#BlackLivesMatter (Part Two): Poetic Protest

Posted: January 19, 2015 in Poetry, Social Justice

I am a protestor. This is the second post in a three part series outlining my thinking and position as it relates to racial injustice in our society and lamenting racial divisions within the Church. In observance of today’s Holiday set apart to honor Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, and in conjunction with the annual Zannette Lewis Environmental and Social Justice Poetry Slam in New Haven, Part Two is an artistic response to the racial disparity infecting our country.

You can read Part One: Listening to Dr. King here.

 

In early December 2014, in the days following the news that that there would be no indictments in either Ferguson or New York after the losses of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, my friend Erika Stanley, a strong black woman and committed servant of Christ, put out a call. Erika asked anyone interested to join her in writing a collaborative poem on “the recent events that have divided this country.” Erika was clear we need not be poets, just folks willing to use their voice.

Eight of us connected through Erika, of varying age, gender and race collaborated to join the protest with our words. Erika then did some incredible work to merge and edit our individual poems into a unified effort, exemplifying the Gospel in action.

Below is our poem, with some brief introductory thoughts from Ms. Stanley.

“I was (and still am) sickened by the disgusting comments being made on social media in the days and week after Mike Brown and Eric Garner’s murders. My only encouragement came from people who were actively speaking out about the injustice in a productive and meaningful way. Yes, this about color. Yes, this is about right and wrong. Yes, this is about how we can do better as a country when African American men as disproportionately jailed (often wrongfully) and murdered by police. I am a descendant of many hard working, God fearing black men. My father is a black man and my brother is a black man so the ignorance swirling around these deaths aren’t about theories for me, they have so much to do with my life and the men I love the most.

Civil disobedience and freedom of speech against social injustice were critical pieces of the civil rights movement… As a poet, I knew I wanted to pen my observations and feelings despite the difficulty I had in doing so. That’s when I made an open call to my Facebook friends to join me in a poetic protest. I had no idea who would respond, I just felt obligated to create a space for others to think, feel and write; I welcomed anyone to mourn, grieve and purge themselves through words.”

 

We are a discrimiNation

 

Under the whip

Grew an industry, the new empire

Tobacco the cash crop, but no cash

Shared by sharecroppers.

 

Corporate persons’ interest

Protected by beat coppers –

 

Ironic we kill black men for stealing—

selling cigarettes

Excuse me sir, I believe those were already paid for

When you rode the non-existent coattails

Of our slave beholden brethren

For surely you can see we stole their coats,

Their rights, their boots

The boots you now ask them to pull themselves up by

Forgetting the forceful boost we once received

And still benefit from

Those straps never arrived for them

Placed on back order until the laces got twisted

Into ropes suspending strange fruits from Southern trees

 

What does it mean?

 

The fourth of July

“My country tis of thee

Dry land of inequity

Of thee I scream

Land where my brothers die

Land where black mothers cry

Praying from every graveside

Let freedom ring!”

 

Mislabel black as thy enemy

Are we free to live?

Old stories fall away

History being made by all of us now.

Can you feel it?  Can you feel this change in the air?

I know you do. Some of you are lashing out,

Some of you are finding your voice, some of you

are stepping back, some of you are stepping up.

Change is scary, uncomfortable. You are part of this

Your actions, too.

No matter how much you may not want to be part of this

you are.

 

We want a new normal. 

 

That’s the murmur of the mothers talking

low at the table nearby,

the shock of the big nothing that happened

after Eric Garner’s death,

this is nothing new to them, it’s a common tragedy.

it’s a paragraph in an afternoon talk

they watch their sons play with the castle

on the carpeted library’s floor.

 

Where do we go from here?

“We the people” demand true freedom and equality.

Streets, bridges, and highway fills

city to city ’til we reach Capitol Hill

 

No, we are not where we should be

 

but we will get there.

 

Hold on, we will get there.

 

 

written by: Erika K. Stanley, Shonrael Lanier, Lance Errol Moo, Da’trelle Snell, Jennifer Jones, Susan Clarkson Moorehead, Jessica Martinez and Joshua Fisher

 

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