Photo credits: Shawn and Maria Riley
Books of poetry, such as Maya Angelou’s Black Pearls, Phenomenal Woman, as well as the legendary And Still I Rise, do not just tell the story of one woman’s unique experience.
Poets like the late Angelou create works that define the entirety of a unique time in American history–particularly, Black American history. However, there is one unique subsection of Black America that had a voice, which defined the primary spectrum for most of the 20th-century Civil Rights Movement’s most prominent figures, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This unique subsection of Black America was its Christian community. But with the rise of more liberal American cultural movements (such as the sexual revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s), Blackness and Christianity seemed to become less and less synonymous as the decades went by. The rise of the “Women’s Lib” movement raged against the traditional family structure; a hallmark of Black Christianity.
However, in 2021, a Black American author exists who is showing the world that Black America’s original story of traditional family structure and Christianity is still alive and well. Maria Riley (pictured), a poet based in the Kansas City area, is the author of Poems For the Culture, a self-published book of free-verse poetry, which has appropriately been released during Black History Month in 2021.
Mrs. Riley’s book is a breath of fresh air for all those who feel that the conventional Black Christian voice (and the traditional household values it was built on) has been stifled by today’s secular Black voices with more worldly agendas. In her preface, Mrs. Riley points out the main goal in reaching out to her target audience of the 12-18-year-old age group.
“Poems For the Culture embraces, encourages, and pokes fun at some of the commonalities of being Black, Christian, and American,” the preface reads.
“People of any color will find joy and encouragement in the pages of this book. Skim or read it straight through. There is something for everyone,” the preface goes on to read.
The sheer depth of poems, such as Healed and Proverbial Goodness, show the author’s elite storytelling ability. The biblical references throughout the book are also made very appropriately. The references show that the author is well-versed in the meaning behind the scriptures, as well as the opportune time to use them in a teachable moment.
The poem Black Presuppositions talks about the ups and downs of Black American stigmas. In other words, Mrs. Riley shows how an entire American demographic turns lemons into lemonade.
“Do not despair of the ignorance of those who don’t understand/Being understood is not the foundation of love/Acceptance is you are accepted in the Beloved,” she writes.
All in all, Poems For the Culture: Time to Live Now does exactly what its preface says the book sets out to do. It comes across as a needed work of art without being needy–a necessary nicety.
Support Mrs. Riley and her family by purchasing this brand new book here.