“My Native Tongue is Silence”

“The person who says something is impossible should get out of the way of those doing it.”

~ Unknown

poster designed by Tash Nelson

Fear had muted my voice.

Paralyzed by words that ripen tomorrow, I speak silence fluently.


Facing fear, I found this poem at the inter-section-ality

of devotion and hypocrisy;

validation had become my enemy

bound to injuring adjectives

that slowed my step

as if I was still that eleven-year-old girl

with sweaty palms, hot feet, and a throbbing heartbeat

whenever I was asked to R-E-A-D.


Hour after hours spent daily hiding my disability,

homework I never understood.

My cognitive impairment and urban roots integrated

eons of cellular fear and protective ancestral masking,

hyphenated African; I did not know what was wrong with me!


Mother, I forgive you for long kitchen table nights,

“You’re going to get this done” cruelty

that never cured immeasurable pain.


I surrender beyond time and space.



A creative contradiction standing

on the precipice of desperation and courage,

I live truth that once inconvenienced.

Breath of solidarity,

inherited worth is my wholeness.


Childhood anguish turned teenage trauma, turned mental abuse

replaying like syndicated failure.

Our collective access renews liberation.

Today, my liability is an asset.


Criticism kills the power that thrives in praise;

I know why a caged bird sang,

Invisible suffering turned social construct.

I have been in the ante room of vulnerability

waiting to put down my mirror and live.

Process is standing still and clouds of intent pour from my eyes


Change the narrative:

I am not my disability!

Overcome shame:

Modify the narrative!


Freedom is on the other side of pain.


Transform the narrative,

silence broken.


When I did as instructed, I was labeled incompetent.

When I did it my way, I was declared an artist.


Today I claim a deeper level of healing,

I walk in self-forgiveness and clarity,

Living beyond cycles of destitution neutralized by isolated bravery.

I write past the past, today.

Silence is broken!

©️Sierra Leone