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We Have Been Believers

We have been believers believing in the black gods of an old
       land, believing in the secrets of the seeress and the
       magic of the charmers and the power of the devil's evil

And in the white gods of a new land we have been believers
       believing in the mercy of our masters and the beauty of
       our brothers, believing in the conjure of the humble
       and the faithful and the pure.

Neither the slaves' whip nor the lynchers' rope nor the
       bayonet could kill our black belief. In our hunger we
       beheld the welcome table and in our nakedness the
       glory of a long white robe. We have been believers in
       the new Jerusalem.

We have been believers feeding greedy grinning gods, like a
        Moloch demanding our sons and our daughters, our
       strength and our wills and our spirits of pain. We have
       been believers, silent and stolid and stubborn and

We have been believers yielding substance for the world.
        With our hands have we fed a people and out of our
        strength have they wrung the necessities of a nation.
        Our song has filled the twilight and our hope has
       heralded the dawn.

Now we stand ready for the touch of one fiery iron, for the
       cleansing breath of many molten truths, that the eyes
       of the blind may see and the ears of the deaf may hear
       and the tongues of the people be filled with living fire.

Where are our gods that they leave us asleep? Surely the
       priests and the preachers and the powers will hear.
       Surely now that our hands are empty and our hearts too
       full to pray they will understand. Surely the sires of
       the people will send us a sign.

We have been believers believing in our burdens and our
       demigods too long. Now the needy no longer weep and
        pray; the long-suffering arise, and our fists bleed
       against the bars with a strange insistency.

Written by Margaret Walker (1915-1998)


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