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Read Time:3 Minute, 47 Second



“Words are spells in our mouths” – Susan Lori Parks


No matter how many times I cast the spell, it never comes
A squib with a way with words or a way with words because I’m a squib?
Obsessing over the tone, intonation, articulation and lilt of my lips to no avail

Hoping against hope, that there’s something off in my pronunciation
Hoping against hope, that I wasn’t born like this
Hoping against hope, that healing is within my grasp

{SPOILER ALERT: It isn’t, because I’m a squib}



On July 11th 2005, my father died
I notarize
through rhyming lines


feel the noose tighten on my father
feel the vice tighten its grip on my father
No, no, no not my Father!

For on July 11th 2005, more than my father died!
On July 11th 2005, my innocence died
On July 11th 2005, my youth died
On July 11th 2005, my self-love died
On July 11th 2005, a part of me died

7 years to a new me

Walking and talking with a dark-skinned Haitian beauty


she said something that got me thinking
Something that got my mental mapping and my neurons linking

5 years to the old me

Somehow, by the powers of the Ugandan sun and/or puberty, I was dark-skinned!
Sure, it had happened gradually,
But, I had never expected it to this extent
Never had I expected to feel so pinned
To the bottom of the barrel of racial inferiority
“I used to be light-skinned! See! Me!”

I proudly proclaimed, hoisting up photos from my youth
When I was young and uncouth
Hurling insults left, right and center at those with a darker shade
“You’re so black, you bleed ink!”
I said with a smile on my face

Now I was the one, who merely had to blink to indicate
“Turn right”
[right eye blinks]

Light is right
Team Lightskin…no more

Years four

Burning with righteous indignation at the societal advantages that my light-skinned friends had over me,
I was-

Simply jealous
I used to be light-skinned, I knew what it is was like
Light is might!

“You perceived”
“You perceived”
Rachel cut through my reverie

As she spoke,
her grounded tones
flashed me forward to the present breeze
“You perceived”
Rachel said, and as our conversation continued and we walked and talked
I gawked

Now, I don’t remember exactly what was said
But I know I am forever indebted
For I had heard it all before:
“The Blacker the Berry the sweeter the juice!
Black is beautiful!
But none of these did a thing for me
For none of them addressed the bonds of mental slavery
That shackled me
None addressed my perceived inferiority

I don’t remember exactly what Rachel said to me
But I know that, on July 11th 2005, my Father died
And on that third day, Rachel resurrected a part of me 

I don’t remember exactly what Rachel said to me
But I know that, on July 11th 2005, my Father died
And on that third day, Rachel resurrected a part of me 


About the author

Mugabi is a writer, poet and occasional rapper. He was born in Nigeria, to Ugandan parents and is currently based between Kampala and Toronto. Mugabi has spent his 26 years thus far, in equal parts across Africa, Asia and North America.
Mugabi was longlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award in 2015. His essays, articles and poetry have been featured on The Good Men Project, African Writer, Arts and Africa and The Kalahari Review, amongst other publications. He has been interviewed on Voice of America – VOANTV Uganda91.3 CAPITAL FM and Brittle Paper (literary blog), amongst other media outlets.
Mugabi’s writing is used to teach international high school English reading comprehension. His debut novel, ‘Dear Philomena,’ was published in 2017 and he recently concluded a 30 city North America/East Africa tour in support of this. He is embarking on a second tour aptly titled, “Is That A World Tour or Your Girls Tour?” which will take him across an additional 25 cities.  An advocate for the intersection of arts, chronic illness, social justice, and literacy, Mugabi leads workshops in effective writing, poetry, performance, vulnerability, mental and chronic illness for youth and adults.

Mugabi wants to be Jaden Smith when he grows up.


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