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That Spirit Thing


A silver arrow necklace from Avon cosmetics.
That’s the accessory I remember in high school.
The warrior spirit-- I felt it. Not just a trend,
but a symbol. More than an accent,
but an axis of identity.

My ’73 Morgan State brethren from the Motherland
greeted me, mistaking me as them. They awaited
acknowledgement, and grew disenchanted because
I never conversed. Not knowing them, I only nodded.
Then one afternoon one brotha greeted me and
offered a gift—a necklace. Surprised and humbled,
I accepted and thanked him.

He asked of my ethnicity—African state or Caribbean Isle?
Neither, I’m an East Baltimore native.
Dark brown with broad forehead, high cheek bones,
wide nose, and full lips. In Nigeria, he claimed,
I would be Ife and Benin royalty.
I liked the idea and loved the concept of continental kinship.

I never considered myself “cool.” The casual, conservative
and “pedestrian” could describe me. I considered fashionistas
too busy, too expensive, too outlandish, too slick. Yet in the early 70s
I spent summers in Brooklyn, NY, having a blast and spreading
my “hip” wings. I sported wide brims, butterfly collars,
double knit flairs, platform shoes, cottons and rayons in prints of whites,
lights, and louds. Not to mention, cologne. But for me--no gaudy gold
and diamond -studded ropes with initials and icons.
For me, gold and silver-painted necklaces connected. Especially
if they reflected the African warrior.

40 years later, I still favor “That Afrika thing, not the bling.”
I can go casual or cultural. Just a thang. I can sport a
necklace with large tan and yellow wooden beads.
Or the Africa piece with red, black and green beads.
Or the wooden “God is Supreme” symbol outlined in gold.
Just a thang, a matter a swagger. My thang! Yet I can level up
when I want—with necklaces of black opal, or epic flower medallion
or black elephant and black tassels with turquoise mini beads.
Or my pride ‘n joy necklace of opal beads and stones, with lion and elephant totem carvings.

Been a minute since the Morgan continental exchange, and I still
can’t shake that thing.

About this poem

Nostalgic poem about my affinity for necklaces

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Written on July 12, 2022

Submitted by GRichards01 on August 25, 2022

1:59 min read

Lobibah Oji Baraka

Baraka is poet from Baltimore, Md. He likes to write free-verse, prose and narrative poetry. He also self-published his debut poetry book, Herd of Tusks. more…

All Lobibah Oji Baraka poems | Lobibah Oji Baraka Books

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1 Comment
  • rnadc
    I came from a place as far removed from yours as an american could. Small town, white, rural California.
    I liked this piece very much. As I read this, I was mentally substituting my trinkets, shoes, clothes, and experiences with yours.
    Mine were much less colorful. But, I can relate. 
    LikeReplyReport 113 days ago


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"That Spirit Thing" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 2 Oct. 2022. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/134804/that-spirit-thing>.

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