what happens to the brown-skinned girls

Written by: Mari Roberts

What happens to all the brown-skinned girls?
Sitting on the stoop waiting for the ice cream man to come
20 plats in their hair
Turning the double dutch rope
Sitting in the middle of the classroom

You know, that one girl . . . what’s her name?
ponytails neither pony nor tail
Who aren’t allowed to wear their hair down 
or sport Brand X Jeans

Who can’t wash that Diaspora right out of their hair
or erase their royal heritage

The ones that pop their gum the loudest
Run the fastest
Fight the hardest
Dream the most

Ones who don’t wear pants and go to church all day Sunday
got tattoos 
wear makeup
or slide into their short skirts on the way to school

Who are picked first for the team
picked last
or never picked at all . . .

Girls - who don’t have time to hang out ‘cause they “gotta go to work!”
for their new dress
or in their old car
to pay the light bill that momma “forgot” 

Girls who roll their neck
and their eyes
their hair and their hips 
to the rhythms of the Congo, Bronx, or the Swats

Girls who sing in the mirror as they glue, braid and towel on that
long . . . wavy . . . hair

Who, “hate that stupid light-skinded girl” because 
“she thinks she’s so cute”
or hate themselves because they think so too . . .

Some may have never had him hold their hand
call them beautiful  
take them to the father/daughter dance
come to their rescue . . .

See he was
in jail/out of town/in denial/out of time
to forego all the love that just one little brown-skinned girl has to give

Girls. Not little Halle, Beyonce, or J Lo
But young Angela, Carol, Michelle, and Alek
Those awe-inspiring girls who don’t yet know 
that they are

Elegant, intelligent 
enchanting . . .

Who don’t see themselves 
On movie screens - in magazines
The eyes of the world, little boys
Their own

Who buys them a bomb pop when the ice cream man comes?
Tastes the sweet undertones buried in dark chocolate
Loves them?

Loves them for themselves
Who loves them
Loves them
Who loves