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March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom - 28 August 1963We’ll walk hand in hand.
Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights Leaders
March on Washington D.C. for Jobs and Freedom – 28 August 1963
Photo Credit: Parade Magazine (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In the United States, we observe the month of February as Black History Month. Officially begun in 1976 as part of America’s Bicentennial commemorations, it’s a time set aside each year to honor the accomplishments and contributions of black Americans in diverse areas throughout America’s history.

As a Caribbean immigrant, I celebrate the progress African Americans have made since the abolition of slavery and their long struggle to end racial segregation. In the 1960s, the rallying song of the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968), “We Shall Overcome,” spread across the United States to the Caribbean Region and around the world.

In my homeland, then known as British Guiana, the song became part of our struggle to free ourselves from the oppression of the British colonial government. After years of racial unrest and violence between the majority black and East Indian populations, we gained our independence in May 1966. But, as so often happens in our imperfect world, we freed ourselves from one master only to gain another.

The struggle continues.

This Black History Month, inspired by the lyrics of “We Shall Overcome,” I dedicate this poem to my black, brown, and white brothers and sisters who face adversity and social injustice across our great and rich nation.

Food taken from the mouths
of hungry children
is given to wealthy farmers.
We shall overcome, some day.

Jailed for petty crimes, families broken
Bankers go free
for gambling with our homes.
We shall overcome, some day.

The elite grab the giant share
of the fruits of our labor
and throw us the crumbs.
We shall overcome, some day.

Our air, water & food
poisoned for profit
setting the course for our extinction.
We shall overcome, someday.

We are traitors & terrorists
for exposing crimes against humanity
and tortured in jail.
We are not afraid, today.

Our sons & daughters
wage wars in distant lands
spreading democracy & freedom.
We shall live in peace, some day.

I do believe
with all shades of the human race
united as one
We shall overcome, some day.