"One of the only things you’re born into that you can’t change is your skin." Black ≠ Inferior
Black ≠ Inferior by Tolu’ A. Akinyemi
Realistic Poetry International; SM Shuford
One of the only things you’re born into that you can’t change is your skin. Your skin is the shell that holds all of you – it is how people first see you, and the mirror in which they can find pieces of themselves. When you find yourself judging someone from a glance at their skin, stop and ask yourself – who or what has placed this automatic, hateful image in my head? Why?
The answer will always be – to turn yourself against someone different than you, or even your own race, so that you are too busy fighting, discrediting each other and competing to ask questions about those who bred this prejudice in you. And so we begin with Tolu’ A. Akinyemi’s Black ≠ Inferior.
There is a lot of heavy material to unpack with Black ≠ Inferior, but it is all things that are vital for us to speak aloud, if we have any hope of making the world safer, kinder and better for black communities. This collection is timely, poignant and brave, striking right for the heart of current maladies from the very first verse.
Arrows are slung at people of color daily in the West by the arms of a flawed and corrupted system. As noted in “Black Excellence I”, bigotry is so ingrained in this system that it can undo in seconds threads that took decades to weave. It ruins the lives and dreams of good people on the grounds that they’re “inferior” because of their skin, as if their unique and wonderful traits are something to be ashamed of.
Akinyemi’s style is a lyrical, rhythmic free verse. The flow is on-point, every line a quick but vivid snapshot, brimming with color, emotion and empathy. Their poetry echoes with a sense of immense pride for the strong legacies of black and African people, yet an equally immense sorrow for all that has been stolen from them.
Some personal favorites were “Black and Unique”, a poem of genuine love and hope, as well as “African Time I & II” and “Two Ticks Short”, somber and well-written pieces that beg to be shouted aloud to an audience.
Ultimately, we would give Black ≠ Inferior five out of five stars. Everything here is solid as diamond, from the incisive writing, to the willful, heartfelt intent and message. I’ll leave you on this quote from “Aberration”, perhaps one of the strongest punches this collection delivers.
“What’s the difference between slave owners and human traffickers?
Some are mementos on our streets while the others rot behind dingy walls.”