Memorializing ­Nia­ Wilson:­100­ Blessings

Yalie Saweda Kamara

  1. Bless your 18 years.
  2. Bless the 19th, if even spent from an Oakland in the hereafter.
  3. Bless an unnamed eternity.
  4. Bless the stibnite hue of flight. My good God:
  5. Bless the ánima, and everything in and around the body.
  6. Bless the mandible; the deep ecru of bone; the 32 teeth.
  7. Bless the sepia organ: the skin.
  8. Bless the soft parts: the cheek; the neck; the mouth; the tongue; the voice.
  9. Bless the vessel.
  10. Bless your origin story: the magenta hollow of your mother’s womb and the chestnut tint of your father’s hand.
  11. Bless the site of desecration: 37.8291° N, 122.2670° W.
  12. Bless you whole again. Bless Oakland great again.
  13. Bless Blackness magnificent again.
  14. Bless the overlooked . . . the phenotype undamned.
  15. Bless technology and its digital griots.
  16. Bless collective memory; the hashtag; the electronic archive; the way it chronicles some sort of you.
  17. Bless your unfinished business—your dream of being an EMT—how the vocation’s irony pushes against your death.
  18. Bless too, the joy: your Town Bizness style.
  19. Bless all the time it took you to get dressed for even a trip to the corner store.
  20. Bless the annoying things we do that create the fullness of our legacy.
  21. Bless the crown that holds the baby hairs.
  22. Bless the nimble toothbrush and the firm grip.
  23. Bless the cloud-thick gel.
  24. Bless the faithful, bangled, wrist.
  25. Bless the cinematic motion of swirls on your edges.
  26. Bless the waves cascading off the cliffs of your temples.
  27. Bless your art everlasting.
  28. Bless you unshook as obsidian.
  29. Bless you unshook as onyx.
  30. Bless the scripture of your name.
  31. Bless the regal thread stitched into each letter of who you are and what you have been called into.
  32. Bless “Nia,” meaning “purpose,” or “intention.”
  33. Bless Wilson meaning, “son of will,” “fate,” or “destiny.”
  34. Bless you whole again: Nia Daney Wilson.
  35. Bless the circuitous path of hemoglobin.
  36. Bless the blood and its peripatetic flow.
  37. Bless your 5 brothers and 2 sisters.
  38. Bless Tifa, who, struck by blade too, held you in her arms.
  39. Bless her words: “I got you baby, I got you.”
  40. Bless the tears, the wet gospel of one sister into another.
  41. Bless the unknown.
  42. Bless its swarthy, light, crunch, under foot.
  43. Bless the sudden hour.
  44. Bless the quiet minute.
  45. Bless the spinning second.
  46. Bless minutia.
  47. Bless the overlooked.
  48. Bless the crescendoed whisper calling you home.
  49. Bless your new pulse point and the wonder of its music.
  50. Bless its seraphic sound, here, after, like a tambourine slapped under river water.
  51. Bless the overlooked.
  52. Bless even the shadow under the blessing.
  53. Bless the heart, that platinum star.
  54. Bless its tumble.
  55. Bless its spill.
  56. Bless its slip.
  57. Bless the ache of ache.
  58. Bless the coming.
  59. Bless the homegoing.
  60. Bless the echo: Nia, Nia, Nia.
  61. Bless the fleeting.
  62. Bless the fleet you join. Nia.
  63. Bless your barefoot crossing through the firmament.
  64. Bless the months later:
  65. Bless the reckoning.
  66. Bless the courtroom.
  67. Bless the trial.
  68. Bless all who suffer the weight of witness.
  69. Blessed escape.
  70. Blessed sleep.
  71. Blessed rest.
  72. Bless the wound and the tourniquet.
  73. Bless the vanishing cicatrix.
  74. Bless it backwards from Tifa’s neck.
  75. Bless it backwards from your torso.
  76. Bless you whole again.
  77. Bless the breath, the breath, the loss, the breath.
  78. Bless the broken time.
  79. Bless the MacArthur Bart Station vigil: the taped posters, scattered lilies and roses, and emptied Henny bottles.
  80. Bless the candles melting pools of incarnadine wax on pavement.
  81. Bless their Meyers lemon bright sparks.
  82. Bless the steady enough hands that light the candles.
  83. Bless the flicker, the flicker, the flicker.
  84. Bless the thicker fire.
  85. Bless the flame that blazes.
  86. Bless all that it holds, but does not burn.
  87. Bless what it does not burn.
  88. Bless the heat.
  89. Bless its rise.
  90. Bless your ascent. My God.
  91. Bless the child.
  92. Bless all whom we pull from dirt.
  93. Bless an unnamed eternity.
  94. Bless this new color of the soul; its mighty incandescence.
  95. Bless all whom we hoist high enough to touch the sun.
  96. Bless all whom we hoist high enough to be delivered. High enough to be received.
  97. Bless this sky. Open.
  98. Nia.
  99. Nia.
  100. Nia.

Author’s Note: While my beloved hometown of Oakland, California has deeply informed my character, my passions, perspectives and values, at its worst, it’s also a city that serves as a site of betrayal. When I think about that betrayal, I am most often thinking about Nia Wilson, an 18 year-old Black woman who was senselessly murdered on the city’s MacArthur BART Station, a train stop I used twice daily for my commute to work for years.

            In addition to noticing the media’s initial reluctance to call what happened to Nia Wilson a racially motivated incident, I was also disturbed by the media’s overwhelming insistence on recalling the details of her murder and not about who she was in life.

            In the spirit of honoring her and channeling my own agency in shaping the narrative of Black people, I’ve created a poetic form called the “Nia.” Consisting of 100 blessings, its objective is to lean into the res- toration, reclamation, and resurrection of memories of Black life that fades out of their rightful place in the public consciousness.

Yalie Saweda Kamara is a Sierra Leonean-American writer, educator, and researcher from Oakland, California. She is the author of A Brief Biography of My Name (Akashic Books/African PoetryBook Fund, 2018) and When the Living Sing (Ledge Mule Press, 2017). Kamara was a finalist for the National Poetry Series competition and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Kamara’s writing can be found in Poetry Daily, The Poetry Society of America, The Adroit Journal, Callaloo, A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters, and elsewhere. Kamara is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing and English Literature at the University of Cincinnati. For more:

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