You are fourteen, and despite the childish laughter— the one smoother than the fresh coat of love on a baby’s skin— your mothers must warn you that certain skin tones won’t allow you to flash open innocence.
You are not allowed to purchase candy, tell jokes, or ring the wrong doorbell.
Certain histories won’t let you forget the present or permit childhood to take advantage of your fingertips.
Responsibilities follow you home in warm booties, blankets, and prophecies. If you had known that your existence would give birth to a movement, long before your feet hit the ground. Before your mother’s pelvis danced against your father’s, and his kiss brushed upon her skin…
Did they tell you that you were born for this?
Did they tell you about the cries of Israel when they reached into the heavens like hands just as heavy as your parent’s hearts, knocking against the doors of heaven because too many of their prayers ended in question marks?
Did they tell you that you were destined for this?
That you had the freedom movement stamped to your backside like a receipt back to the soil.
Like your fathers had to spit their seed into a melody, an Amazing Grace and Birmingham Sunday, carving its lyrics and your names into the history books of our yet unborn.
And while you rest they march scripture on the bed of your misunderstood self.
I cannot believe we’ve been doing this for six years. If it weren’t for Covid, it would be year seven!
We are excited to gear up for year six of the contest. But we need your help to make this year a success.
I am looking for the following:
Sponsors: No books please. Contribution must either be a service our poets can benefit from or a financial investment toward the cash prize. There are four cash prizes worth between $25 and $100 up for grabs. You can donate whatever you like to put toward it, or you can donate toward one of the tiers (for example, first place is $100).
Judges: The last seven poems will be judged by additional authors, poets, editors, or literary experts who will also help select the top four winners. This is the perfect opportunity for those who are versed in poetry.
Poems will be judged in the following categories:
EDUCATION / MESSAGE
GRAMMATICAL / TECHNICAL
Social Media Marketers/Promoters: Bloggers, businesses, and professionals willing to use their platform to help promote the contest from the start of the submissions until close.
If you are on board to help with year six, please email the following to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Your name/title as you want it to appear online
A professional photo/headshot
Your company logo (if available)
Social media handle
The area you are applying to help with. Sponsor, Judge, or SM Promo
If you know someone who could help, do feel free to share this post with them!
Your written content your voice copy blog posts texts, captions the way you capture feeling on the page contextualize thought empower us through emotion breathe life into the human experience remind us what it feels like to live to remember minister to our memory and most sacred truths the way you poet your words, spoken or written is, power.
A historical document your grandchildren will one day cherish resist the urge to withhold words hold them like you once held your babies precious and true their bodies snug in the crook of your arm and the warmth of your chest Wrap your arms around this text: Your intellectual scholarship has merit.
Let it be a legacy for the next generation Gift them this birthright. So we may have a right to a better future. Let no one censor you into silence.
Today, we introduce you to Buddah Desmond, whose poem “Ghosts, Ghostbusting History + Visible / Invisible Lives (Freedom Is Ours)” won first place in our fifth annual poetry contest!
Buddah, Welcome to The PBS Blog!
What is your name, and where are you from?
My name is Buddah Desmond. I’m from the DC Metro Area. Currently reside in Alexandria, VA.
When did you first fall in love with poetry?
For me, it all goes back to music and lyrics. As a lover of music and words, I’ve always homed in on lyrics. Hip Hop was and still is a major influence. I learned early on how powerful words can be… Their impact… How they can move the masses. Songs like:
Eric B. & Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul” and “Follow The Leader”
Salt-N-Pepa’s “Get Up Everybody (Get Up),” “Expression,” and “Blacks’ Magic”
LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells” and “Around The Way Girl”
MC Lyte’s “Cappuccino” and “Poor Georgie”
Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First” and “U.N.I.T.Y.”
Kool Moe Dee’s “How Ya Like Me Now”
Big Daddy Kane’s “Smooth Operator”
Get Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”
A Tribe Called Quest’s “Award Tour” and “Scenario (Featuring Leaders of the New School)”
Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours”
Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)”
De La Soul’s “Me, Myself, and I”
Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power”
2Pac’s “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Keep Ya Head Up”
KRS-One’s “Sound of da Police”
Jody Watley & Rakim’s “Friends”
Run DMC’s “Down With The King”
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Thuggish Ruggish Bone”
Outkast’s “Player’s Ball.”
This is a small soundtrack of what inspired my love of not only Hip Hop but poetry as well.
No you didn’t just give us a full playlist!
When I first read your poem, I wrote “Top” on it because I knew it would be among the top five. Like, even if it didn’t win, I knew it would somehow be a winner. So, please tell us, what inspired this piece?
I’ve found that the experiences, stories, voices, and the true history, herstory, and theirstory of Black and Brown people continues to be silenced, censored, and ignored. Far too often, our contributions to history, society, and culture are embraced only when it’s convenient for the powers that be. And when we typically raise our voices, show up, show out, turn up, turn out, and redirect our buying power, that’s when we are blasphemed. Like “How dare they do such a thing?” When all we’re doing is fighting for basic, civil human rights. We’re only visible when they want us to be visible. Like we’re ghosts. When we raise our voices, they ghostbust. And that’s why we fight. Why we must continue fighting for and claiming life, visibility, justice, and freedom. So that’s the inspiration behind my poem.
If you could have lunch with your favorite poet, living or dead, who would it be?
See, that’s not fair. You always get me with these questions. When you have more than one favorite poet, questions like these are always difficult. LOL! How about a luncheon with a panel of our favorite poets instead? LOL!
My answer to this question will probably change depending on the day, lol! If I must choose, I’d say either Maya Angelou or Nikki Giovanni. Can you imagine?!! Not only would the conversation be out of this world, but the food would probably be unforgettable, too.
Awesome. What inspired your writing journey in general?
I started writing short stories around 7 or 8 years old. Song lyrics followed shortly thereafter. But it was hearing Maya Angelou’s poetry recited by Justice, the character Janet Jackson played in John Singleton’s classic film, Poetic Justice, that inspired my poetry writing journey.
Yass. That’s my movie.
I’ve said this before but, Maya Angelou’s poetry moved me in ways that I’m not sure I knew how to comprehend, let alone describe when I first heard it. One thing was certain—I wanted to do what Maya Angelou was doing, with the hopes of being able to write poetry that resonated with others the way Maya Angelou’s poetry resonated with me. She’s a poet’s poet. Her command of the language, her consciousness about the human condition… Her compassionate, soulful writing leaves you with a better understanding of yourself, others, and the world.
Exactly. You hit the nail on the head with the human condition. Maya was all about that.
I already know the answer to this question because you strike me as someone who speaks…you into spoken word?
Yes, I have. Many times. Performing for me, whether it’s poetry or music, is otherworldly. There’s something about it that transcends space and time. It’s like going to a higher place. When I’m really in my element (and not too much in my head), I lose myself in the performance. It’s almost like blacking out but in a good way. There’s nothing on this planet that compares to the experience of performing.
What does freedom mean to you?
I think my best answer to this question comes from a piece that I wrote entitled, “Finding Freedom.”
“Loving yourself and others unconditionally is freedom
Shaking bad habits is freedom
Holding on to your joy through it all is freedom
Standing in your light is freedom
Not being ashamed of your voice, your story,
and where you came from is freedom
Getting up even when everyone and everything
around you wants to keep you down is freedom
Building the life you want is freedom
Knowing better and doing better is freedom
Not letting your emotions influence every
action and decision you make is freedom
Exercising your right to choose is freedom
Saying NO is freedom
Being every bit of the FAB person you are is freedom
To find freedom
You have to be
willing to release
all that’s kept you
To be free
you have to
“Finding Freedom” appears in my forthcoming project, Everything I Miss(ed) At Home.
Okayy. Go off then!
What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in poetry?
Read. Read. And READ some more! And not just poetry books. But all kinds of books. Reading opens your mind to possibilities beyond your current realm. So absorb, learn, and apply as much as you can. Follow the journeys of the writers who inspire you and learn about their process, who or what inspired them, and how they pushed their respective genres forward. Seek mentorship from writers who are in the process of getting to where you want to be or who have already achieved the levels that you desire to achieve.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different styles. Push yourself and your artistry as far as you want to go. There are no limits, other than the ones we place on ourselves. Be confident in yourself and who you are as an artist and poet. People are always going to have something to say. It’s your choice what you want to do with it. If it’s constructive criticism, take it into account and determine if and how you want to incorporate it moving forward.
And it goes without saying that rejection comes with the territory. Do not take it personally. It’s not a rejection of you as a person, your artistry, or your writing. What’s for you is for you. And it won’t be denied. Your job is to keep going. Keep writing! Don’t stop, keep on!
Loving the motivation!
Please, tell us about your books/work.
I write about the human condition, and the things I see in the world around me. I write in a way that is, at times, edgy, raw, and in your face. It can be prose-like. And there’s a musicality within it. My work is inspired by personal experiences and the experiences of others, current events, history, culture, and social issues.
Themes within my work include: home / belonging; personal + collective freedom + liberation; the transformative power of love; community wellness; legacy + living a good life (relationships + family + community + honoring our ancestors); personal empowerment (self-esteem + self-love + self-acceptance); the fight against oppression (police brutality + injustice + inequality + inequity + racism + homophobia + transphobia + sexism). The subject matter can get heavy, but there’s an underlying message of faith, healing, hope, optimism, persistence, resistance, and resilience.
Whew. Wait, hold on. Let us get our pencils and write this down!
I released my first book Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics in 2012. A chapbook entitled, Exotic Shifter, followed in 2014. It served as a prelude to From The Inside Out: A Poetry Collection, which was released in 2020. After that, I digitally released a short collection of love poems entitled, shifting from the inside out, on Valentine’s Day in 2022. And my forthcoming book is entitled, Everything I Miss(ed) At Home. The poetry in Everything I Miss(ed) At Home dives into the meaning of home. The place(s) we call home. Those we find (or don’t find) within our families, friends, communities, within our intimate relationships, and most importantly, within ourselves. Release date is TBD, but it’s on the way! It’ll be published by Liquid Cat Publishing.
Where do you see yourself a year from now?
Promoting my forthcoming project, Everything I Miss(ed) At Home. More performing, on virtual and in-person stages. Participating in festivals, workshops, and author events. Getting more poetry published in online magazines and journals. Finalizing my next manuscript and preparing it to be published. And giving back in whatever way I can!
We will be on the lookout for that book!
Now let’s dig into the poem that snatched the number one spot!
“Ghosts, Ghostbusting History + Visible / Invisible Lives (Freedom is Ours) ” by Buddah Desmond
Covered in the blood
Adored with oohs and ahhs for what some
might call our supernatural powers and abilities
Yet, beneath the adoration—we’re deemed
Immaculate for show and tell
For milking and misappropriation
For capital interests and bottom lines
Yet demonic and sacrilegious when we
demand the dignity and respect all beings
created by God deserve to receive
We rise up
And they ghostbust
To exterminate that which they don’t want to see
To disassociate from that which they can’t bear to concede
Ghostbusting is their band-aid
Their power sustainer
As we know, without proper healing—sores and pain remain
And as we know, you can act like something
isn’t there all you want
But there comes a time when you can ignore it no more
History wasn’t meant to be comfortable
There were atrocities and inhumanities from
sea to shining sea that we can’t ignore
Some still happening to this day
And while some will proclaim it wasn’t all bad
We know it wasn’t all good either
In the wrong hands, history is rewritten to
block out the true history, herstory, and theirstory that binds us
These hands set out to make our visible lives invisible
These hands ghostbust nonfiction
Turning it into the bestselling fiction that has so many
misled, pimp slapped, and hoodwinked today
These hands dare anyone to speak out and
criticize their recrafting of history
For punishment is swift, shameful, and at times, lethal
Forgive them father for they know not what they do?
Excuse me father, they know exactly what they’re doing
There’s a reason why ghosts and spirits roam
To right wrongs
To fight for justice
And they will not rest until their mission is fulfilled
For every uprising
Every cultural, political, and legal battle
Every BLACK OUT
We will not rest
Until our lives are no longer invisible
Freedom is ours for the taking
And our freedom—
Oh, our freedom—
We’re taking it!
Buddah Desmond (aka BDez) is a writer / poet, artist, singer, entrepreneur, and health and wellness coach / advocate. His writing highlights the gritty side of life, while offering messages of hope, love, healing, and resilience.
He is the author of four poetry collections, Prevail: Poems on Love, Life, and Politics (2012), Exotic Shifter (2014), From The Inside Out: A Poetry Collection (2020), and shifting from the inside out: love poems (2022). His writing has appeared in numerous publications including MOOV, MUSED, MelaNation, Mixed Mag, LitMag 2020,No Line Left Behind, Osamasetorbest.com, and sana sana (vol. 1). He is a member of Gamma Xi Phi, and has served as a healing leader in the DC-based arts + faith + social justice organization, The Sanctuaries.
His next poetry project, Everything I Miss(ed) At Home, is forthcoming.
Today, we introduce you to Daphne Ayo, whose poem “Uncaged” placed second in our fifth annual poetry contest.
Daphne, Welcome to The PBS Blog!
What is your name, and where are you from?
My name is Daphne Adeola Ayo, and I am from Kogi state, Nigeria.
Nigeria in the houseeee.
When did you first fall in love with poetry?
I fell in love with poetry in Junior Secondary School Three. I think that’s Grade 9, the third year of Junior High in American parlance. Our English language teacher had asked the class to write a poem, and just like that, I found one of my absolute loves; poetry! It became, for that teenager, a form of therapy, a friend, a soulmate, if you will.😊
Yasss. What was the inspiration behind your poem?
Hmmm. There is so much negativity in the world that sometimes it is hard to see the positives. It can be hard to fight back against the constraints which keep us “in check”, to change the status quo. However, it can be done. “Uncaged”, I would say, was inspired by this ever-growing desire to stand up and show up for myself and my dreams despite all the ‘can’ts’, ‘should nots’ and all the odds stacked up against me as an opinionated, ambitious woman in a man’s world. It’s my way of telling others like me that they can define freedom in their own words and have the strength to push through and break those bars.
Beautifully articulated! Who would it be if you could have lunch with your favorite poet, living or dead?
I have so many poets I look up to and admire. This is hard!😅 Can I choose two? I’ll choose two. Rumi and Warsan Shire.
Awesome. Daphne, are you into spoken word?
I have never recited my poem before an audience before. Well, except you count me as an audience.😂
I would really love to explore the world of spoken word poetry someday. I have one in the works, but it is too shy to leave its shell. The first time is always the hardest.
As an introvert, I feel you. It gets easier the more you do it!
What is your personal definition of freedom?
Freedom means so much to me. I doubt you can even begin to understand how much, and I think that was why the theme resonated so well with me and my pen was able to do its thing. Freedom for me is to do whatever I want (within reasonable limits, of course), to be whoever I want, to speak my feelings, to embrace my demons, to depend on nothing, to live, to love, to win, to lose, to laugh, to cry, to just be ME.
I heard that. What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in poetry?
I would tell you what my close friends told me in many moments of doubt: “Do it!” I used to have this self-doubt over my poems, ‘Are they good enough for other people’s eyes?’ and sometimes I still do, but poetry is something that is personal and worth doing. It’s like being worried if people will like the colour of your eyes or the shape of your nose. It doesn’t matter as long as you own it and love it. If it brings you joy, do it! Take that pen and write, your poetry might be for a few, and that’s absolutely okay.
I love that, and I am sure you have just rescued someone from the bowels of doubt for sure. Please tell us more about your work.
I presently do not have any published books. Everything is still in the works. Some are very shy. I’ve written more poetry and flash fiction than I’ve done of any other genre. My works explore womanhood, grief, loss, love, feminism, friendship, domestic violence, mental health, stigma, and taboo topics in the Nigerian society. For the last one, I’m still building up my courage to share works on that.😅
Chile, we would LOVE to hear more about those taboo topics! We are all about normalizing taboos around here.
Where do you see yourself a year from now?
I’ve learnt not to really project into the future. If you live in Nigeria, you’ll understand why.😅
Daphne, you gonna stop teasing us now! Lol
I do hope that I would have taken a significant leap of growth in my goal to become a creative writer while smashing my other goals as well.
Now, tell us. What’s one topic that is Taboo in Nigeria?
That would be homosexuality. I think it intriguing that although it definitely exists, most people would rather pretend it doesn’t.
Thank you once again for everything!💙
You’re Welcome hun!
Now, let us dig into this poem!
“Uncaged” by Daphne Adeola Ayo
I sing of words hidden behind my tongue
and of rare, bleeding emotions masked in a song.
My fears and tears take shelter underneath the ink of my poetry;
Poetry which regales tales of sutured pains sautéed in silky smiles,
tales of scars adorned in sordid lies of healing,
tales where blue skies rebel in hues of grey and dark clouds herald gloom.
I hear the dirges from faraway,
singing of doom and caged dreams.
These bars won’t budge;
bars of tortured silence and locks of pain
This caged bird will sing:
In lines of euphemism,
in words of hope and wishes made on starry nights.
That one day, its dark and dreary nights would seek the dawn
and tell tales of battles fought but barely won,
of words breaking chains to escape oaths of silence,
tales of mended wings and beloved demons,
tales of how freedom at long last_____
heeded my relentless summons.
Daphne is a Nigerian writer who believes in the power and magic of the pen. A student of Classics at the University of Ibadan, she is an avid fan of canine animals, chocolates, and books.
She loves to read, digest, and write poetry. Her works have appeared in her personal poetry journal, on her Instagram account @dee_.vox, and in Classics Press publications, University of Ibadan.
Her works explore themes such as womanhood, love, loss, friendship, and more.
When she is not writing or sleeping, Daphne watches Kdrama, stage plays or listens to Brymo.