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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are moved by any of the poems below, please contact the Department of Justice and your local representatives to demand for police accountability. Visit Ferguson Action Demands for more information.
For Michael Brown
by Donna Katzin
You did not speak
that dark night when the cop
pulled you over for stealing cigarillos,
when you struggled
to turn away his weapon
You did not speak
when you ran wounded
from his SUV, or when you turned
and staggered back,
hands raised, begging
for your life.
You did not speak,
bullets later, separated
from your sandals that could not run fast enough,
Cardinals cap that could not fly, flapped
red in the road as if it knew
what was coming --
when you fell face down,
your eighteen years bleeding into asphalt
for four and a half hours.
What would you have said
when the Grand Jury declined
to indict the white man your size,
ten years your senior,
with car, gun and a badge,
so frightened that he had to shoot you
nine times, when you were armed
with nothing but your skin?
From Oakland to Washington
our hands above our heads push back the wind,
feet thunder facts drummed into the streets
of Ferguson and Staten Island,
bodies lie down on Sunrise Highway.
Michael Brown, and all the other Michael Browns --
we will speak for you.
by Slangston Hughes
“powerful people cannot afford to educate the people that they oppress
because once you are truly educated
you will not ask for power.
You will take it.” –John Henrik Clarke
Slave hymn in your stomach
Broken bible verse in your pocket
The watch that watches time while in motion like the redline
Riding towards your heartbeat
The stolen over priced soul that you can’t buy back played back on repeat
The soul beneath our feet screams secrets
Enslaved voices screeching orisha's singing the song of death
There are silent auctions held inside your mothers chest
For the tectonic fetal tissue that will be your offspring’s
Future planting earthquakes in our children’s path
before they can take their first steps
barcodes branded on new born babies birth certificates
there is a price set on your life’s worth
sailing you your self back to your self
before you can download your self worth
there is an app that interacts with your melanin
but you gotta die first
there is dirt in my dialogue
and a “callous on my soul”
scratching at the infection like a mad turntabalist
a bloody crucifix carved into my fingerprints
demonic dogma bleeding from our lips
cause lord knows when the cock crows
they will take hold and cyphen the God out of your dick
Steve Biko’s spirit sits dormant inside the consciousness of black light
Waiting to awake Swotto at night so “I write what I like”
I am so fucking tired of treating the truth like an apology
Battling desolation with dead platforms and outdated philosophy’s
Fuck you, and fuck them too…
There is no time for holding hands and marching in reverse
At a time when fists should be gripped and raised in righteous rebellion
My cosmic footprint outdates your by billions
Everything you’ve ever thought of we already did first
Had celestial swag before you ever called this place earth
Fuck you Miley Cyrus I hope your ass explodes the next time you try to twerk
We create both commerce and culture but something is fucking wrong
If we are God than how come we still follow slave protocols
Black rappers claim new slave
While white mc’s proclaim to be rap gods
I am Jesus at a peaceful protest fully strapped
I am John Brown posting pics on instagram of freed slaves being sold back
I am Harriet Tubman in the club making it clap
I am Imhotep on crack
I am your worse fucking nightmare cause I don’t know who eye am
But I know how to I.M.
A biracial binary baby wit an I phone plugged into his navel
Keeping Africa fully charged
Only to get double charged
The cost for the price of my life back
And catch a charge from those in charge
Charged with no rights
So damm right its within my rights to write back
Nigga… Frederick Douglass aint need twitter
We be revolutionary as shit wit a like and a click on Facebook
But rarely face books
Read the writing on the walls tagged by Babylon
You’ve been marked for extinction
Call it destiny or death
Prophesy or lack of access
Regardless our lives are on the line
But everyday you stay on line everywhere you @
So how the fuck you lack access
searched the engine and highlighted the text
I saw Dubois and Garvey i-pads plugged into Baldwin’s pigment
Downloading Africa’s heartbeat
Langston Hughes laughs at the legacy laid by
Creative cultural capitalists in his name
Trying to corner your organs and gentrify your intestines
Cause the body of god is hardly gOD’S BODY when the God body are just as
Corrupt as the devils be
So do the knowledge b
Or rather Deuteronomy
Universal Laws divine energy and ancient astrology
5th dimension gifted
I channel the jewels in opened wounds
And commune with Countee Cullen’s spirit
When I’m on the number 3
But it seems new slaves are just old slaves with new chains
And from Louie to coogee, fendi and prada
We still pick cotton just the same
2 Chainz goes platinum
while Laruen Hill went to prison
and the dumb deaf and blind don’t even have ears to hear
the in bondage conditions
of their own indignant“Consumerism”
HipHop got butt raped by the platinum incrusted dick of industry snakes
Should of listen to Bambaataa he told you the truth in like 78
Nigga… don’t believe me just watch
Stars all on my clock
Fuck yo trinity I spit divinity
Theology in my watch
Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga Nigga
We always after the white water cause the white water equates to the good water
The good music the good hair the good skin
The good schools that I’m trying to put my 2 kids in
You could be Travon Martin Delany King
And still not be accustomed to the hood you in
They put Christ in a hood and let the media crucify the spin
But when the zealots was finished yelling
We remain equally
Unaware of the blood spilling in the linen and the linage of the hood you in
So if you “Brown” six shots I’ll put you down for the count
Cause your very skin is seen as a threat to the world you in
We create culture they copy the contents
And sale it back
Extract the black and sale it back
As consumers we carry the weight of what we create on our back
They sale it back
Versace Versace Versace Versace Versace
As consumers we carry the weight of our fate on our back
They sale it back
Africa Africa Africa Africa Africa
I guess the Griot is back with a vengeance
I don’t want to be included and I’m not trying to be intrusive
White guilt had sex with white privilege and produced assimilated niggez
Pork on your fork
Swine killing niggez
Police out in force
Swine killing niggez
Niggez niggez where all my niggez
Niggez be getting paper
Niggez be on the move
Niggez be on YouTube niggez stay on the news
Live in front the camera getting shot with they crew
Niggez be in Paris
Niggez be in Africa too
While the children of Patrice Lumumba remain locked in chains
And the Congo gets raped for all the diamonds, gold and coltan
Niggez will never change aint shit that you can do
A million martyrs slain
Black Jesus got shot to death by a tech loaded with karma cashed
The resurrection never came
You’ve been deceived if you believe anybody gives a fuck if you breathe
Dr Sebi cured cancer,aids and diabetes
Nobody recorded reported or handed out any vaccines
Compliance with colonialism only leads to regression
Desegregation deconstructed our best weapons
But we still haven’t learned the lesson
We don’t need progression in exchange for acceptance
But in our minds white still equals wealth
When the true wealth is in your cells
But we still ask for access
To what is already apart of our selves
When really what we need is to access our self
You can’t be in the struggle and not struggle
I found my purpose on purpose
Turned verses into churches
Meditate mold metaphors into meaning
Beat-boxed with out breathing
Spoke with the tongue of a heathen
Cadence crafted from bible pages and the dialect of demons
Until words became flesh
That’s when niggez started eating
Religion became cannibalism
Take the flesh and the blood nigga eat it
Cause babies are birthed by God but niggez are of men
Turned his umbilical cord into a noose and let loose what was within
But God is within my niggez
If David Walker walked right in
In this very instance
He would’ ‘t appeal he’d kill
In the name of the niggez
So every word I’m writing is in the name of every slain nigga
See God is pissed as shit and she wants back her stolen niggez
“there is a railroad of bones at the bottom of the ocean”
there is a chamber of souls in the guns our sons are holding
there is a loud graveyard planted underneath every American city
there are a billion black bodies coming back to the living
you thought the zombie apocalypse was some shit
just wait until you get a hold of my niggez
see this is the dispensation of truth in the nu age
and there are so many slain ancestors coming back for revenge
that it I’ll make reparations look like minimum wage
but they control the water the air and the planes
the radioactive rays that rearrange your thought waves
so a 12 gage held to every hybrids brain
is the only way we ever going see any true change
we don’t need you if you trying to be them
we don’t need you if you trying to be in their skin
more than the skin you in
the time tic is over
rearrange your circuitry
with keylontic synergy
stretch memory with Kemetic yoga
the hermetic soul controller of meta and matter
at the center of the galaxy inside the hue-man heart beat
just trying with all our might to relight a dead sun (son)
no justice to peace
but i will scream justice in this piece
cause it is just us in this piece
but don't expect a just us
once we take to the streets
black lives don't matter
black lives are matter
you know black
like stars and shit
like melanin, matter, nigga
but sometimes I wonder if it all really matters
when I hear the devils laughter
and if dreams are just nightmares that haven’t shattered
a wise man once told me
that the Blackman is God
if God looked into a mirror
and the mirror shattered
Tankas for the Mamas and our sons
by JP Howard
Trigger: Black boys walk
off the street into our hearts.
her baby had that same spark,
same laugh, a place to call home.
Trigger: call Mama
before the burial ground
becomes your new home.
Beautiful black boys beware
your walk home on a warm night.
Saving Our Sons
by Sashay Butler
because our sons have been setting prematurely
their destiny sealed with the hard horizon of concrete.
the illegitimate children of the constitution
let’s rewrite the narrative of their stories from the burgeoning beginning
molding mentors out of the church, school, me and the community,
society,the streets: their nemesis
whether it be white man or Magneto
gravitating to their magnetic fields
stripping them of everything they own
covering them with inevitable endings
meeting death before their due-- process
or in jail cells where justice is owed
grab every brother you know
and tell them their life matters
and no matter what dream they are after,
what ever ambition,
you are the center, the core
the rising of tides-- low and high
the conductor of all emotion
because suns are the greatest source of light
burning ferociously and fearlessly
a threat to everything society has ingrained in our cognition
an educated black man is dangerous to the system.
if you see one in training or one straying away
feed him faith through your motivation
smother him in love with your embraces
and tell him he comes from a culture that has endured
black people have stared pain in it’s eyes before.
black people know change
whether its chains on their ancestors ankles
through a triangular trade
to chains around their necks
a nuisance to nousses
you can bet
you are everything they never expected you to be.
you are the sequel to a story with an unfinished script
you are hulk hogan strong dodging stereotypes like bullets in Missouri
you are blind fury with God gifted vision
you are a black mother’s christmas gift
every time you make curfew
you are 40 acres and a mule plus interest
you are a generation of gladiators
making arenas of wherever your feet land
you are reincarnated civil rights activist
their blood runs through your veins like slaves evacuating the south
you are tough like bare feet fleeting to freedom
you are the greatest oral tradition told by word of mouth
you are your grandmother’s whispering wisdom
you are fire without an extinguisher
you the black diamond of systematic oppression
you are the answer to unanswered questions
you are Job
you are free
you are nothing like what they EVER expected
but everything they feared you could be.
so let’s start a movement called saving our sons
because you are a wildfire the whole world is watching
don’t throw water when you’ve just learned to set yourself ablaze.
Fight the prejudice
by Chandramohan S
There are many beards of the
Kind picked out at
Hidden in my mustache.
I fight prejudice
Like eye drops
That cleanse the
Conjunctivitis of bigotry
In the hieroglyphics hidden in the
Exposed optic nerves of your cornea.
I fight prejudice
By refusing to be the worm
In the hole in an apple,
Rotting the entire apple cart,
Like vaccinating a generation
With the dreaded fear of
Do not go to war
by Nicole Goodwin
Do not go to war.
Do not go to war, in the name of the dead.
Do not go to war in the dawn of an Old flame,
Its embers draped in the rains of blood, blessed by fear.
The fear of mothers and fathers,
The fear of children,
Yours and mine.
We are all taught in this modern world now,
To fear such gifts. The darkness, the unknowable.
The silent clicks and pauses of tongues,
Eruptions of emotions, buildings collapsing.
Walls crumbling. We are all taught to fear.
We are taught to believe in fear,
Worship in fear, parade and praise in boasts
Domination, the brave besting of fear.
But we never win. Fear wins. It concurs us,
When instead of extending hands,
We exchange arms. Instead of realizing that,
In all that armor we are still afraid.
I know the sound of drums.
I still hear the wail of sorrow. Mothers, young, old
It matters not. They all bury their sons in the end.
Hopes, dreams. It’s funny how all these things become superfluous,
Once you are dead.
Fathers, sisters we are left with the sanity of the insane.
Those victims we march in the name of we all executed.
Black lives, white cops. It doesn’t matter to them anymore.
They are all dead. I suppose that is true equality.
They have all come to me,
The ask of me to tell the world,
They say, “Tell them, tell them not to duel in our names.”
I will say: “The world will not listen. Most will curse me for saying,
The slain black children, and those murdered cops are the same now and forever the same.”
They say, tell them anyway.
TELL THEM ANYWAY.
Do not use their names.
They do not care for it, even if, especially if you cry justice.
Our vengeance will not make us immortal.
We will not be saints.
We are two bulls clashing, in the end.
Bloodshed comforts no one.
by J. Barrett Wolf
1) I have never breathed the aroma of Bhopal,
Cancer Alley or Love Canal.
For I choose where I live.
Never lost a thumb to the lathe or
A nail to the sewing machine.
For I choose where I work.
Never owned another human being
Or bought a woman for pleasure,
For I choose whom I love.
2) I chose not to accept the sparkling signs,
And trappings of prodigious wealth
I gave up selling things I had no hand in making,
Selling things made by indentured hands
Hands that worked for crust and rice and dahl,
Hands that worked in dark and stink and fear.
Sweatshop hands, factory hands,
Women's hands, children's hands.
3) I have these choices because
I have the order of protection
That cannot be rescinded.
I have the voter ID
That is never questioned.
I have the license
To walk down the street.
Because I am a white man.
| The Joys of Motherhood |
I’ve always wanted to be a mother.
I heard all about the ‘Joys of Motherhood’.
From the first day of school
to watching my kids graduate,
I even looked forward to the apprehension of having them go on their first dates,
I knew I was young,
but I figured it couldn’t hurt to start planning for something
I’m 23 years old,
and I don’t know if I have what it takes
to stomach motherhood in this country.
Over the years,
America has taught me more about parenting
than any book on the subject,
has taught me how some women give birth to babies
and others to suspects,
has taught me that this body will birth kin
who are more likely to be held in prison cells
than to hold college degrees,
there is something about being black in America that has made motherhood seem…
c o m p l i c a t e d.
I don’t know what to do to raise my kids right
and keep them alive.
Do I tell my son not to steal because it is wrong
or because they will use it to justify his death?
Do I tell him
that even if he pays for his skittles and tea
there will still be those who will watch him and see
criminal before child,
who will call the police
and not wait for them to come.
…do I even want the police to come?
Too many Sean Bells go off in my head
when I consider calling 9-1-1.
I will not take it for Oscar Granted
that they will not come and kill my son.
We may have gotten ride of the nooses
but I still consider it lynching
when they murder black boys
and leave their bodies to rot in the sun,
as a historical reminder, that
there is something about being black in America that has made motherhood sound like…
m o u r n i n g
one morning I could wake up
and see my son
as a repeat of last week’s story.
I could wake up
and realize the death of my daughter wouldn’t even be newsworthy.
You can’t tell me Renisha McBride is the only black woman
whose violence deserved more than our silence,
what about our other dark skinned daughters in distress
we have yet to remember?
gender is not that great of a protector
if you come out of a body that looks like this,
there is something about being black in America that has made motherhood sound like…
s o m e t h i n g I ’ m n o t s u r e I l o o k f o r w a r d t o.
I have written too many poems about
to be naïve,
about the fact
that there could one day be a poem
written about my kids.
But I do not want to be a mother who gave birth
I do not want a stanza
for a son,
nor a line,
for a little girl,
I do not want children
who will live forever in the pages of poetry,
yet can’t seem to outlive
It Is Still Alive! Open letter to Mr. Raymell Ray Mourice Rice
by James Sears
Chivalry is not dead; but it is in the intensive care ward. Clearly my young brother, I have failed to set a better example of how a King treats his Queen. Furthermore, I failed to be a more visible role model for you to emulate.
The plight of the black man in America causes him to wake up three steps behind his competition. It also forces him daily to avoid multiple militarized local police departments and subjects him to wide spread sophisticated and professional racism propelled expertly by local and national media outlets. These issues and several others have caused many of us to misalign our priorities. Survival has been and continues to be our primary focus. We have systematically neglected families, education, social standing, and our moral accountabilities. My apologies to you young man, because these failures come to light every time you make a misstep.
I should have taught you to help her put on and take off her coat and I should have shown you that a King open all doors for ladies. By ladies, I mean, your mother, sisters, cousins, daughters, acquaintances, friends, and especially your wife.
I should have made sure you knew to always walk on the outside closer to traffic while allowing your female companion to walk in a more protected position. Even while sleeping with your significant other, you should rest in the spot closest to the door in order to better protect her.
If I would have been on my job, I would have taught you to never sit with your back to the door, so you may be better positioned to spot and react to threats to your loved ones. If we spent more time together, you would have learned to lead her down an escalator, but follow her up and I would have taught you to always lead your family in prayer.
Additionally, you should order her meal while out on the town. Never go out on a date if you are not prepared to pay for both meals. It is important that you say what you mean, mean what you say, and always keep your word.
Leaders never walk by a mistake without correcting it and real men bring home the bacon or they at least should keep a clean and secure home. Always put the toilet seat down and be ready to kill all bugs or spiders. Take out the trash, cut the grass, pump the gas, do your job, and it is very important that you know and speak her love language.
We cannot make up for all of this lost time in one letter, but this is a start. There are many things you need to learn, and I am ready to teach and to do my part. These things alone would not have prevented you from hitting your Queen, but we need to fix and build a solid foundation of mutual respect if you want your house to prosper into a home.
Remember, you are her protector, sounding board, best friend, companion, but never her attacker. Chivalry is not dead; it is in your hands young man, so please handle with care.
Hands up, Don’t Shoot
(in memory of Tamir Rice)
by Dan Wilcox
by Dan Wilcox
A cop pulled a gun on Tamir Rice
a young black boy in a playground
with a play gun — the cop
fired without waiting for Tamir
to put his hands up.
A cop pulled a gun on my son
a teenager someplace he
should not have been, with friends
with a pellet gun. The cop didn’t shoot.
My son put the gun down, stopped
being stupid. The cop put my son
on the ground, took him in.
A cop pulled a gun on Tamir Rice
shot him. A cop pulled a gun
on my son, didn’t shoot.
My son is white.
Between the State Sanctioned Murder of Your Son and Mine
by Tafisha Edwards