Untitled…

Dylann Storm Roof

 

Say his name

With responsible acceptance.

Claim him

As a soldier of white supremacy.

With no attempts

To demystify

Blatant anger,

Inherent disdain

For black folks.

Dehumanize him as if he were

Walking his neighborhood streets

Asking for help

Making eye contact with an officer

Or daring to swim.

Dehumanize him.

With damning media coverage of his past.

No matter how unrelated,

How unnecessary.

Paint those pictures of a white male

THUG.

Whose propensity for violence

Is characteristic of his people.

 

They don’t wanna be saved.

 

Say his name.

Take ownership of his actions.

With no arguments for

Anomalistic brutality.

No explorations of his giftedness

And potential to be great,

Had he been supported by

The system.

No attribution to the

Naïveté of his youth.

No images of him smiling

Deeply steeped in

Childhood innocence.

For thugs are never children.

 

Say his name.

Call him a murderer,

Without exception.

No false diagnoses of mental illness

Hatred is no synonym

For psychosis.

No interviews with neighbors

Who knew him when

“He was such a good kid.”

No theorizing.

No cloaks of protection.

No Hollywood depictions of

A good guy, gone bad.

 

Dylann Storm Roof

 

Say his name.

Contemptuously.

And discuss his heinous

Crime with realness.

In the absence of white privilege.

And in the presence of respect

For the nine black lives

That mattered.

 

 

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On My Block [A street requiem]

This past weekend, I visited Ferguson, MO along with the #BlackLivesMatter group and returned to Atlanta with a lump in my throat but empowerment in my heart. I was speechless…but I could write. And I’m sure this is unfinished, but after seeing the exact location where Mike Brown was gunned down on a neighborhood street in the middle of the day, I had to write something. Hoping to give it life at a spoken word event soon…

On my block
Were syrupy bee-bops
Up the street
The Candy Lady’s sweet shop.
The intersection of Rosa Parks
And Martin Luther King
My block was the corner
Of street lights and
Olympic dreams…
Foot races
Tightened shoe laces.
To the STOP sign and back
A quick 100 meters
Winning to talk trash
Taking rocks to pavement
Chalk for Tic-Tac
Toe in the street.
On my block
Deuces and quarters
With Subwoofers
1980s hip hop beats

On my block
Was where time stopped.
I could be cool forever
Daydreaming about
Being a poet…
Letting the rhymes drop.
Just young, wild
And free.
Taking over the streets.
Cars passed by with
Permission.
Honk the horn one time
And our kick ball games
Took intermission.
With an adult yelling

“Get ya’ll asses out the street!”

But on my block
That yell was sincere
and Sweet.
And we moved.
For a time.
Watched the cars go by
Us, standing on either side.
Soul Train line.
Then kick ball resumed.
No one assumed

That on our block
We could be stopped.
For walking in OUR spaces
Sidewalks or not
Neighborhood streets
Were sacred places.
No yellow lines
No jay-walking street signs.

Because it’s

OUR

Block.

On OUR block
We don’t need
Crooked cops.
Trigger happy
Trained assassins
Carrying glocks
Interrupting
games of hop scotch.
Facades of protecting
And serving.
With authentic
Purposes
of unnerving
Our neighborhood.
Cruising through at a
Steady 5 miles
Looking for targets
Eye contact.
Fake smiles.

Word.

On Mike’s block
A ripple of shots.
A ripple of shots.
He surrendered.
Hands up
Six times popped.
To the pavement
He dropped.
Dead in the street.
On his block.

He was dead in the street
On his block.

Where
Blood stains
Remain
Reminders to some
Challenges to the
Sane.
Headaches and tears
As children play
And mothers love
With enhanced fears
That our streets
Are not our own
That on our blocks
The innocence
Of bee-bops
Candy Ladies and sweet shops
Places where
Time never stopped.
Where cyphers lived
And beats and flows
Dropped.
As we danced to hop-scotch.

Those sacred places
Those neighborhood blocks
Now
Invaded by
Uncaring
Trained Assassin
Racist
Cops.

But we won’t
Surrender
Hands up
To the pavement
We won’t drop.
Not one more
Dead in the street.
Hit by six shots.
On HIS block.
On HER block.
On OUR block.

Because it’s

OUR

Block.

Don’t come ‘round here
To our streets
Our urban retreats
Our sanctuary and
Release.
We’ve drawn lines
In the sand.
On the side of [real]  justice
We stand.

Because it’s

OUR

Block.

No place
For crooked cops
Trigger happy
Trained assassins
Armed with glocks.

Marching won’t stop
Protecting our homes
Our blocks.
Not one more
Shot
Pavement dropped
For walking in OUR spaces
Sidewalks or not
Neighborhood streets
Are sacred places.
Fuck them yellow lines
Fuck them
Non-existent
jay-walking street signs.

We strolling down
the blvd
the lane
the ave
the drive
From one end to the other
Still alive

Keep driving through
Don’t stop.

We just walking.
We living.
We just loving.

Because it’s

OUR

Block.

 

 

 

Asphyxiation (Our Lives Matter)

I can’t breathe.

In an open space with air all around

Yet, I can’t breathe.

Can’t inhale or exhale –

Unless they give permission.

To kill me.

Choke holds and

Cold-blooded murder.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Because I was suspect.

For my Black, my Brown skin.

For seeking help.

For minding my own business.

In this world where my biggest sin

Is being.

That’s all. Just being.

Being Black.

Being Brown.

Being Brave.

Being Bold.

Enough to say

“You don’t own me!”

Bold enough to ask

“Can you help me?”

Bold enough to plead.

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I CAN’T BREATHE.”

And they’re killing me.

With my hands raised

Open palms

I’m not greeted with open arms.

I’m suspect.

Slayed in the streets,

And on porches.

And in neighborhoods.

In parks.

In public spaces.

Making a mockery of me.

Bodies uncovered for all to see.

For they aim to let us know

That I won’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

Unless permission is given to me.

But I’m villainized for reacting

To the repeated cries.

They say I should march.

And I should be peaceful.

And I should make a difference.

In a calm way.

But I can’t breathe.

I can’t fucking breathe.

And they want me…

To trust that I’ll be free.

Trust that this system will protect me.

Trust that they’ll let me breathe.

And I don’t.

I don’t trust that I’ll ever be able to breathe.

So I’m fighting.

For air.

And I apologize if my methods

Don’t suit.

But they match the madness.

For when you can’t breathe

And you’re unsure that they won’t shoot

Fight is a natural response.

When my words, my cries, my pleas

Have fallen on deaf ears

How am I expected to breathe?

How am I expected to bring peace?

When peace is not afforded to me…

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I want peace.

I want to breathe…

F R E E L Y.

 

 

 

Small Town, Big Heartaches: Remembering Our Loved Ones…

West Blocton

Sometimes you wanna go…where everybody knows your name… And sometimes you want to forget all the beautiful memories rooted in youthful naiveté that shielded you from the real world.

I was raised in a small town in Alabama and anyone who knows me understands my passion for small towns, community, and all (complicated) things southern. One of the realities of small town southern living is the shattering impact of the loss of a community/family member. When someone makes a transition in a small town, it touches everyone in the community – even when we live hours away. It’s that moment when your mother calls and says, “Have you heard about [insert name here]?” And you don’t want to reply because ‘hearing about’ someone from a small town usually means “Have you heard that [insert name here] ‘passed away’?” Most often, those making transitions are elderly or have been battling some delibitating illness. Those transitions are still traumatic, still heart-wrenching but those are the losses for which we have prepared ourselves [somewhat]. So we cry. We pay our respects. We cook. We attend funerals that quickly turn it into a family reunion recalling when [so-and-so] was just a little kid reaking havoc all over the neighborhood. And we go home. A little different. A little sad. But we go home – in tact as a community.

Those are the transitions that are not as difficult to comprehend. Those are the transitions for which we do not question God’s decision. Those are the transitions that leave us temporarily deflated but not empty.

And then there are the unexpected transitions of people we deem to be gone too soon. These transitions quiet our small towns as we mourn with great uncertainty. These transitions force us to call into question our Christian upbringing (but we know better than to question God). So in public we say, “God knew what was best.” and in private or in our minds we whisper, “Why God? Why him/her? Why like this?”

I missed my mother’s call last weekend. Had I answered I know she would have asked, “Have you heard about Fonzo?” And I had. He was a few years younger than I but hearing of his untimely transition jolted me down a memory lane of all those names that I could call in remembrance. They were classmates that sat behind me in high school; friends that laughed with me at lunch or played with me in the neighborhood; girls that rode bikes with me down the hill by my house; and family members and first loves. I say their names with libations: Scottie Kelser, Jr., Gary Cottingham, Brad Davis, Tawanna Davis, Joel Hudson, Kendra Sanders, Arthur Brown, Marcus Pringle, Donnie Maynor, Broderick Caddell, Alfonso Caddell, Terrance Gaines, Lovel Gaines Jr., Christopher Ward, Carlos Davis…

To say that we – as a community – have not been impacted by the transitions of these young people would be a lie. It has changed us. It has changed our community. We are a family; so much like our blood related family, when our community family members transition to the spiritual realm, the impact is felt. We hurt. We feel a little less complete. We are changed.

Whenever I visit, I often stay in the confines of my mother’s home because the outside reality is a reminder of how much has changed. It’s possible that I have romanticized my upbringing, but I remember full churches on Sundays, loud blues music playing and fish frying, summertime baseball while the smell of barbeque filled the air, kickball games after school, fresh outfits on the Fourth of July just to walk around the block, Friday Night Lights, pep rallies where the school spirit was so high that you’d think our team was State Champs, making mud pies with flower decorations, catching ‘lightning bugs’, Christmas programs with long speeches that we dare not forget, Vacation Bible School, the occasional fist fight and girl drama, small town gossip and lies, watching the street lights as we played outside (and running home when my mother called my name), etc. We were alive and vibrant.

Now, we are quiet and still. Our vibrance is diminished slightly as we mourn and grieve. However, in our resilience, we keep moving and keep the spirits of those we’ve lost in our hearts. Small towns, big heartaches…and even bigger love.

“and if i ever touched a life i hope that life knows
that i know that touching was and still is and will always
be the true
revolution”

[from Nikki Giovanni’s “When I Die”]

We are forever touched by your lives… Ase…