Sassafrass was running all thru herself lookin foh some way to get into her secrets en share, like Richard Wright had done en Zora Neale Hurston had done….de way de Lady gave herself, every time she sang.

Do Nothing till you Hear from Me

Pay no Attention to What’s Said

From out de closet came Billie, de Lady, all decked out in navy crepe en rhinestones. She was pinning a gardenia into her hair, when Sassafrass realised wot was happening.

De Lady sighed a familiar sigh. Sassafrass tried to look as calm as possible en said, “I sho I’m glad to see you – why you haven’t come to visit me since Mama used to put me to bed singing ‘God Bless The Child,’ en you would sit right on my pillow singing with her.”

De Lady smiled sort of haughty en insisted Sassafrass listen carefully to everyting she was going to say.

 “It’s de blues, Sassafrass, dat’s keepin’ you from your writing, en de spirits sent me because I know all bout de blues….dat’s who I yam: Miss Brown’s Blues….” De Lady was holding a pearl-studded cigarette holder dat dazzled Sassafrass, who could hardly believe what she was hearing. De Lady went on en on. “Who do you love among us, Sassafrass? Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Freddie Washington, Josephine, Carmen (DeLavallade), Miranda? Don’t you know we is all sad ladies because we got de blues, en joyful womben because we got our songs?

Make you a song, Sassafrass, en bring it out so high all us spirits can hold it en be in your tune. We need you, Sassafrass, we need you to sing as best as you can; that’s our nourishment, that’s how we live. But don’t you get all high en mighty ‘cause all us you love so much is hussies too, and we catch on if somebody don’t do us right. So make us poems en some stories, so we can sing a liberation song. Free us from all these blues en sorry ways.”

De Lady turned to de doorway on her right en shouted, “Come on, y’all,” en multitudes of brown-skinned dancing girls with ostrich-feather headpieces en tap shoes started doing

de cake-walk all around Sassafrass, who was trying to figure out de stitching pattern on their embroidered dresses, en trying to keep them from jumping up en shaking her ass when, in unison, de elaborately beaded womben started swinging their hips towards her, singing: SASSAFRASS IS WHERE IT’S AT, SASSAFRASS GOT A HIPFUL OF LOVE, A HIPFULOF TRUTH….SASSAFRASS GOTTA JOB TO DO, DUES TO PAY SO SHE COULD DANCE WITH US….WHOOEEE!

And all of a sudden de chorus line disintegrated….en Sassafrass gathered all there was that was mo to her than making cloth. Just as she was about to slip out of de room, Sassafrass turned to de Lady to capture jus a lil mo of de magic, en de Lady only murmured, 

“We need  you to be Sassafrass ‘til you can’t hardly stand it….’til you can’t recognise yourself, en you sing all de time.”

……Sassafrass had made an appliquéd banner saying jus’ that, en hung it over de stove:



De visiting Padrinos & Madrinos could be heard beginning de rites foh Shango’s day of birth. Caboe. Canta para Ebioso. De Abaqua. Drums & chanting ran through de lush backwoods of Louisiana.

Sassafrass liked to think de slaves would have been singing like dat, if de white folks hadn’t stole our gods. Made our god/desses foreign to

us, so de folks in Baton Rouge nevah came near those “crazy fanatic niggahs” out there.

Mama Mbewe’s voice raced through de forests, de makeshift cabins where weavers, potters, painters, musicians, dancers en ordinary folks seeking another life had made home

                             Shango para icote

Shango para icote

O de mata icote

A la ba obaso icote

A la ba obaso icote

Drums, drums. Drums, welcoming de faithful. Pulling them to move to dance…..

Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi njoo…

[kama] Remixed excerpts from Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, a kitabu written by Ntozake Shange