I dreamt there was a neighbourhood called Harlem,
Which starts in Henley Street and stretches far
Into the tender places of the soul;
Dressed in sable, like a King James’ bible,
These actors live their book of prophecy:
A truth that enters even tiny cracks
Of ice that clinks within our cocktail glass,
Shaken through dancing in Yatenga Bar.
We hear its beat in voices of the past:
James Hewlett, Henrietta Vinton Davis,
Ira Aldridge and that ol’ man river:
Paul Robeson – fighting, singing all his life –
A litany of light-filled pioneers
Who now ignite a living company:
Mary, Dathan, Norman, Julius,
Trezana, Voza, Nick, and Debra Ann.
They catch our breath, and now take wing and soar
Across the way, where Adam Clayton Powell
Holds hands with one hundred and thirty third,
Sweeping through Manhattan – angels’ wings –
That stir up all the dead leaves in the park,
And find new ways to kindle ancient fire.
This Harlem pride, this sisterhood of power,
Gives back to us a feeling of being free,
Like children playing round that cedar tree –
The one from Shakespeare’s garden, which we brought
To Harlem – marking all the years you’ve fought
Within its rings; those scars we still must trace.
This dream is true; I see it in your face.
by Paul Edmondson