New Spoken Word: ‘When I Consider the Darkness’

“When I Consider the Darkness” (video) is my latest spoken word piece. It’s about racism, persecution, and persevering hope, wrapped in a personal poem I penned when pregnant with my first child. 

I share it in hopes of fostering empathy in conversations around racial reconciliation, while offering hope to those overwhelmed by the darkness.

The Story 

When I was pregnant, I sat in bed late at night next to my sleeping husband. One news report after another, coupled with one ignorant, insensitive, and racist response after another, reminded me that many will see our precious child as a threat—as more criminal, as less intelligent, as less-than—because of his or her darkness. 

My heritage is incredibly mixed. My mother is half-Filipino, half-Puerto Rican. My father is Jamaican. Both have lineages tracing back to Italy, China, Germany, and Panama. 

I don’t remember feeling “less than” because of my skin color until elementary school. And it wasn’t until recently that I could recognize some of the ways I’ve internalized racism.

My husband is 100 percent Colombian, an Afro-Latino, dark and beautiful. He can share tons of experiences with overt racism, some of which I’ve witnessed since I married him.

When I wrote this poem, I didn’t yet know if we would have a boy or a girl, but I knew I felt scared. Our child would inherit our dark skin—a beautiful thing, a terrifying thing. And if she places her trust in Christ (as we pray), then she will face persecution in one way or another. Our baby will suffer.

Wrestling with Truth

I know God made every person in his image with intrinsic value and dignity. I know every color God made is good and beautiful because he’s good and beautiful. But that truth won’t stop my child from being ostracized, accused, or hurt because of her skin color. I don’t want to have to tell my child, “Because of how you look, you have less room for error,” and “Your skin is beautiful. I know they say it’s not, but it really is!” I don’t want to see tears fall down those precious cheeks when she realizes some people will hate her simply because she is darker than they are.

We live in a world with much darkness: we are sinful people (darkness within) in a sinful world (darkness without). Darkness abounds, manifested at times in the hatred of melanin. This is the darkness I fear for my child—the darkness that insists (sometimes in a shout, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes with a bullet): “You are less than human.”

My poem “When I Consider the Darkness” is an honest confession of my fear of my child’s dark skin—not because I think dark skin is something to fear, but because so many do fear it and act in hateful ways. The darkness that scares me is the evil of racism, as well as the evil of persecution. The poem is also a reminder to myself (and to my child) that the darkness of evil in this world, no matter how brutal, cannot snuff out the light of Christ. Because of Jesus, we can and will overcome the darkness, both within and without.

Collaborating with K. A. Ellis

K. A. Ellis wrote her part of the piece (“There, There”) as a hope-filled response to my poem. I love how she exudes the spirit of a mother well acquainted with the ways of her Lord, pouring out the healing grace of wisdom and hope. When I hear our spoken word piece, I imagine myself as the young black Christian mother wrestling with fear, and Ellis as my mother, comforting me with sweet truths while rubbing my back, saying, “There, there.” 

Ellis is a global ambassador for the persecuted church, exploring the intersections of identity, human rights, and theology. I’ve been greatly affected by her presentations at conferences on the perseverance of the persecuted church. (She coined the phrase “We Persevere,” displayed at the end of the video. Check out her blog to learn more about the heart behind #WePersevere.)

Video Concept

The video was a collaboration between Captive Reel (videography), Savannah Lauren (DP), and Jon Doulos (editing). We wanted to create a visual that feels warm and shows we are just a regular, loving family. We used Savannah’s adorable house, and we shot simple scenes of dinner time and dessert on the porch. K. A. Ellis is the radio personality at the beginning of the video reciting Langston Hughes’s poem “Song,” and at the end she performs “There, There.” I’m back in the kitchen, leaning in to listen to the radio’s words of hope in which I rest.

Why Share This Personal Poem?

I didn’t originally plan to share “When I Consider the Darkness” publicly because I was weary of having to defend the validity of my grief, my blackness, my concerns. But eventually I figured (and hope) that this piece may foster some empathy in conversations around racial reconciliation, while also offering the unshakable hope of Christ to those who, like me, struggle with fear and heartache in this world’s darkness.

Lyrics

When I Consider the Darkness (written and performed by Quina Aragon)

I’m scared to raise you here where
a reed basket can’t deliver 
an escape from the pain of your inheritance.
You’re your papa and me combined—
a Filipino/Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Colombian; a beautiful mix.
But what they’ll see first is your darkness,
a sight for them of a less-than them,
less than a man or a woman.
Now, in our home you’ll see this:
we bear Christ’s name above heritage, 
but this means
you’ll wear not just one, but two targets 
in this present darkness:
what they see immediately, then
what they see internally.
The first you can’t deny, and shouldn’t;
the second they’ll try but can’t truly deny,
but it can be compromised,
so even in darkness tonight, 
my prayers plead for you
hidden in my dark belly
soon born to light 
and this darkness
born dark 
to little lights 
born again (I pray): 
dark to light
a dark child of light 
hated by light children of darkness, yet
a light indestructible inside 
can’t be consumed by the present darkness.
A light indestructible inside
is more precious than your hated,
wonderfully made dark skin.

A light indestructible inside, my child,
can’t be consumed by the present darkness.

There, There (written and performed by K. A. Ellis)

There, there . . . 
Here’s my prayer. 

This is the picture I see
Hold onto the baptism of wisdom
This is the picture I see
Hold onto the baptism of peace
This is the picture I see
We have the baptism of life

From the bud of our lives in the sweet springtime
until the days when autumn’s bronze . . . swirls the early snow around our many-miled feet
This is the picture I see.

Winter Wisdom adorns our heads
like a gele or a Sunday crown 
a helmet that stills our minds
whenever the world shouts “less than”

There, there.
There is a purpose. Don’t fret. 
All that was lost has already been won.

Promises made are promises held.

Who we are is who we’ve been made to be
and our lives and bodies are divine appointments.
All of us is wrapped up in all of Him
and in that place . . . we are full. 

There, there.
This is the picture I see.


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Editors’ note: A version of this article appeared at Quina Aragon

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