Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #1

We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest -  Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice

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 info@splitthisrock.org.


Birthing Dead Men
by Angelina Sàenz

-para las madres de los asesinados y los desaparecidos
-for the mothers of the murdered and the disappeared

Our narrative,
of black and brown,
is of birthing,
black and brown boys.
When seed is planted,
and we host the splendid life
for nine months,
and build,
for another 24,
on mother's milk,
and see the baby body,
pull themselves up,
onto stout legs,
and everybody claps,
we still don't know the sentence,
that will be handed down.
On the first day of kindergarten,
when we leave them crying,
on the colored rug,
and the teacher assures us,
that they'll be ok,
and we wave good-bye,
lingering at the door-window,
we still can't fathom,
that one day,
before we're in our own grave,
they'll be taken from us.
And when they get on the football team,
or get accepted to that school
we dreamed of for them,
or when we've walked them through a divorce,
and taught them to live in two households,
or when we keep trying to teach them,
to reject the childhood friends,
or violent and drug-infested lifestyle
that our families are condemned to,
we still don't know, that they're already dead.
When the moment comes,
when they're taken,
when that moment comes,
when our sons open that door,
and say,
"See you later, Mom."
"Nos vemos, mamá."
We have no idea, that that, 
will be
the last time we see them.
We. Have. No. Fucking. Idea.
That they are dead men on that day.
someone comes
and knocks on the door
and says,
"Jimmy's laying on the corner with a sheet over him."
or they say,
"This is the Los Angeles Police Department, are you the parent of Sandro?"
o dicen,
"Los llevaron, simplemente los llevaron, y no sabemos adonde," y no te imagines, 
que noventa dias van a pasar, y todavia no han vuelto, y todavia no hay ninguna
pista de ellos.

Ese trozo de carne. Ese trozo de carne, que viene de tu propia carne. Yá no respira.

As our boys die, they say, "I can't breathe."

From the gunshot, the chokehold, the stabbing, the shoving in of too many bodies,
into the back of an enclosed truck. They say, "I can't fucking breathe. Please. ¡Por
favor, no puedo respirar!"

And then,

They stop breathing.

And we do too.

Realizing, that we never knew,
that we 
were birthing,
dead men.


On the 2008 death of Manuel de Jesus Espina at the hands of Prince George's County police officer Steven Jackson (moonlighting as a security guard)

The Death of Manuel on his Birthday
by Heather Pankl

The day their world exploded, 
Manuel's friend was making him birthday enchiladas.
Manuel was drinking on the porch of the apartment
celebrating with his friends.
The day was warm.

When the security guard drove by,
one guy walked away,
and others went inside.
The security guard followed them
to see if he could cite them for something.

The neighbors saw what happened next.
The man in the uniform pushed Manuel
down the stairs,
yanked his leg,
like he was trying to break his knee.

The two of them rolled on down the stairs
to the door of the apartment.
His friend heard the screaming,
woke her daughter who was sleeping on the couch.

Her daughter later said,
"My mother said, 'don't open the door,'
but I was afraid for Manuel,
so I opened the door."

The two men rolled inside.
The security guard was beating Manuel with his baton. 
Manuel's eyes were red with blood.

Then the daughter called 911
as the officer pulled his gun
and shot Manuel in the torso.
In the recording her mother can be heard in the background crying,
while a loud male voice is yelling,
"Shut the fuck up!"

Later Mr. Jackson said, "That wasn't me." 

He claims there were six men in the apartment.
But there was only 
the man he was beating,
Manuel's friend,
and her daughter.

Manuel's son climbed through the window,
yelled, "You killed my Dad!" and started CPR
while Mr. Jackson sat on the couch.

When the other police arrived,
Mr. Jackson told them 
to arrest Manuel's son
for resisting arrest.

And they did.


I Don't Pretend to Know All the Facts
by Shevaun Brannigan

for Lesley McSpadden

            What it's like to be a mother,     what it's like
to want to give someone all the good in the whole world,
to sift out the bad like silt in a gold pan,
what it's like to make someone.
            I have prayed not to be pregnant
partly because I have a fear something bad would happen
to my child and I wouldn't be able to bear it,
                         that I would collapse
            and the dirt of the Earth wouldn't have the sense 
to bury me right then and there.
            If I knew what it was like to be a mother,
I hope I would not know what it was like to suddenly not be a mother,
            (though an embankment is still an embankment even after the river is gone,
the embankment still remembers the feel of water against it,
            still curves to make room for the water and all it contained).
If I knew what it was like to be a mother suddenly not a mother,
            if I lost my son, I make him a son,
                        and if I lost my son to gunshots, gunshots, gunshots
gunshots, gunshots, gunshots, I hope they would not be gunshots
            fired by a police officer. I don't pretend to know all the facts,
                        I don't know what it's like to be black,
to watch the news and see my own crying face played back, waiting
            for the jury's announcement on my son and hearing
every anchor's interpretation of the word "justice."
                                    I don't pretend to know
            what it's like to fear that which is supposed to protect.
To watch the news a few months prior, to watch coverage
                        of a young black boy's murder and thinking 
            that boy could be mine, and change the channel and call him in 
for dinner. To reach now for the third plate to set and put it back in the cupboard. 
            I don't pretend to know how many mothers are watching
TV now, terrified of the world they have gifted to the sons they will lose
                        in upcoming months, I do not know who is next,
but I do not pretend that some boy will not be next,
            and here he is, 12 years old in Cleveland and now not in Cleveland,
                        though I do not pretend to know what happens after death,
I have been told of heaven just as I have been told of the water cycle,
            that an evaporated river is held in our clouds, our bodies,
each tear,
            though mothers, I don't pretend that will bring you comfort.  


Raising White Men
by Lisa L. Moore

On the ancient land of the Comanche,
in the week the Ferguson killer was not indicted,
on the street where police were called on a black neighbor,
I am raising white men.

When I speak the last letter of my secret alphabet,
fear gives fear away.  I twist away
to squeeze the poison gas from my organs,
inhale the stink of what I've consumed,

This is my secret: when I saw you 
at the café, even though I was waiting 
to meet you, I thought you
were homeless, not my neighbor.

There's an Autotune song on Youtube
that my sons love.  Oh my goodness, oh
my dayum, something something
double cheeseburger, dayum, DAYUM.

Something about appetite,
something about black men,
something about food deserts,
something about spectacle.

Go deeper.  Pay Attention
to what they tell you to forget.
In one afternoon, the boys play cello
on the street, and lie down on it
at the rally.  The youngest cries
when his uncle gives him an Indian burn.

The oldest can't stay in the room to hear
how his playmate was followed, how
the little boy he babysits is statistically likely
to go from school to prison.

I am raising them. When I am dead, 
I will still love them. I will wait for them
in these poems, where I say this I know    
what I reap, that shall I sow.

Race: Caucasian
by Penelope Schott

My son got caught with his buddies 
hiding in the neighbors' bushes;
the police scolded him
and sent him home.

My son wrecked a car he didn't own,
lent to him by his grandparents;
the police called a tow truck
and asked if he was hurt.

He will outlive me, his lucky mother,
and die of sickness or old age;
nobody will have to invent lies
as they fill out the forms.


All Eyes Are Upon us
by Gene Grabiner

                Mother, mother
                There's too many of you crying
                Brother, brother, brother
                There's far too many of you dying
                                  --Marvin Gaye

so they stomped
                John Willet

as he lay on the sidewalk 
hands cuffed behind his back
and shot
                Michael Brown

who was on his way this fall to college

       Shelter in place
       Shelter in place

and used a chokehold to kill

                Eric Garner

who sold cigarettes one-by-one
on the street in Staten Island
then they stood around while
an angry bartender
pushed vet
               William Sager

down the stairs to his death;
maybe helped hide 
the security videotape
then it was unarmed
               Dillon Taylor

in Salt Lake City, and
               James Boyd
in Albuquerque

and          Darrien Hunt
in Saratoga Springs, Utah--

how about that grandmother
               Kathryn Johnston

shot to death in a SWAT team raid
gone bad?

in '73 in Dallas
               Santos Rodriguez

was marked by officer Cain
who played Russian Roulette 
with the handcuffed 12-year-old
in his cruiser   
till the .357 fired ; Santos' blood
all over his 13-year-old handcuffed
brother David

and those cries of 
19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh 
in whose crib
the flash-bang grenade exploded
        Stop and frisk
        Stop and frisk

or 41 police gunshots at immigrant

               Amadou Diallo 
who died
right there
in the doorway
of his Bx. apt. bldg.

and that cop who shot and killed
               Aiyana Stanley-Jones 
as she slept
and those Cleveland cops who shot
               Tamir Rice
who had a BB gun
and gave him no first aid--
watched him die
all those police 

with gas masks and helmets in 

               Ferguson, Missouri
telling the people

don't be on the streets after sundown

               Ferguson   still a sundown town

               maybe soon like a town near you

with M-16's, MRAP's,
armored personnel carriers   

in this war against the people



Never Ending Story
by Imani Sims


Fieldnotes on the Death of Alejandro Nieto
by Manissa Maharawal 

 Previously published in Berkeley Journal of Sociology

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