for activism, international solidarity, homophobia and global politics, religion and culture, and intersections with social justice movements. A richness of voices, a multiplicity of discourses, a quiverful of arguments. African queers writing for each other, theorising ourselves, making our ...more
Buy now

China and Angola

African Awakening A Marriage of Convenience?
Edited by Marcus Power, Ana Alves
This book focuses on the increased co-operation between Angola and China and shows that although relations with China might have bolstered regime stability and boosted the international standing of the Angolan government, China is not regarded as a long term strategic partner.
Buy now

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

To Cook a ContinentWalter Rodney
Rodney shows how the imperial countries of Europe, and subsequently the US, bear major responsibility for impoverishing Africa. They have been joined in this exploitation by agents or unwitting accomplices both in the North and in Africa.
Buy now

Pambazuka News Broadcasts

Pambazuka broadcasts feature audio and video content with cutting edge commentary and debate from social justice movements across the continent.

See the list of episodes.


This site has been established by Fahamu to provide regular feedback to African civil society organisations on what is happening with the African Union.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Books & arts

Black Label

Khadija Heeger

2007-02-21, Issue 292

Bookmark and Share

Printer friendly version

I have twisted your words
twisted them into my skin
back and forth, back and forth
like the click, click of a loom
I have twisted your words into my hair and my breasts
twisted them into my tongue and my teeth and my thoughts.
I have platted and woven and burned them into this tapestry until finally I see
there is this image called me.

A collision of disguises in fruitless beginnings converge with time to crack silences that live beyond the cacophony of this image
and my step breaks into to reveal the suddenness of something true
I am not your words
I need not answer to those words

Black Label

somebody killed the music and wrote discord and told us all to
make mad noise and like it
crying about the hole in the bucket
so here we are paying to be lulled by some strange tune
you can do this at home in your living room but there’s a TV I presume
streaming in the sub human text
filling the decibel quota so your off spring can develop a catatonic stride
we call it national pride, everything else is nullified
are you up for man-ipulation.
can you ask why, can you ask why?
and then can you look yourself in the eye –

can you ask why, is bush still the president
can you ask why , is bin laden still resident
can you ask why, no African country is holding tight, although we hope South Africa might
can you ask why HIV and internalised oppression has Africa on its knees
can you ask why, this has now become a black disease
and look yourself in the eye if you please

can you ask why black, why white, why coloured
can you ask why we keep the love in the media
selling ourselves this dilution, afraid of the solution
can you ask why and look yourself in the eye.

can you ask why 20% controls 80% and then ask why your mother can’t pay the rent
can you ask why your human family is living street bound
can you ask why there’s no change no change no change,
just some poor fool like me that’s up on a stage
that complains
can you ask why your father shot himself, can you ask why too many have no food, can you ask why
the shits so deep like the nothing that we speak
flagrant testimony of that tired scripture, “its because I’m black you see!”
can you ask why we sit around clamouring to be just like the picture of whitey
I’m talking the material economy and how it’s used you see
and it just so happens it comes with that pristine mentality,
jik clean and pristine
yet I don’t see us taking control of our destinies,
I just keep hearing, what’s that you’re saying,
“it’s because I’m black you see!”

ah but that’s the famous copout for the dropout, for the victim
and though its true
there’s still no excuse for you to think that makes up for exemption from your own redemption
is your life worth a mention? or
are we gonna live in mimicry or find a way to see the change, see the change,
see the change
in you and me
are you ready to ask why, why not,
why you why me
why not change, why not change

can you say ‘I am’
can you say ‘I am the..’
can you say ‘I am the change’
I am the change X5

or are we just ready to toy with the last remains of another idealistic notion and prepare ourselves to grow old in the economic handout game
and call any other aspiration a dream because we’re just to damn lazy to create humanity differently without screaming ‘it’s because I’m black you see!’

So let me get this straight, black means we can’t wake up from a struggle mentality and free ourselves from a victim reality?
oh my brotha what’s that you keep saying “hey man its always been that way!”
when did you give up, how many times have you been bought and
bartered for, oh yes that’s right I forgot there’s no slavery anymore
it’s pussilanimity, voluntary contribution to some more systematic distribution
of bubblegum identity,
division precision
and what’s more an abuse of sameness in the name of
unity for the quick march of your own thoughts to the march of the massive identity the one that’s not about you or me,
getting caught in the PC tradition is getting away with omission
assume the position!

possibility is probability is likely is can be
it’s just up to me
our choice means it could be
should be a different history
wake up from this victim mentality
that’s the control you see

there is no system we are not a part of
there is no difference we cannot be the start of
how we use it is the key and if its gonna harm the one next you
we may as well be the gun or knife and the hynosis too.
because it doesn’t matter what flag you’re flying or what colour your buying
if you’re marching with a deadly compromise you’re just wearing that disguise
the one that we call ‘colonised’
your identity is rooted in the me
the master of your destiny,

whose nigger are you,
nigger is the myopic ass with power to change who assumes his future depends on
a handout to getout
of himself/herself/myself/yourself
I said get up! get up

or get down on all fours and drop drawers!
now I ask you does that give the victim in you pause.

can you say change, can you say change
can you say I am the change
I am the change, I am the change

can you ask why
a question is worth a million assassinations
dissertations, simulations, violations and virtual realities
can we give up this disease
no more liberation from the outside
this is an inside story
this is not about glory or dream making
it’s a simple question
of not playing the shame game.

This is a black label let’s turn the table people and allow it to enable

African can you say it, I am the change
I am the change, I am the change…x5

Welcome Citizens of the Universe!
Humanity of she
what kind of African are you?
What kind of African am I?
what kind of African makes you African?
what kind of black is that?
what kind of white is this?
what kind of color is coloured?
what kind of woman is this?
what kind of man is that?
anthropometric set work still at work
if we haven’t discovered our unity in diversity
gender equality won’t be a reality if you ask me

political rhetoric makes me fret
makes what determines me a complex no reality
in a political menagerie of constructed identity
inheritance of imperialist mentality
is there an African women free in me?

what kind of woman are you?
does it make you a human too?
what kind of sister makes me a sister?
and not part of the make up of the Mister
the credential of he, does it make me
am I still living with a mindset designed to break me

There are women in parliament
women in business
women in religion
women in decision
yet there’s still not enough of you to make gender equality true
violence against women makes me black and blue
because her bruises are mine too you see
I live in the humanity of she

there are women on welfare, women being batter everywhere
women denied, women with stolen pride, women on the street

women talking other women cheap, women buying images from that nursery rhyme
there are women doing time, women in the home raising their children alone,
women in captivity with the cheque book and the Audi its about the money, is this equality
what kind of gender reality makes us free
What definition satisfies the woman in me

we are living in patriarchal red tape
all it seems to do is change its shape
and women don’t make it easier to take
we perpetuate the ‘bitch’ theme
playing into another male construction
we undermine sisters according to prescription of old ideas
of who we are or she should be
the monopoly of sex
and sexuality
is not about she

Yes, there are women in parliament
women in business
women in religion
women in decision
yet there’s still not enough of you to make gender equality true
violence against women makes me black and blue
because her bruises are mine too you see
I live in the humanity of she.

now you may believe we have
come out and claimed our space
but as long as theirs a woman
who has to fear her bodies reminder of a critical debate
that spells power and hate
and this is not just about rape
its about the dictate of shape
the dictate of the shape of your intellect
that boob job
the blonde, brunette
botox baby
she can’t run the company
accept maybe if she’ll sleep with me
and what about the condom fight

around the husband’s right
do we know how many people we are sleeping with?

Is there a degree that can set free me from my own mentality about me
how much academic rhetoric will destroy the disposition of
if we haven’t discovered our unity in diversity
gender equality won’t be a reality if you ask me

Yes, there are women in parliament
women in business
women in religion
women in decision
yet there’s still not enough of you to make gender equality true
violence against women makes me black and blue
because her bruises are mine too you see
I live in the humanity of she.

* Khadija Heeger is a poet and lives in Cape Town South Africa

Readers' Comments

Let your voice be heard. Comment on this article.

↑ back to top

ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition

ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français

ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português

© 2009 Fahamu -