Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #9

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.


Muddy Waters
by Kai Coggin

"Muddy waters, let stand, becomes clear" - Lao Tzu

Maybe this is still the 
muddy water,
the dirt of ages,
the shame of mankind's unkindness,
the compilation of grievances
that stack like black stones,
building a wall that divides
the nation for one last time
before everything crumbles
and grows again,
grows new,
or is forever broken,
in pieces,

I cannot see through this, mud,
have no answers,
only feel the wail of another black mother
cut the sky in half with her loss,
rip the thunder from the clouds with her grief,
everything taken,
broken, destroyed, gone,
another son falling over the horizon into
a night that has lasted too damn long,
this swallowed down suffering,
this racism that was designed to look like life,
that was created to pass as normal society,
the status quo of another black life
erased from history,
while justice turns another blind eye.

Muddy waters,
yes, the waters are muddled
with tears
and stomping,
and screaming,
and rage,
and dissent,
and something's got to give,
the inevitable straw has broken the camel's back,
the weight, too heavy for far too long, 
the battle cries of black youth piggybacking
on the failed songs of King's and ancestors,
uprising, protesting, marching to the beat
of drummers with no hands,
cries that turn to ash and fade into the dust
of another morning mourning the death of another black son.

March, brothers and sisters,
take steps toward what may seem like revolution,
but is really just another circle
around the bottom run of a ladder that you
were always destined to hold up,
but never destined to climb.

March, brothers and sisters,
shout BLACK LIVES MATTER into the night,
through there is no real chance to sway the system
established for you annihilation,
designed for you casual degradation,
the weight of the black human soul perpetually
outweighed by the weight of white fear.

This can no longer be the reality.
This is not the reality we want for our children.
Our bones are all the same color
of stacked pieces making whole body.
Our hearts are all the same dark rich red
pumping machine of life, not death, same.
Our Spirits are all made of the same
brilliant, on-going LIGHT.

March, brothers and sisters,
I hear the hum of your chanting,
I feel the tremble in the earth
of collective footsteps from New York to LA,
and move my feet with you,
acing my living room like a caged lion,
heartbeat drumbeat banging
on the walls of this invisible prison system
of thoughts and ideas and prejudices and rewritten history
and our footsteps are telling the real stories,
and our footsteps
will muddy the waters,
no longer stand for injustice,
muddy the waters,
until the blood runs clear.


by Karla Cordero

There is demon between my eyes,
          a fanged beast, a nightmare in shadowed veils
who rips root from bone, some maniac killer of ancestry
          a cyclops stitching brown girl nicknames,
el diablo dressed in America.

There are wounded sparrows between my lips,
          a choir in shackles, broken beaks & rusted tongues, 
new scars behind feathered backs, caged=throats
          screaming for privilege, 
turns parrot color mocking a white kid's tune.

There is a kitchen-knife between my breasts,
          a blacksmith dimple, a village of spears howling
to mother moon, a razor lump, shaman chants
          between hillsides, blood on silver coin, a wealth
so rich in earth, men are always hungry to settle their flags.

There is a brushfire between my hips,
          a savage dance, matches shoved in sick children bellies,
cigarette torches & kerosene chimneys,
          a tumble weed on candle wick, lava ash & ghost cry,
how dangerous to burn alive before the fall.

There is a cemetery between my legs,
          a war bleeding over riverbanks, tombstones
for crippled grandmothers, lost bodies in high grass,
          sacred stone & orchards swaying gentle,
bullets, mud, cracked palms & prayer.

*Previously published in Acentos Review


by DuEwa Frazier

We walk proud
Unknowing targets
Of an untrained enemy
We talk strong
Unknowing targets
Of a serial vilifier
We run fast
Unknowing targets
Of a suspicious gaze
We duck low
Now knowing targets
Of a ruthless gunslinger
We are public enemy
#1, #2, #3 and #4 
We die conveniently,
Our blood lines the road
Of a dream never realized
Our cries trail in the wind
Begging to not be forgotten


Elegy for our Brown Boys
by JP Howard

(In Memory of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and for all our brown boys)

We bury you, gouged-out black eye staring back.
We remove your hoodie; cut barbed wire from round your neck,
place your mangled body on display.
Our mother's wails fill churches and funeral homes.
Ground swollen with our grief.

You, brown boy, looking like a grown man;
your teenage laugh swimming down the Tallahatchie River.
You let that eye out to wander.
You whistled. You pulled a hoodie over your head. 
You giggled nervously. You looked suspicious.
You looked like a grown man.

Your handsome smile freeze-framed.
This is how we carry you.
The tips of our mother fingers worn, tracing wallet-sized photos.
This is how we carry our brown boys.

*Originally published on The Operating System website as part of National Poetry Month in April 2013:


I. Can't. Breathe.
by Pandora Scooter

I can't breathe
Corruption is crushing me
I can't breathe
Apathy is erasing me
I can't breathe 
A history that won't let go is choking me
I can't breathe
But I can seethe
in this MSNBC/FOX NEWS blowhard air
Rush Limbaugh has $1500 product in his know-it-all hair
Rachel Maddow is looking down on me from her flying rainbow unicorn
No one's coming to my rescue
Cause they're more fascinated by making me into racist porn
Playing my murder - not death - over and over so everyone can get a good god damn look
At a nigger being took down
Slammed down to the ground
White bodies piled on top of me -
I. Can't. Breathe.
Racism is killing me.
Just like it's killing all of us who acknowledge it exists
None of this post-racist society bull-shit
While you're YouTube chokehold killing
The reality is chilling
What good are cop cams gonna do?
When a video of my murder doesn't move
And I can't breathe.
Cause 23 can't vote for justice
So it's now finally just us against just them
And that my friend, is an epic problem
'Cause we're supposed to be in this together
But I can't help but remember
that I Can't Breathe
And you're the one cutting off my air
And bunches of reds think that's fair
And bunches of blues are beyond despair
They're ready to fight
for my right
To Breathe


How to write a protest poem?
by Chandramohan S

(Inspired from William J. Harris)

A Ferguson protest poem
Should contain words of great restraint.
It should not contain words like

But words like
Affirmative action,
Bradley effect


Dear Brother:
by Janessa Robinson

I've never touched you, but I feel you
I've never looked into your eyes, but I see you I've never
even met you, but I know you

There are so many of you
So many who are not perfect, but good
So many taken from life before they could - live
And I mean truly live

Snatched from the arms of their mothers
Leaving only scars and pain of another lost brother
Ripped are the hearts of others
Witnessing tragedy for disobedience

Resistance, we'll have to be the epitome of Docile, we'll no 
longer be
Demarcation of power, we will eradicate And all for your

You can't hurt now, we CRY for you
You can't speak now, we CHANT for you, You can't walk
now, we MARCH for you 
You can't breathe now, we BREATHE for you

Because there are so many of us
So many who are not perfect, but good
So many yearning to be understood
So many learning to live
And I mean truly live
Live for you
Live for us
Live for our children

You are not here, we FIGHT for you

And there are so many of us
So many ready to lead and organize So many present to
So many who recognize - that we will revolutionize And
we all know the revolution will not be televised
I am telling you the revolution is here
We are the revolution

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