My Mother’s Allegiance
By Kayla Morgan
“My Mother’s Allegiance” focuses on the essential factors that encouraged my mother to flee to America, and the assimilation and racism often present in the experiences of an immigrant.
My mother had recited the pledge ’til her throat bled of eternal loyalty, hand on heart devoted to the land of liberty. Ancestral faith in future days, binded to her words, had presented Uncle Sam with a salute. Bittersweet tears for salvation, the hollering of heartbeats, and longing for a sanctuary, had settled in her eyes like a refugee camp. She bleached the Patwah off her tongue, intertwined English with freedom. Silk pressed the kinky coils out of her Africana strands— she lost her roots, earned a savor of privilege. Echoes of “I surrender,” ascending from her Jamaican wounds on one hand. Prayers: knee on ground, head down, Bent to the red stripes on the other. My mother couldn’t hear the barking: barbaric, uncivilized, savage— spewing like saliva, emerging from Uncle Sam’s “peace” treaty. Her frantic footsteps fleeing to the white stars were too thundering.
In Developing Artists Ensemble, my teaching artist gave us a prompt on what activism meant to us. I decided to explore this theme through a niche lens, and communicate how the lack of advocacy for immigrants has impacted my mother. I was always intrigued by how poets would use well-known texts or references, and morph them to convey a message that feels universal. I settled on the Pledge of Allegiance, as it is ubiquitous and deemed as how we convey our loyalty to our country. It also felt striking to connect it to our immigration process. For this poem, I wanted to have a foundation and understanding of what I was expressing and how I planned to accomplish that. However, I don’t like to spend a large amount of time on the brainstorming process. I prefer to plunge right into my writing and allow it to flow and develop in a seamless manner. I find that my writing expands into different areas and lengths that I wasn’t initially expecting, which is often a welcome surprise.
Kayla Morgan is a junior in high school and is an avid poet and spoken word performer. She has fostered her craft as a mentee at Girls Write Now, a member of the Developing Artist Ensemble, with the Young Playwright's Group at TDF NYC, Body Electric at UPenn and more. Kayla enjoys using her poetry to uplift neglected voices of the unheard in her community and beyond.