Thursday, December 11, 2014

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #3

We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest 

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers' sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother's son -- we who believe in freedom cannot rest.
                    - Ella Baker

Even as our hearts break in rage and anguish over the murder of Black and brown people throughout the land by police who are not held accountable, here at Split This Rock we are heartened by the powerful actions in the streets and the visionary leadership of mostly young people of color in this growing movement for justice.

We are also moved by the poets, who continue to speak out, and especially by BlackPoetsSpeakOut.

In solidarity, Split This Rock offers our blog as a Virtual Open Mic, open to all who respond to our call for Poems that Resist Police Brutality and Demand Racial Justice. The poems below were submitted in response to that call.

Please note poems with complex formatting have been posted as jpegs, as this blog has a limited capacity for properly displaying these poems. We apologize if these poems are not accessible to you.

For more information or questions, feel free to email us at

If you are moved by any of the poems below, please contact the Department of Justice and your local representatives to demand police accountability. Visit Ferguson Action Demands for more information.


one nation
by Maureen E. Doallas

I have a dream that my four children will
one day live in a nation where they will not
be judged by the color of their skin but by
the content of their character.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

we stand today
in the shadow
of the long night

of our captivity
we rise to proclaim
our emancipation

we come joyous
from a desolate valley
into the daybreak

of our sweet promise:
a beginning for all
God's children

black and white
still in the dark
corners of America

we had been lonely 
in exile, shameful
of the great chains

of injustice we refuse
now, in this moment,
to pass on

this land we're heir to
is a beacon of light
we've come to lift

in our rightful place
for one hundred years
hope was tranquilizing

despair a mountain
of solid stone in hands
crippled by manacles

but we emerge now
not drinking from a cup
of hatred, of violence

of bitterness, not jangling
chains of distrust
but able to sing here today

our protests in community
battered, suffering, we will
not turn back, cannot walk

alone but demand to work
together, pray together
struggle together as one

free at last! free at last!
Thank God a-mighty

we are free at last!


by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

I remember the boys & their open hands. High fives
            of farewell. I remember that the birches waved too,
                        the white jagged limbs turning away from incessant wildfires.

The future wavered, unlike a question, unlike
            a hand or headstone. The future moved & the fields already knew it.

I remember the war of the alphabet, its ears sliced from its face. I
know that language asks for blood.

The children of kudzu, lilac, the spit of unknown rivers. I remember the jury
& the judge of the people. The buckshot that blew
the morning’s torso into smoke.

That last morning I begged the grandmothers to leave their rage next to red candles
& worn photographs of their children & their blue-eyed grandson
with his bleeding heart. The savior bled flowers.

I scattered the stones the trees bore. Gray vultures came for my children.
            They knew the old country better than me. They broke through
                        skyscrapers & devoured both villain & hero.

& boys were pouring, wanted & unwanted & missing yet from the long mouth
where their voices were forced to say they were nothing. But they were men,
& native & guilty beyond their glottal doubt.

I remember calling out to the savage field where more boys knelt & swung
through the air. I remember how their eyes rolled back
in blood, milk, & gasoline. Their white teeth
                                    chewing cotton into shrouds, scars & sheets.

They gave me their last words. They gave me smiles for their fathers.
            They slept in my arms, dead & bruised. Long as brambles.

                        The bullets in their heads & groins
                                    quieting like a day. The meat of nothing.

I held their million heads in my lap when the bodies were taken away.
I don’t know if what’s left will dance or burn.
                                    I wash their eyelids with mint.

                                                                        But let God beg pardon to them & their mothers

& I don’t know if the body is a pendulum of where love cannot go
when the tongue is swollen with the milk of black boys.
I pulled their lives from the trees & lawns & schools.
The unlit houses & the river. Their forewings wet
with clouds

& screaming. I won’t leave them,
                        huddled like bulls inside the stall of a word. I am the shriek,
                                                the suture, the petal

                                                            shook loose from their silence. 

First Published by CURA: A Literary Magazine of Art & Action, Issue No. 6, 2012


by Kristen McCallum

Are you aware how much your skin glows?
That intimidating color you always let show
Audacity they see each time that you breathe
How dare those people be so black and free?
Taking lessons from the leaders in each book they read
Building scrapbooks of hope for their children to see
At their table for humanity, we've never had a seat
They have broadcasted our brothers lying dead in the street
Then portrayed our tears as a sign of defeat
But y'all are gonna stop trying to get rid of me.
See, my love for black lives goes beyond melanin
It's the resilience of a people who inherited "sin"
The crime of being other and always less than
I'm tired of the notion my people aren't built to win
There's a misery that's felt when we rise above the crowd
Put our best on, make our moms proud, stick our chests right out
A revolution's coming, man we're tired can't you see?
Oh you can't see? You're playing blind?
You think we're lost without your dimes?
We can't succeed? We won't proceed?
Millennial minds have grabbed the lead.
Keep sitting smug while we march ahead
Yea "black lives DO matter" is what you just read.
We're moving along but don't get me wrong
Our hearts have been shattered but our souls are strong
So let us remain clear on why we are here
We're descendants of bondage still living in fear
Organized by the symphony of our people's tears
And the blood of our lives that's been spilled through the years
Solidarity's calling. High time for a change.
The system has failed us. War flags have been raised.


by David Almaleck Wolinsky 

Breathing while black
that would be.
Something, surely, all y'all
civilian mathematicians
knew, like 1 + 1 = 2.

1 + 1 ≠ 3.
It's what we call
an inequality. There are
worse things: Any EMT
speeding, for example, through traffic
could tell you what happens
to passageways, arteries
under pressure, blocked, choked.

The ones for example
called by the officers
with their backs to Eric G.

I can breathe;
oh my god, I can breathe!
Just shoot me
why don't you?


by Zachary Jepsen
I'm terrified by what you're about to do.
(A thunderclap crashes and retreats.)
My hands are up. Please don't shoot!
…had to defend himself, said a man on the news.
(A body untouched for hours on the concrete.)
…terrified by what he was about to do.
Whispers calling him a thug, a brute.
(A crowd lifts its arms in the streets.)
Our hands are up! Please don't shoot!
Op-eds claiming racism is through.
(A voice cries No justice, no peace!)
We're terrified by what they're about to do:
When the house always bets on blue
it's deadly to be black. So protests repeat
Our hands are up. Please don't shoot.
(Why don't black lives matter to you?)
The sun has set when he emerges to speak.
We all know what he's about to do.
Our hands are up. Please don't shoot.


by Denele D. Biggs

He lay there
Unable to say a word
They stand around staring
Dismissing action

If he could speak I wonder what he would have said?
If he could rise, what would he have done?
Cursed them all to their graves….he said he was tired
Or forcefully bear his body in retaliation.

The outcry of disapproval, the anger of the public fill space
Heaviness fills hearts
Not moving
What erroneous actions deserved this
They are still stagnant

His family, his life, his people…
Soon will mourn his past life.

Uprising will continue being charged by the youth.
This could have been evaded. All of it.
Calls for justice
The cruelty
We will not be quieted
because WE matter


A Poem: 1
by Nahshon Cook

People are more important than money

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