Excerpted from I Am Still Your Negro: An Homage to James Baldwin by Valerie Mason-John. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2020.

Valerie Mason John

My Father’s Prayer

My father who art in the universe 

What on earth is your name 

Will you ever come 

Thy will be home 

Dead or alive 

Give me day or night your daily name 

And I will forgive your sons 

Forgiving all those who have colluded with your sins 

And lead me not into more unhappiness 

But deliver me from this pain 

For thou have the power and the knowledge 

Forever and ever 

Of 

All men. 

Sticks and Stones 

Sticks and stones did break my bones

And words did always hurt me.

My white mother told me never to moan.

She was old and cold as stone.

I was young and as scared as she.

Sticks and stones did break my bones.

I had no friends, so played alone.

I hated myself for being an adoptee.

My white mother told me never to moan.

A white child broke my jawbone.

He pulled me down onto my knees.

Sticks and stones did break my bones.

One day I was found crying on my own.

White children came over and pissed on me.

My white mother told me never to moan.

When there was blood on the kerbstone

My white mother tried to protect me

Sticks and stones did break my bones.

But she still told me never to moan.

During the 60s and 70s in the UK, Black families were not considered suitable enough to adopt or foster a black child.

Self Portrait 1: The Colour of My Skin

The colour of my skin is the root of my ecstasy

The seed of my life

The colour of my skin is one of nature’s glories

The bloom of my life

The colour of my skin is the flower of my legacy

The taboo of my oppressors

The colour of my skin is the greatness of my splendour

The guilt of my kidnappers


The colour of my skin is the celebration of Eden

Black is an omnipotent being

The rejoicing of life

Black the colour of many skins

Is nature’s own deliberation

The colour of my skin is your fear

My strength

Your ignorance

My wisdom

Your blemish

My beauty

This poem was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London, and toured the UK and Scotland as part of the self portrait Exhibition.