top of page

News and updates from around the Ujima Ecosystem.

Potions Edition: Josephine Webb 1855–Caroline County, Maryland, a poem by Nnenna Loveth

In 1855 Josephine Webb, an enslaved girl of 14 years old, was tried for the poisoning of her enslaver and his family. None survived the poisoning. She was later jailed and died in prison. 


Josephine Webb 1855–Caroline County, Maryland 

by Nnenna Loveth

If they ask me whether or not I did that shit? 

I did. 

And that’s all I have to say on that. 

Or according to the “record” it is. 


If you ask me whether or not I did 

what they said I did 

I’d say, have you ever been bone tired? 

So tired your body moves only by miracle? 

That you feel like hollow air shifting between weights? 

What would you do? You’d sleep, right? 

What if your waking and dreaming lives 

look like mirrored nightmares? 

When Mr. and Mrs. 

woke me that night to fix them tea 

beat me 

upon my inevitable mistake

what if I told you, I wasn’t awake?

That I wasn’t a murderer. 

That I was fighting nightmares

and killing monsters in my sleep. 

That I was a teenage girl doing as she was told. 

They said You fix me a drink and do it right this time negroe girl! 

And so I did follow orders. 

I fixed the drink like I should’ve the first time. 

Like every Black girl needs to know how to do. 

A potion for a problem of whiteness and manness–

a little root here. 

A trace of this there. 

And done. 

Now the problem fast-asleep. 

The Man and Missus don’t wake no more with complaints and neither do their daughters. 

I just wanted to rest 

now we all get to sleep. 

I thought it was a sign 

when I found the arsenic 

behind the clock in the living room. 

That in the nightmare I was living 

sand from an hourglass mixed in with the brew 

if used right might be able to take back the time that was stole’ from me. 

What’s that thing y’all say these days? Black girl magic or something like that? Let me tell you 

I never felt more magician than that moment. 

Owning and turning the clocks of life for once 

instead of having the gears grind on me. 

Black girls gotta live on their own prayers and magick in this world and I had potions to perfect. 

Moment for a minute. 

Sand for an hour. 

Powder for a purpose and a sip. 

Ships to enslave and capture 

captured my girlhood in their stead. 

Did the papers say how the daughter went? 

Right like a ship into the night she sailed.

When they jailed me 

told me I was guilty 

I said no, I am a harbinger. 

A merciful magick. They only had to die once.

I had to be Black and woman in this country forever.


Nnenna Loveth Umelo Uzoma Nwafor (they/she) is an Igbo lesbian poet, dancer, and facilitator, who descends from a powerful ancestry. Nnenna’s matrilineal history has led them into deep inner-healing and ancestral veneration work; she writes, facilitates, and dances for the ultimate purpose of addressing the disconnect that wh*te-patriarchal-coloniality has created between us and our senses. Their work explores Black g*rlhood, Black queerness, Igbo Cosmology, Sensual play and rituals of healing.  Nnenna published their debut chapbook, Already Knew You Were Coming, with Game Over Books in January of 2022 and has also been featured on Button Poetry, WBUR’s ARTery, and VIBEs. When they speak, their ancestors are pleased. 


bottom of page