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.

 

 

 

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Dear Ebony: Let’s Celebrate Black LGBTQ Love, Too…

I spent a portion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday randomly thumbing through books and magazines at Barnes and Noble. In the book section, I photographed the covers of several books to add to my ever-increasing ‘to read’ list. I moved to the magazine section and my eyes were drawn to Ebony magazine’s February issue with a picture of the beautiful couple Carmelo and La La Anthony on the cover. I grabbed the magazine and noticed that there were two other covers available with couples Nick Cannon and Maria Carey and David and Tamela Mann. The theme of the issue was ‘Celebrating Black Love’. Okay Ebony. I’m with you. Let’s celebrate Black Love.

Black Love - Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey, Carmelo and La La Anthony, and David and Tamela Mann

Tucked away in the back of the magazine between a Nelson Mandela tribute and photo from the Ebony archives were the stories of the three couples previously mentioned. ‘Love, Actually’, ‘Through the Fire’, and ‘All-Star Romance’ were celebratory pieces that examined the business and marital success of the Cannon-Carey duo; highlighted the 25 years and going strong marriage of the Mann’s; and debunked the perception that all male professional athletes aim to be womanizers as readers were exposed to how Carmelo Anthony decided very young and very quickly that he wanted his friend La La Vasquez to be his wife. Yes, these articles did indeed celebrate Black Love.

Following the last story is more celebration of Black Love as Ebony’s ’10 Sexiest Couples’ were included in a pictorial. These couples included Nicole Murphy and Michael Strahan, Amar’e and Alexis Stoudemire, Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, Lebron James and Savannah Brinson James, Kimberly Jackson and Ice Cube, Solange Knowles and Alan Ferguson, Steve and Marjorie Harvey, Ciara and Future, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Josiah Bell, and Brandy and Ryan Press. Again, Ebony scored with these couples in different stages of their relationships. This pictorial was yet another celebration of Black Love.

But wait. I flipped through the Black Love section again and looked feverishly for some diversity. Yes, Black Love is diverse love, so where is the diversity, Ebony? Where are the ‘non-traditional’ representations of Black Love? Where are the LGBTQ couples? Yessss, there are Black LGBTQ folks out here loving on one another in healthy ways. So why were none of these couples included in this celebration of Black Love? [Don’t worry. I’ll wait.]
Before I got too hyped about this exclusionary heteronormative celebration of Black Love [yes, it became all that in my mind], I combed through the magazine looking for professions of Black Love. Voila! I found the ‘Love and Relationships’ section where Claire McIntosh compiled stories on maintaining the spark and building romance. I read each of the 23 stories exploring the Four R’s – Rites of Passage, Rituals, Routines, and Retreats. Presumably, not one of the stories included a LGBTQ couple. [Of course, the disclaimer here is that there was limited background on the couples, but the names and use of his/her pronouns suggested these were all heterosexual couples.]

Since 1945, Ebony has promoted the experiences of Black people in an affirming manner. It has been a beacon for addressing political, educational, cultural, religious, financial, relationship, and identity issues in the Black community. In recent years, Ebony has expanded its audience by providing more emphasis on the issues for Black LGBTQ individuals. Just last year, there were at least eight articles or letters focused on the LGBTQ community – Pride, Workplace Inequality, a Welcome Home Letter, Black LGBT Pioneers, Kwanzaa, and Coming out to Family. And yes, there were two articles on Black LGBTQ Love – Rashad Burgess and Bishop Oliver Clyde Allen III (and their daughter) were included in the ‘Coolest Black Family in America’ and the wedding of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity members Robert Brown and Nathanael Gay were celebrated. These are great examples of Black LGBTQ Love.

Noting the previous examples, it is not my suggestion that Ebony is consistently exclusionary in its celebration of Black Love. However, it is my concern that Ebony is NOT consistently inclusionary in its celebration of Black Love – and that’s a serious issue. Black LGBTQ couples should not be celebrated only when perceived as unique. [The article on the Burgess-Allen couple noted the two were ‘revolutionary’ and ‘ardent innovators’, likely due to their commitment to one another and religious convictions; and many perceived the wedding of Brown and Gay to be unique in part due to their membership in a traditionally Black fraternity.] Black LGBTQ couples are not anomalies and the scattered inclusion of said couples suggests otherwise.

In the 2015 ‘Celebrate Black Love’ issue, I hope Ebony will begin the practice of being consistently inclusionary. While there is limited ‘out’ representation of Black LGBTQ Love among Black celebrities, those couples do exist. Consider adding Monifah Carter and Terez Mychell or Janet Mock and Aaron Tredwell to the list. Lee Daniels, Meshell Ndegeocello, RuPaul, etc. are In addition, Lewis Duckett and Billy Jones, who married last year after being together for 46 years, might not be Hollywood celebrities but they are the epitome of long-lasting Black Love.

It’s time to celebrate Black Love in its many forms. Ebony, you have the platform and the voice to remind readers that Black Love is Lesbian Love, Gay Love, Bisexual Love, Transgendered Love, and Queer Love. Black Love is Love, Actually – and Unconditionally.

Eclectic GRITS