Poetry by Afro Native Shonda Buchanan: The Trail

Shonda Buchanan

Published by
I Love Ancestry

“The Trail” by Shonda Buchanan
For the Staffords, Roberts, Manuels, and Mathews


Shonda Buchanan, of Choctaw, Coharie, Cherokee & African heritage is the author of “Who’s Afraid of Black Indians?”.  Who’s Afraid of Black Indians? is a difficult yet beautiful collection of poetry that peeks into one American family’s cultural window.

Wanting to forget the past, this chapbook of poetry explores the journey Shonda’s ancestors took from North Carolina to Tennessee, to Indiana and finally Michigan, and the flight and fight to escape racial persecution and racial classification.

“Trust the first drum, your heart, for all your answers. The ancestors will follow…”

Shonda Buchanan

Yet it is also a book about the recovery of an identity–the intersection of Blacks and Indians in this country. Shonda Buchanan and her family, like so many other “bi-racial” Indigenous Americans, suffered from not knowing their full roots, and the ills of assimilation, all the while and enduring society’s ever-evolving definition of them.

This book will hopefully help other Black Indians, as well as bi-racial and tri-racial peoples, research, reclaim and celebrate their multifaceted heritage.

Read also: Shonda Buchanan Who is Afraid of Black Indians?

The Trail

These are the holes
That fill you up
A morning after 4th
Of July
The empty hollow
A memory in the fire
The quiet morning
Death of father
Suicide of a nephew
Addiction of sister
Another nephew at war
His brother, prison
Pummeling of a mother and aunts
The breaking of lives without a sound.
No honor in their deaths or mistakes
No memory of them, except here

These are the shimmering calcified minutes
The spotted ghosts of a black Indian’s
Midwest life

Where nothing and everything changed
In the fires that burned your farm houses down
And you wonder how you would
Have been or grown
How you would have loved
Had not this or this happened

I remember another July
Years past, under the glass of time
When we were all together, laughing
Spit-polished by hard love
Smoky with hunger for the future
When memory was a thing
Yet to come

Shonda Buchanan

Note: Afro Native American or African Native American? People who call themselves “Black Indians” are people living in America of African-American descent, with significant heritage of Native American Indian ancestry, and with strong connections to Indian Country and its Native American Indian culture, social, and historical traditions. Black Indians are also called Afro Native American people, Black American Indians, Black Native Americans and Afro Native. Connecting with our ancestors.

Read also: Shonda Buchanan Who is Afraid of Black Indians?

The title of Shonda Buchanan’s new poetry collection asks a question: Who’s Afraid of Black Indians? It’s a powerful question and the book is powerful: an awakening for some, a storehouse of memories for others, a clarification of American history for all. It is also an embrace; the author embraces her lineage and autobiography and self, and because she shares these things with the reader, the reader, too, is embraced. A lovely, eye-opening, generous, and fascinating collection!

–Kelly Cherry, Author of The Retreats of Thought: Poems; Poet Laureate of Virginia, 2010-2012

Shonda Buchanan Books:
Black Indian: A Memoir. Wayne State University Press, 2019
Equipoise: Poems from Goddess Country. San Francisco Press, 2017
Voices from Leimert Park REDUX: A Poetry Anthology, Harriet Tubman Press. 2017
Who’s Afraid of Black Indians? Poetica Publishing, 2012
Voices from Leimert Park: A Poetry Anthology, Tsehai Publishers, 2006

Shonda Buchanan is an award-winning poet and fiction writer of African & Native American heritage. Photo: Hampton University Museum in Hampton, VA. Visit her website.


Published by I Love Ancestry

I Love Ancestry is a global issue advocacy campaign that explores identity, diversity, heritage and culture, highlighting the experiences of marginalized people and Indigenous communities around the world.

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