Rooted in the Stars – Poem for Sundiata

This poem was written for Sundiata as part of the Sept. 22nd National Day of Poetic/Hip Hop Action for Sundiata Acoli.

Rooted in the Stars

By Walidah Imarisha

The airlock

Breathed open

And she stepped through.

Gravity regained its control

Over her.

The doors slid shut.

She unlatched the

Helmet of her

Space suit,

and ran her hand

Through her hair

The curls flattening


then coiling up

Like willow trees

As she stepped out

Of the

Decompression chamber,


Scent of

Grass wet from the rain

Flooded her nostrils.

That’s right

She remembered

They had programmed

A summer shower

This morning,

For the new crop

Of okra.

As she walked

Through the

Neatly plowed fields

She reached out

To touch plants.





So strange

she mused

that here

on a planet

light years away

from the earth

we take our hands

into the dirt

to grow that which

nourished our ancestors

so so long ago.

She squinted up

Into the blinding brilliance


From here

She could almost forget

There was no sun there

Just the curved slope

Of the dome

Lit up by

Modified extractions

Of bioluminescence.

Of course there was no

Sun over earth anymore


Just an angry blistering

Orb hanging in the sky

Burning everything it touched

The arrogance

Of capital

She shook her head



Had taken control

Of all resources

Natural and unnatural

On the planet.

But they were not satisfied

They made plans

To seed the sun

Harness its power

For their

And only their purpose.

But she

The sun

Would not be

Enslave quietly

Like Sethe

In Toni Morrisson’s Beloved

The sun decided

She would rather kill

Her children

Than let them and her

Become someone’s property.

And so the sun


the woman raised her hand

Over her face

Blocking the light.

So many gone

Her heart sobbed

So much loss

The mind cannot begin

To fathom.

They were Lauren Olamina

And the walls

had fallen.

But she and others

Had been ready

Read the signs

Written in newspapers

Graffitied on walls

Intoned through bone

Sung in dreams of plantations

All that you touch

You change

All that you change

Changes you

They had seen the signs

And they were ready.

For years

She computed

Through the night


To bring to life

This biodome.

This haven.

This home.

The theory

Danced in her mind

Like a Yoruba priestess

Calling forth

Ancestors to give strength

That this monumental task

might be completed on time.

One ancestor in particular

Felt everpresent

Especially through

Those final desperate days

She had found

A hidden entry

about him online

Before the

One Government

silenced the internet

cut out its tongue.

She read for hours

About his life

In what used to be America

Black in Texas

During the first Great Depression

A death sentence

The nation slavered to fulfill.

And yet

he survived

Became a mathematician

Worked for

Now defunct NASA

(sold off in pieces

to the highest bidder).

At a time when computers

Were in their infancy

So large they took up entire rooms –

Rather than being

Sub processor chips

Implanted behind the ear.

She had access to more gigs

When she was asleep offline

Than he had in the entire program.

And yet he struggled on

uncovered the numbers

Painstakingly eased them

Into the correct place.

His numbers


Reflections of a vast whole


Wrapped around

The ancient space shuttle

Opened the door

Cushioned the first

Human foot to touch ground

Beyond the reach of earth.

But propelling them

Into the stars

Was not enough for him.

He knew space

Was no escape

The pain of today

Would be transmitted

A sickness infecting everything it touched.

So he went to work

Cutting out that sickness

In the community

In the people

In one child at a time.

He labored tirelessly

In love

Next to people

Who were really panthers

As they held back

Waves of death

Carving out enough space

To build a future.

But he was



Ensnared by a system

Too diseased for any cure.

She stared at a picture of him

His skin

Dusky cinnamon

The same color as hers.

A smile so wide

It seemed to traverse

Solar systems

Strong hands

To shape constellations.

When one of her


Came to the safe house

Late at night

He asked why the picture

Of this man

Watched over her,

The face of

A stranger

who died

What seemed like eons ago

This picture

She told him

Has everything we need in it.

If you can’t see it,

Look closer.

She had finally

Passed through

The fields.

She reached the north wall

Of the biodome,

and rested her cheek

On the porthole

Looked at what lay


Scarred rock

Barren and broken.


The darkness of space


With stars thrown

And scattered wide

By some unseen hand.

And if she narrowed her eyes

She could see the outline

Of the ship

The ship she had dreamed of

Had bled to create.

The ship



Which had carried them


To this place.

This home.

This planet