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Leah Gilliam, Sapphire and the Slave Girl, 1995, 18 mins. 20 secs.

ISSUE:  Winter 2019

tidal networks of black people cross
                                                   the road 
a Walgreens and pizzeria we 
follow as they walk
downtown area, early computers 
Welcome to Chicago.
                                                   It could be New York, Detroit, Cleveland— 
in each, sections where only black people
live like this. Sapphire, or
the many women who represent her, 
changes into a suit in an alleyway

in a blond wig hides               from sight
                                                    from behind
                                                                                        a wall
                                                    from TV and radio 
the black male, close up,
             melted down, he is brushing his hair.

there are things that are facts because            nothing 
makes sense otherwise        a part of you

will always remember the transgression, inevitable 

             buildings, bold movements
             at a table as man asks, is it safe?

“Have you ever received a call on your wrist?” She gets dressed 
in bathroom—since Sapphire came to London, she learned 
to pass for white. The first Negro

of high-school age to enter a school after it was integrated, many whites 
shouting epithets              she refuses to say
anything to the reporter (14:00) title:
                                                                      open spaces—black woman
                                                                      as white man says what’s important 
                                                                      is for the space to feel closed


Material in this poem is sourced from Sapphire and the Slave Girl.


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