a single raindrop became the nile river
one womb gave birth to an entire nation
a palm leaf became a hut and provided shelter to a whole village
one woman’s no to a bus driver
became a yes for thousands of others
one signature was the start of passing the civil rights act
one loaf of bread fed 5000 people

and we couldn’t afford to lose that one raindrop
or womb
or leaf
or woman
loaf of bread
and we still can’t
not one activist
or journalist
black heart surgeon

we can’t afford to lose not one black person
who is addicted to crack cocaine
or nicotine
heroine
or alcohol
we can’t afford to lose not one of our children
to a drive by
or illiteracy
unemployment
or to a white supremacist murderer

not one of our mothers
or brothers
or sisters
or cousins
or uncles
or aunts/can we do without

we can’t afford to lose not one
black gay/lesbian/bisexual or transgender person
or one black doctor, lawyer, golf pro or tennis legend
we can’t afford to lose one black person to AIDS
or breast cancer
mental illness
we can’t afford to lose one black talk show host
or preacher
or muslim

because that one could be the next Malcolm x
or nelson mandela
assata shakur
luisah tiesh
langston hughes
or audre lorde
that one
we think doesn’t matter
could be arthur ashe reborn
on fannie lou hamer speaking out against racism once again
or sojourner truth freeing the slaves
nat turner as a new age revolutionary
the small temple up the street
could be the new nation of islam
the brothah uptown reading poetry
could be as bad as james baldwin
the sistah who just found a lump in her breast
could be lorraine hansberry
creating the next raisin in the sun
the next black person to die of AIDS could’ve been
an essex hemphill
or marlon riggs

as we convince ourselves that we don’t have to love this one
or fight for the rights of that one
cause they ain’t how or where or who
we think they should be
willie lynch is laughing
while we’re turning our nose up
racism is winning
and we are losing
another potentially great black person

and we can’t afford
said we still can’t afford today
to lose not one
not even one
homeless
welfare recipient
uneducated
broken english speaking
drinking wine on the corner
pants sagging down to their ankles
pregnant at fifteen
in prison on death row
black but don’t know they black, black but pretending they’re not black

the sistah said/we can’t afford to lose/not one

by Ta’Shia Asanti

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