Sweet Freedom – Poem for Sundiata

sweet freedom

i have yearned for it so long

its first taste on my tongue

would be bitter

like a pinch of raw turmeric

whose peppery tang

cleans my liver

but dances long

after the music has stopped


then the taste of self-determination

would turn syrupy sweet

sweet as the last piece

of momma’s homemade red velvet cake

with her barely yellow buttercream frosting

almost immediately

i would ache for a hot bath

just shy of scorching

with no bubbles to cover my nakedness

or even soap

to give the task purpose

just the heat of the bath water

and the simplicity of the mission

life has been

much too complicated already

after the uprising required

to usher in freedom

all i want is to rinse off the grime

the bloodstains and the tears

cause this here is messy work

grimy unappreciated hard work

u can’t expect

to fight for social justice

from the sidelines

while u embroider

a pretty picture

of apples dandelions and cornfields

u can’t just wait

for social transformation

to fall down like a ripe peach

u have to be willing

to let the filth of it all

cake up under yr fingernails


u have to go unbathed

skip a meal or two

in order to feed the rebellion

u might need to accept

that a righteous act of violence

is yr most dependable lover

every road to freedom

has a toll to pay

peace is not that precious

to be considered untouchable

when revolution is at stake

it took everything i had within me

to hold it in my hands

and call it mine

so i would need a hot bath

to soak in


clear my mind

from the brutality

of emotional



and sometimes physical war

that liberty demands

i will lay back in that water

and imagine my knock-knees

dancing with the possibility

of a raised consciousness

and restored hope of my people

i will stay in that bath water

for hours

maybe even days

as the temperature

sluggishly transforms

from searing to tepid

so i can breathe deeply

into my pores

that fragrant aroma

of freedom

Sweet Freedom

(c) 2014 S. Renee Mitchell

Portland was one of 10 cities to join the 2014 Poetic/Hip Hop Action for political prisoner Sundiata Acoli. His writing prompt was “What could freedom smell, taste, sound, feel  or look like? Below is my response: