Posted by: Viola | April 2, 2014

From Farm to Schoolroom

From Farm to Schoolroom

by Viola Allo

After George Ella Lyon

I am from cassava, from mortars and pestles and grinding stones, from cracked corn, fried plantains, and pounded cocoyams. I am from shelled black beans, from the song of pods curling back in the dry season. I am the child who springs forward from the farm and into the schoolroom.

I am from rainwater and bucket baths, from braids woven too tight (my scalp hurts for days and I must sleep face-down on my pillow). I am from rub oil on your legs so you don’t look like a ghost. I am from so many uniforms in so many shades of calming blue, soothing like Vaseline on dry skin.

I am from oily faces and blackened elbows packed on wooden benches. I am from Good morning, Sir! From shoes scuffing on cement floors, from teachers’ whips stacked against the wall, from buttocks burning on the bench. I am from clearing the grass, weeding the path, and if you get in the way of my education you are not my friend.

I am from conferences and world summits, from development agendas for the Third World. I am from universal primary education for the African child, from higher education in science and technology for Africa’s youth. I am from pass your exams in ten subjects. I am from bio, chem, physics, maths, geo, econ, history, lit, English, French.

I am from modernization through industrial agriculture in tropical Africa. I am from plantations of cocoa, coffee, rubber, bananas, oil palms lined up and looking up like beggars in big cities—the tourist eye tires of my monotony. I am from why are you frowning? From sweet bananas and pineapples, from gray petroleum pipelines cutting through the jungle.

I am from clean Africa, educated Africa. I am the cost-effective mono-crop sprayed and kept pristine with the pesticide of new knowledge: current events and world history with a focus on the 20th century. I am from 1884, the Berlin Conference, and the Scramble for Africa. I am from nationalism in the 1940s, independence in the 1960s, democracy in the 1990s.

I am from the Republic of Cameroon. I am from social and economic advancement through education. I am from the youth are the future of Africa. I am from the airplane bound for the New World where my good English and French will serve me well.


By Viola Allo. All rights reserved. Please contact the author for permission to share or use this poem.



  1. […] One of my poems discusses this academic focus on the West. In the poem, I don’t talk about race specifically. But it is a part of the ideas behind the poem, a way of exploring what it means to be African in today’s world, how being Africa is in some ways clearly oriented toward the West, how we as Africans don’t exist out of a discourse about our relationship to the West. We struggle to define ourselves, as Africans, but we often make the comparisons to the West. Ultimately, the idea of Africa doesn’t exists separate from the idea of the West. The two are bound together, like lovers or enemies. Those lovers or enemies are racialized. One lover/enemy is mostly white (the West). And the other lover/enemy/victim is mostly black (Africa). […]

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