An Action Figure Like Me

by Althea*

I used to look for an action figure like me,
a toy with brown skin
and huge muscles and curly hair
with superpowers from the Motherland,
able to mine technology and natural resources
for those in need.

The absence made me wonder
Am I not special?
Am I weird?
Am I alone?

I used to look for an action figure like me,
hoping for an image of myself to hold—
a super hero that also spent hours doing puzzles
and brain games,
perfecting its lines for theatre and dance alike,
preparing and serving breakfast to the homeless at a local food bank,
concocting a myriad of facial expressions and emotions as a mime,
completing afterschool homework assignments
and Saturday morning chores
as Anita Baker’s sweet, sultry voice flowed throughout the home,  
practicing traditional Baptist church chords on the piano,
cuddling with its dog,
high-stepping while twirling a baton,
thrusting its arms into the air
and gently pointing its fingers in a circular motion
 to signal the whisk of a fan kick,
or whistling the tune of “Word Up” by Cameo into a flute,
changing into its “play clothes”
for a game of hide-and-seek outside with its friends,
playing sports—golf and soft ball,
and definitely laughing the loudest.

But all the toys I found seemed like they were made for white people,
for people who did not look like me.

Looking and not finding, I felt frustrated, humiliated, sad, and disappointed
which reminded me that I was different and simply tolerated
when I longed to be accepted and included.
Sometimes I blamed society
because I didn’t ask to be here.

I’m asking for recognition.   

Because I couldn’t find a super hero like me,
I became my own action figure – in real life.
I did a fitness competition, and this was my motivator.

Every time I would do a pull up, I would see Wonder Woman,
but I imagined it to be me, like I was the action figure
able to overcome adversity,
and save myself. 

*Inspired by Kiana Davis’s “A Doll Like Me” poem in her Digging for Roots collection ; done as a Pongo training exercise.