Toni Blackman


for my friend tshalo

in kinshasa the lights come and go
like the rain/it can be fast
dangerous for some
as mother nature quenches
the thirst of the earth
a walk through Bandal left
mud between my toes
today’s work left me both
tired and refreshed
packing my luggage for departure
provided a sense
of satisfaction
fulfilled and free/i am
sitting near the window
one small white candle burns
the electricity is gone
but the power remains
he said to learn to ask
the right questions
be serious about
your God
trust you are where you are
supposed to be
he said many things
i say as his soul shines
in my direction
my heart smiles
i give thanks
for chance meetings
in strange lands

photo by Thomas Sayers Ellis


unable to out-dance my sapphire tongue
he rubbed his goatee like a magic lamp
wishing for a strong comeback
seconds later he retorted
‘that’s why i’m glad my mama wasn’t black’
my hand instinctively covering my mouth
i held it there as a reminder/he is not my enemy
just some angry intellectual bi-racial brother
who yearns for an understanding of his identity
a prideful lion with a fierce need to know more
he also needed to be more/know more than you
his perception twisted/i knew my words
were sharper but his humbled me
to a state of surrender
with no desire to verbally castrate him
i walked in silence
he walked in discomfort
clear he had crossed the line
he knew i let him beat me
but he also knew that he didn’t win




the only true order is that of the divine
man can’t fly but he wanna’ rule the sky sings nya
the glaciers are melting in bolivia
the people bathe in and drink coca cola
the elderly are walking slowly
toward the afterlife
clinching to this existence so
that their prayers for the earth
might be answered
so their grandchildren might
sleep full bellied
thirsts quenched
offerings are made
to the sky
fires burn
like the heat
residing in the hearts
of the young
dreamers who so
want the promise of life
to feel ok
to be happy
but wonder if this
is simply too much
to ask




spell #1

i tried
to write
a poem
your eyes

you kept
at me

spell #3

touching your heart
i move closer
what the rest
of you feels

i quit

you felt
like a job

no perks
no benefits
no vacation

of resignation


Toni Blackman is a poet, rap lyricist and actress. She was the first Hip Hop artist selected to work as a Cultural Ambassador traveling with the US Department of State. Toni has traveled throughout Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia, often working in some of the world's most war-torn nation-states to help bring reconciliation and rehabilitation to those regions. Highly respected as the founder of Freestyle Union, a cipher workshop that uses freestyling as a tool to encourage social responsibility, she runs Lyrical Embassy and Rhyme Like A Girl, a initiative solely for girls and women. A former Echoing Green Fellow and Soros Fellow, her work promotes diplomacy and self-expression through the use of cutting-edge personal development techniques. Her book Inner-Course is available on her website:


Published in Volume 10:2, Spring 2009.