“Reparations Now!” by Ashley M. Jones
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Featured on The Thread: Alabama's first Black poet laureate takes a personal approach to 'Reparations'
In formal and non-traditional poems, award-winning poet Ashley M. Jones calls for long-overdue reparations to the Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States of America. In this, her third collection, Jones deftly takes on the worst of today—state-sanctioned violence, pandemic-induced crises, and white silence—all while uplifting Black joy. These poems explore trauma past and present, cultural and personal: the lynching of young, pregnant Mary Turner in 1918; the current white nationalist political movement; a case of infidelity. These poems, too, are a celebration of Black life and art: a beloved grandmother in rural Alabama, the music of James Brown and Al Green, and the soil where okra, pole beans, and collards thrive thanks to her father’s hands.
By exploring the history of a nation where “Black oppression’s not happenstance; it’s the law,” Jones links past harm to modern heartache and prays for a peaceful world where one finds paradise in the garden in the afternoon with her family, together, safe, and worry-free. While exploring the ways we navigate our relationships with ourselves and others, Jones holds us all accountable, asking us to see the truth, to make amends, to honor one another.