Thursday, January 22, 2015

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #11

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

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.


by Karla Cordero

Before the sun laid its hands across
cornfields, before men & straw hats picked cabbage

my mother's womb rivered me into this world
screaming thunder.

I was born with a back made of bricks,
a mouth full of tumbleweed & desert cactus.

skin so tan
it wrapped around my bones like sweet caramel

Mother prayed for me
plucked rosary beads for fourteen hours.

Afraid of this world
where little girls with broken English

forget how to speak
their way back to their mother's dinner table.

Where colors
brown & blood sound too familiar at funeral

This world waiting
for baptism to break the flames.

Mother still prays to every moon, every ocean
to swallow my body.

Asking Noah's flood to shatter my lungs
hoping chaos

never knocks at my door
begging for a glass of water.


by Amy Grace Lam

I came into the world to bear witness to the suffering of humanity.
And there is great suffering in the world.
And yes, the world has been unjust to the just.

But I have learned that with time EVERYthing changes.
Just as the seasons and the years and decades change.
So do our tides. 

And we progress. And evolve. And shift.
Not in one fell swoop.
But on the backs of the change in each one of our hearts.

Change is in each one of us. In the small moments when we say:
Yes, I see you. Yes, you do exist.
We do not need to me MLK Jr., Malcolm X, or even JFK.

Nor Dolores Huertas, Yuri Kochiyama, nor Grace Lee Boggs
said that evolution is the revolution
and change is in each one of us.

And these great moments, they start with the moment
of one small shift in you that makes a shift in me
that ignites a flame in her that shifts the entire world.

These shifts start with moments we have made together.
Moments which bring our souls together.
What are moments made of?

A smile to a neighbor.
A dollar to a stranger.
An afternoon conversation at the corner store bodega.

And with each touch between you and me,
a moment does grow bigger, don't you see?
So what are moments made of?

A caring shoulder to cry on. A witness to my pain.
The gluten-free carob chip cookies you baked.
And yes, that wonderful 3-mile walk around the lake.

That's what moments are made of.
We reach and we heal.
We meet and we feel.

What are moments made of?
Our tries, and our let's. Our hearts, hopes, our bests.
Yes, moments are made on the backs of love.

A love for you and love for me.
Of course, it is the love for our children that sets us free.
For we are the moment and the moment is we.

BUT wait, what the moment really asks is for me to me me.
And in our struggle to set the whole wide world free,
we find that the answer from the world is...

First, child,
you must set yourself


You can get killed just for living in your American skin*
by Susan Roche

But I can't.

Michael Eric Victor and Yvette
you did
Larry Jordan Johnnie and Wendell
you did
Miriam McKenzie Andy and Tamir
you did

follow this trail of
stilled American blood

You were killed
standing with your hands by your side
asking for help after your car crashed
riding your bike
fleeing from robbers
opening your front door
running to your mother

One hundred and thirty-seven

a body can hold so many bullets
but mine does not have to

they chased tackled choked and tasered you
they rammed in to you with their car
they shot you in the back of the head

but not me

because I am invisible
invisible alive and abashed
by the extra seconds
by the life-preserving seconds
by the benefit of the doubt they offer me
by the benefit of the doubt they confer upon me
without even knowing that they do

From inside my invisible American skin
I track the spoor of your spattered blood
searching for the seconds before the firing of bullets
before the firing of bullets
how is safe passage conferred?

I search for sign

*Bruce Springsteen, lyrics to "41 Shots," 1999, to honor Amadou Diallo, killed by police.


by Netfa Freeman

"My name is _______ and we welcome you here today.
We hope you all listen because we have something to say.

I am the youth, here with others my age.
We're the caretakers for tomorrow. So clear off the stage.

With respect for the old, we'll bring in the new.
We'll learn all we can and teach a bit too.

What we want for the future are not selfish things.
We want the world peace that justice brings.

We are the youth who will make the world better.
We'll do it with truth, right down to the letter.

From boys to men and from girls to women,
All things must change. This is a given.

What we want grown-ups to know,
is that we are not afraid to rise.

Because we know we can do it,
with you on our side."


State of the Nation
by Ifetayo Al-Din

there is
blood on the leaves
we are being deceived
perceiving this as reality
while we're seen as fruit
hanging on a forbidden tree
i'm questioning the story of christianity
because the garden of eden has a stench of curiosity
commonly seen in the culture of white supremacy
pay attention
this wasn't innovation
it was a mockery of ma'at's principles
better yet, a robbery
rewriting and renaming our culture
this was the beginning of black casualties
& now we casually follow the
blinded by the material aspects in society
woe is me
i'm just voicing this tragedy
i'm not the voice of this tragedy
we have a choice but it's tragic how we can't see
they ask if i'm a revolutionary
no, i'm just black
& i see evolution as the only solution in this situation
annihilation of this crabs in a bucket system
i'm sure they're laughing like
"everybody got it but them"
competing with our own brethren
like we aren't coming out the womb fighting a war for our lives already
our mindsets are premature
uplifting has became unfamiliar
like the family
so i pray to god that we aren't too far gone
trying to stay optimistic
but it's not my strong suit
so i pray to god that he keeps me strong
as pigs are paid to plaster my people's blood on concrete
and my people are longing to be apart of the black elite
they need their seat next to the oppressors
forgetting about the rest of us
but me
i simply want freedom
own my own everything
bring back the black wall street
create a new society
i'm tired of these "solutions" mirroring pacification
bus boycotts ended
but we were still barely allowed an education
i'm a broken record of laurence fishburne
at the end of a spike lee joint
yelling wake up

i just hope somebody can hear me
over the gunshots that are killing radio raheems
how can anybody love this country
have a conscience
& not hate themselves
but i guess that idea is obsolete
they want us to hate ourselves
saying 'be yourself'
but preaching assimilation
welcome to our great nation
continually desisting the blacks of each generation
while widening the generation gap
what happened to the malcom-xs
& don't give me denzel washington when i ask for him
we need something genuine
& i know some may be taken
but no offense
like when so many minorities are arrested
there was no offense
but we're fighting a judicial system that wasn't meant to include us
i mean these were slave codes
it was purposely built to exclude us
the only real culture in this country
is capitalism
and i'm from the nation's capitol
which was once the murder capitol
but they still murdering for capital
calling us gangsters, thugs & thieves
like we're the ones who killed & condemned native americans to reservations
after we stole their country
like we're the ones who penetrated a culture
like we're the ones who stole a people
like we're not the ones who built this country on our backs
while feeling every lash we received from the whips on our backs
while our women had to lie on their backs
i have to take it back
because it's hard to understand the state of this nation
without our story
this pain has been hanging over our heads for far too long
a willie lynch letter story
like my brothers with the rope neck ties
hanging from the forbidden trees
i'm just tired of seeing blood on the leaves


Same Difference
            -- a Difficult Friends on Facebook poem
by Simone Roberts 

Her emptying heart, it’s the same difference each time.
Mommas’ faces go dark, bodies close up
around a son’s name, a daughter’s name -- no child to wrap around.
It’s the same difference, this American refrain,
this back beat we refuse to stop dancing to.

            been shot
            not armed

Mommas’ bodies close up with no child to wrap around,
and the story we tell is the same and different,
that black people are terrifying,
that brown people are time bombs,
that black and precious only applies to pearls and candy.

            been shot
This beat-black makes a city line a front line,
sings its quiet song in the holstered guns of police
trained in fear, armed for war against citizens
suspect all, and more and more so
for the same and different
reason every time.

            loud music
            been shot

This should not get easier.
This been shot, black, not armed, 12 year old,
skittles and a hoodie, dad at Walmart buying
the same different toy gun, the woman
on the porch not in all the trouble yet,
been shot, brown, not precious
like a pearl or candy, dead as wood,
the same difference every time.

reached for a phone  
            been shot

The same and different history strangers us,
lets distance feel like reason, like clarity.
The difference between clarity and reality
is a history of the police never, not for a minute, on your side.

            not aware of surroundings
            been shot

So, when you post they shouldn’t have been there,
they shouldn’t have said, they shouldn’t have done, they --

look at all that fire, all that damage

-- but you don’t mean the fire at the child, the damage to the family,
because they are they and we know how to be:

you dance to the song sung by bullets
in the same holstered gun,
you close the different momma’s body,
her emptying heart,
around this clear reality,
her dead child.
This should not get easier for you.


I Can’t Breathe
by Majid Naficy

In Memory of Eric Garner

“I can’t breathe!
I can’t breathe!”
What a painful statement!
For the first time
I heard it from my own tongue.
I jumped from my sleep in panic
And ran toward my dad’s bedroom
He put my head
On his chest,
Caressed my face
And said: “Majid!
Be calm!
Be calm.”

Today I hear that statement
From the tongue of a black man on YouTube Who is being choked Held by a
white policeman.
No one puts the black man’s head
On his chest,
Caresses his face
And says: “Eric!
Be calm
Be calm.”

Hundreds of years of slavery,
Hundreds of years of brutality
Press on the black man’s throat
And do not let White America
Hear his voice:
“I can’t breathe!
I can’t breathe!”


Found Poem: For Trayvon
by JP Howard

The man in the video
had no intention
of target practice.
He confirmed:
a company offered for sale a target,
a faceless silhouette
wearing a hoodie,
his hands in his pockets,
one of which was holding two objects.
These objects were non-threatening.
The target was acting suspiciously.
His faceless silhouette was a novelty.
The man shot the silhouette in self-defense.
His intentions have been misunderstood.
He didn’t think it was appropriate
for “a no-shoot situation.”
Authorities confirm the target was unarmed.
He was a silhouette,
wearing a hoodie,
his hands in his pockets,
holding two non-threatening objects.
He bore a likeness to Trayvon.

*The words in this poem are taken from an ABC News article entitled: “Trayvon Martin Shooting Targets Were ‘No-Shoot’ Tools, Fired Cop Says” | Link to article:

*Found Poem for Trayvon was originally published in Issue 1 of Sibling Rivalry Press’ print journal, Adrienne: A Poetry Journal of Queer Women in January 2014. Link to website:


He fell on his knife
by Chandramohan S

A teenager
Ventured out in the twilight
Of the Jim Crow era
Shot dead unceremoniously,
An unemployed
Roadside vendor
Smothered with choke hold,
They all fell on their knives.

The jury washed the blood
Of indictment
Off the knives.


by Donna Katzin

Three days before Thanksgiving                                                               
another white officer walked free
after shooting another unarmed black teen --                                                                   
his killing not even a crime.

The National Guard in riot gear
twelve hundred strong
could not sweep marchers from the streets,
hands in the air, signs screaming
Stop killing our children.

They could not stop the fire, broken glass,
police cars rocked with rage, could not
clear the sit-in from Rahm Emanuel’s office,
pepper spray the people from neighborhoods in Portland,
staunch the rallies that rivered through Baltimore, Boston
and across the bridge to Brooklyn.

And all the boys in baseball caps,
girls with bare heads frizzing in the wind,
grandmothers with photos in their hands,
men with sons in their hearts, could not
bring back one chocolate-skin child
to the arms of the woman who raised him
152 years after the Emancipation Proclamation
in the United States of America.

They remembered
Patrick Moses Dorismond
Nicholas Heyward
Ramarley Graham
Tamon Robinson
Ousmane Zongo
Trayvon Martin
Michael Brown
Amadou Diallo
Tim Stansbury
Rodney King
Kimani Gray
Eric Garner
Tamir Rice
Jim Crow

… but could not remember what
to be thankful for.

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