Ain’t Never Not Been Black is a book I wish I did not have to rate. It is a personal read about the journey one person (our poet Javon Johnson) takes growing up a black and living as a black man in this country. It is well written in straight forward poems that combine the dark and hope of this journey.
Johnson’s words are not set for anyone group of people. All people can relate to and learn from his words. The straight forwardness of the poems help tell the stories that cover the past and present, but hopefully not the future. This is a love story to himself, his family and those who live and fight by his side.
I cannot say how much I appreciated the fact he uses language that anyone can understand. Everything has purpose and a meaning. He does not put in “extra” or “flowery” commentary and words. I did not have to get my dictionary out to look up meanings of words, but able to know meanings within the context given. And while I did not live the experiences Johnson has had or lived what he writes about, I can understand what that journey was about. If there are any complaints, I feel that this collection is a bit too short. Yet, what is there is a real hard gut punch.
And I do not care what anyone says, Irish and Black moms sound an awful a lot alike in my book: they love hard, feed people, are able to stretch nothing into something and worry about their children.