Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #2

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.


Red October 2014

by Winsome Minott

(#anotherhashtagmemorial, for Mike Brown )
My sister called crying, “the gully wall tear down.”
Where we once lived a gully wall doubled as a fence.
Every time the rains came Mama became pensive
as if expecting ruin.
One day the wall caved in; the hungry pull
carried away much of our backyard and play area.
Mama worried that the house would one day follow
and we would face murderous waters.
But we moved some forty years ago,
and sis migrated to the land of opportunity.
We no longer had to face the cowardly wrath
of an enemy whose thirst we could not quench.
Taken aback by her words, a reminder of Mama, 
for Mama had gone to rest, I recognized the burden of unrest.
For the day justice said, “Wilson has no charge to answer,”
the streets ran red, walls crumbled, and murderous waters
claimed the constitution. It floated with Mike’s dead body
out to sea. My sister said, “the wall tear down, but 
if we must die, let our cries be heard at the four corners    
of the earth, our outrage be understood,  as they bring it.”

This was a time of great sorrow,
the rush covered mamas, babies, but mainly black young men, 
the seed of Abraham and Isaac. We know that this seed cannot die
but is transformed in the twinkle of an eye, it is from eternity to eternity,
like the great I AM. It is word, and the word was made flesh, the word died..
Will you believe it? If you believe it say amen. The word rose again.
Amen. Do I hear an Amen,


How to Protect Yourself from White Men With Guns in America
by Hope Wabuke

for Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice

Don’t walk too fast. Don’t walk too slow. Keep your head down. Don’t keep your head down. Don’t stop walking when he pulls over. Don’t stop walking when he gets out of his car with his loaded gun. Don’t stop walking when he tells you to stop walking so it will be easier for him to shoot you. Know that he will shoot you whether you are walking or standing or sitting in your friend’s car minding your own business. Don’t get angry when he tells you to stop walking. Don’t get angry when he tells you to roll down the windows, tells you that you and your kind don’t belong here. Don’t get angry if he calls you boy or nigger. If you get angry you might try to defend yourself after he shoots you and then they will say he had a right to shoot you because you were attacking him and he was standing his ground. Don’t think about the other children who look like you whom men who look like him have killed and gotten away with it. Don’t run, especially when he pulls out his gun and shoots you—they will say you were running towards him to attack him and he had a right to shoot you because he was standing his ground. Don’t wear a hoodie. Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Don’t hold anything in your hands. Do not move your hands at all or they will say afterwards that you were reaching to pull out a gun and he was right to shoot you because he was standing his ground. Don’t think about how he is twice your size and has a gun and you are not even old enough to drive let alone buy a gun too. Don’t think about how you were just walking home and he got out of his car with a loaded gun to attack you—how can he be standing his ground? Don’t think about how your mother will feel when you don’t come home, when she hears on the evening news that a child with your name has been shot coming home from school. Don’t call your best friend because you are scared—you are a child, alone, being hunted down by a man twice your size with a gun and you are scared of him—your best friend’s reputation will be destroyed and she will be called fat and ugly and retarded and an unreliable witness by them afterwards. Don’t think about how they will destroy your reputation afterwards, too, and say you deserved to be shot. Don’t think you can run to the police for help—they will shoot you and say you were attacking them or resisting arrest and they were standing their ground. Don’t think the police will arrest your killer. Do know that if, eventually, they later arrest your killer because of nationwide outrage and protests, your killer will be found not guilty and will serve no time for killing you.


American Wildfire:  Ferguson, Missouri
by Margie Shaheed

(for Michael Brown, May 20, 1996 - August 9, 2014)

Again, the match is struck
hands raised in surrender ignored
short dry spell since Trayvon,
twigs of history, burn fast,
change directions, start new fires

Smoke still crawling from smoldering body
sun-scorched prayers release thunder storm hail
protest is mother—justice a murderer—
dragged from back woods pursued thru city streets
cameras stunned

A flag burns.  The tongues of politicians,
old water to mouths charred with protest,
shout peace and nonviolence pulling us
further away from remembering

Ashes settle at our feet.  Introspection
drives a young Black man to ponder not fate
but which Facebook photo media will choose
when he is the next murdered


On the Porch
by Deonte Osayande

I'm showering the floor with dandruff like my father
before me. Flakes of his nightmares
fall from his scalp fifty years after he had them

when I explain different current
events to him. When he was young he thought the hoses,
beatings and curses he had to endure

would be enough of a sacrifice so I wouldn't have to face
them today. My dad is like his country, old,
stubborn and being wrong is a harder pill to swallow

than the medicine he needs because of his age. Now it's sundown
and we're sitting on the porch with combs scratching our heads raw
searching for the answers, for the right

words to say. Neither of us can find them. When nightfall
finally comes neither of us can sleep. He sleep
-walks, unaware that he's eating all of the food

in the house again. I'm left laying there
with the television turned on to cartoons. Elmer Fudd chases
Bugs Bunny. He says, “be very very quiet, I'm hunting,” and in this

moment I think Elmer would make a great politician, trying
to ease the public to sleep, to convince
people that they shouldn't say anything

when death happens on his watch. The next
time I talk with my father we discuss finances, laughing
when I open my empty wallet, a whale carcass

stuck to the bottom of my dried ocean of a pocket with
nothing in it but enough pennies in it to make
barrages of well wishes. They never come true.


After the Darren Wilson Verdict: Civic Center Park. Denver, Colorado
by Nahshon Cook

When I arrived 
A middle-aged 

shaped woman

With hair as short as ants 
Was telling protesters

How those cops 
In Ferguson

Wanted them to riot. 
She said, They want 

To beat you 
With their sticks 

And take you to jail 
Because the “Establishment”

Has just thumbed 
It's nose at you 

And has told you, 
Once again,

That you 
don't matter. 

Don't do it,
She said.

Stay calm. 
Walk softly. 

Pray loudly. 
Go home.


Blue Note
by Lolita White

(For Ernest Hunter of Savannah, Georgia)

What must it have been like
for a colored man to love his woman in 1958?
His heart broken open,
his words choked back,
stifled by the heat from an indifferent Georgia sun.
He hummed his blues for her,
moaned under the blows of a billy club
until his very last note.

Until his very last note,
moaned under the blows of a billy club,
he hummed his blues for her,
stifled by the heat from an indifferent Georgia sun.
His words choked back,
his heart broken open.
For a colored man to love his woman in 1958, 
what must it have been like?


Lament for Darren Wilson and Tamir Rice
(Thanksgiving, 2014)
by David Almaleck Wolinsky

Precious, precious, precious.
The lives of killers are precious;
they are prisms of truth.

The lives of killers are as those sacred books
we ignore at our peril. And when we read,
woe to those who indifferent read,
or live athwart the words.

Killers, listeners, I said killers.

The lives of killers are precious
whatever you think you have heard
about the image of God,
our murderous imperfections,
or that voice saying in Hebrew
Ehyeh asher ehyeh.

They are because they are.
They are as lives are
precious, sanctus, precious,
the lives of killers   
and the lives ended,

oh listeners in whom they must live.

Precious the armored humans.
Precious the shaking children,
as ashes in wavering ranks, precious,
from smokestacks once ascended.

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