Friday, January 23, 2015

Poems that Resist Police Brutality & Demand Racial Justice - Post #12

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.


I Can’t Breathe Either
by Gregory Luce

in this blue-white air
on the white sidewalk.
Time for a white [privilege] sale:
wrap it up in yellow tape
shove it into a chalk outline
use the proceeds to buy up
the bullets and nightsticks
and turn them into buttons
and furniture and toys.


The American mythology
by Chandramohan S

After dark
Black boys are perceived as 
danger to society,
the rage of a colorblind
Oxen at the sight of crimson.


by Derick Ebert

Hunters will set up blinds
In woods
So the prey
Being hunted
Will get used to what seems foreign.
I wonder
If they know their getting used to
Their killer

We are accustomed
As ammo aimed
At angels
All around

Will patrol cities
So the civilians
Feel safe
Within the community,
Although the ones
Protecting you,
Look nothing like you,
I wonder
If they know their getting use to
Their killer

Born beautiful,
Blackness battles back
Bad behavior,
But bloody background
Bottles black bodies
Because bullets blast
Brothers being broken
By beast bearing blue

That’s a lot of B’s
But bear with me

If life is a game,
And we are its game
Then who the hell
Are the hunters?
The ones with guns,
And a disguise
That pledges
And blue
Wanting to see us bleed red
Our shooter white,
And our hands go blue

African Americans
As animals

Black boys,
Bruised, by
And I know
I said I would stop with the damn B’s
But after B comes C
I C coffins
Carrying colored
Before bodies
Are in them

I guess,
Killing blacks are as
Easy as
See like
Dark fruit is nice
But police
Would rather see the juice
Spilling from your veins

It makes me realize,
That I don’t want to be
Good at math
I don’t want to be good
At making a statistic

But what
Else can
We expect
When the city
Is an equation
And we
Are the problem
They are desperately
Trying to solve

While their son’s backs
Meet beds
In the middle of the night
My brother’s backs
So don’t ask me
How’s it feel to paint the town red
Cause I know souls
That can tell you

You dream of Freddy
Or Jason chasing you

I dream of running
From cops
To stay alive

The only difference
Is that
When I wake up
Those dreams
Still follow

Down dark streets,
Into gated communities,
And even to my own front porch

PETA loves protecting endangered animals
So when will
Someone protect
Black children

When will
Be given
My rights

Instead of having
Them read to me

Instead of tattooing pieces
Of paper
To write poems
About problems
You know exist

We use ink
To draw
Because you can find peace in heart
By making pieces of art

The word unity
Has been replaced by prison
So the community
Has no value
Just common
Traits of jails

And no
I have never been there
Nor has Eric Garner,
Or Michael Brown
Or Jonathan Garret
Lost in translation
Because police
Don’t speak
When we say innocent
With hands pointed towards the sky
Like we want God to take us
Before the bullet does

But it’s bigger than that,
Bigger than a few names.
We make profit off these prophecies
Like we did with Trayvon
When will we be with the movement
And not the moment

Like when I leave my house,
It’s like I’m going to another cell block,
Constantly being watched
When did looking like a criminal
And being one
Become the exact same thing

Cause if I stray too far
From my boundaries
You’ll find-these
In a casket

I don’t know when I will die
But Take a picture
It’ll last longer than
The life expectancy
Of black children
In the city

So when you hold the barrel
Of your lens at their face
Like the crater
You are aiming at can
Swallow bullets just like
It swallows
Ever second sirens
Just remind them
To smile

Cause if they gunned me down,
What picture would they use of me?
Would they make me look like an animal?
Or who I actually am?


Police Raid the Show Under the Bridge, May 2012
by Karen Lillis

From high ground, I watched you surrender to a ladycop
while two young women were pushed to the asphalt
and roughly cuffed, hands behind their backs.
More uniforms were chasing the guitar player across Liberty Ave
while some copper shoved the comedian towards the paddy wagon
and the accordionist was folded into the back of the squad car
with his squeezebox still strapped across his ribcage.

Moments before,
we’d been folk dancing
among the bike punx and the straight edge
and I wondered what was more perfectly Pittsburgh:
shimmying to a Balkan brass band under a midnight bridge
in a full moon glow on May Day
or the VU cover band we’d seen the previous evening
Andy Warhol smirking down from his grave
How does it feeeel
to be loooooved?

Three songs into Balkan gypsy,
bright headlights flashed on, and I knew.
Cops, baby, let’s GO. I thought you were right
behind me, but I was mistaken. Instead,
the cops had cops behind them. Quick on the heels
of the first car, two more cars drove up, then two more, then two
more, then two more, so fast and so many that I could no longer count.
I wondered what terrible crime they thought
they were responding to. I wondered
what actual crime they were missing
by raining down on the music lovers
after park curfew.

It looked like a scene
out of West Side Story or Jungleland
a cliché decades out of date.
Only, the Sharks were the cops and their K9s
and the Jets weren’t fighting back.
The Sharks said: WALK AWAY. Walk Away Faster.
You’re Coming With Us. Who’s in Charge Here?
You Fucking Idiots Are Going to Jail. I Don’t Have
to Give A Fucking Warning. Everybody Stay Here.
GO. GO NOW. Back Up or Get Pepper Sprayed. Tell
Your Friends I Could Shoot Them All If I Wanted To.
I’m Going to Bash Her Fucking Head In. WALK AWAY,
MISTER. Sit down on the curb and put your hands up.
What the Jets said to land themselves 26 hours in county jail:
Stop, You’re Hitting My Friend Too Rough.

Before I left you for the night
I yelled, “I LOVE YOUUUUUU!”
from up high on the bridge behind the chain link
to you breathless below on the sidewalk
and then I really felt like Maria
or Marlon Brando.
Sirens continued screaming in your direction
as I ran uphill to our house
to sleep alone.

Nine arrests, 31 citations, and a few weeks later
the Zone Commander invited us
for a de-escalating chat at the Precinct.
He told us he grew up in the South Hills, a young thug
turning over cars, finding trouble, trading fisticuffs
with the local police.
Tent said it as we drove away: The cops and the criminals,
they’re just two sides of the same rotten coin. But us freaks,
we’re the ones they really hate—people who still think
for themselves, people who don’t play their games, people
who keep asking the persistent questions.


The Muse is Marvin
by Rebecca Villarreal
with gratitude to Marvin Gaye

What’s going on?
What’s going on?
Marvin serenaded the mothers
too many of us crying
last words separated by six degrees
open palms
manos arriba
these are suns
these are our sons
Om Shanti
feel it at the base of your spine
Iyanla invites
forgive everyone for everything

undo angels
undo hairs on end
fashion forward fear
ask the family for a bowl of soup
in it read your fortune
someone gave birth to him
someone gave birth to you
only your mama’s not crying
brother, brother, brother
there’s far too many of you dying
we’ve got to find a way.


Know Justice, Know Peace
by Anna Laura Grant

“No justice, no peace!”
“No justice, no peace!”
I join the chorus of protest marching down DC’s streets,    
surrounded by others who are angry, ashamed and awakened
by the heartbreak, hurt and hatred
choking our country.  

I look at a mother’s eyes,
I hear her cries and empathize.
What can we do to save these lives?
So many victims of brutality,
children being killed  ‘cause they don’t look like me.

I breathe deep. I pray for an answer.
And it comes.

I think if there’s hope for our society,   
the change must start individually.
We’ve got to k-n-know justice  
for peace to be a possibility.

So what does it mean, this justice?

It was time for an exploration, seeking a philosophical explanation.
and I knew just who to ask…
My intellectual curiosity
led me to a fellow teacher who explained to me,
“You see, Ms. Grant the ancients believed
true justice existed in the midst of harmony,
creating foundations of our morality.
Pillars forever outside of man,
yet inside of man,
architecture for our humanity.”

So, if these are balanced within us, there is hope for peace.
It starts with you.

Make it right within,
then look around and see.
There’s more that connects us than you thought originally.
So instead of referring to an Other,
I call you sister, neighbor, brother.

I honor your history.     
I respect your religion.
I admire your age.
I learn your language.
I celebrate your skin.

Your heart still beats like mine.
You’ve got a soul divine.
And so I see how you are me,
and I am you.

Injustice to you affects my harmony,
an intimately intertwined human destiny.
Though at times we may disagree,       
what happens to you matters to me.
Because sister,            
we are one.

Now if the police could think like me,       
would there be a more peaceful society?      
Then justice would “roll down
like mighty waters,”
taking over hearts.
We’d become humanized,
with human eyes.
You see?
Change the individual and you change the world.    

So in this season of love and contemplation,
Become the hope in the face of tribulation.
I challenge you…
to see each other as connected human souls.
to find beauty, truth and goodness inside us all,
hidden as it may be.     

Then you’ll KNOW justice and KNOW peace,  
allowing human love to release       
inside of you,
inside of me,
filling our hearts and
twisting separations into coexisting fate.

And when a heart is full of Love,
there is not room for hate.       


Reverse Garland Cinquain for Trayvon
by JP Howard

I wish I didn't have to write
about you in past tense
once again, so

your story is too familiar
we keep returning here
this pain should not

Today you should be in your school
Your parents’ next visit
should not be your

Until there is justice I will
wrap you in my stanzas
cradle your name

we will not forget your trip home
beautiful son man-child
let us repeat
your name

Your story is so familiar
When your parents’ visit
let them cradle
your name.

*Reverse Garland Cinquain for Trayvon was initially published The Best American Poetry Blog in February 2013:


Pantoum Chant For Ferguson:  20 Miles a Day
by Angela Consolo Mankiewicz

The marchers march on, twenty miles a day
to Jefferson City, the latest Selma.
They trudge through the years, they know the way
from fifty years past, twenty more miles

to Jefferson City, the latest Selma.
Where will we be - who will we be
in fifty more years? After twenty more miles,
child of today, what will you see?
Where will we be? Who will we be?
Dreamers redeemed? Roads without lives without sticks without stones?
Or, child of today, is what you will see 
the night chanting names on slicked over roads
trudging through years, knowing the way;
still dreaming and marching, twenty miles a day.


Black Lives Matter
by Papi Kymone Freeman

Black lives matter when we shopping, in other people's stores
Black lives matter when we singing and dancing
Black lives matter on the basketball court
Black lives matter on the football field, until you get carried off the field
Black lives matter when they in uniform
Black lives matter in private prisons
Black lives matter in the boxing ring
Black lives matter when slaves were sold
But it don’t 
mean a thing at the wrong end of a white cop’s gun
Or choke hold
Cause then, black lives don’t matter
Forensic pathologist expert testimony don’t matter
Unconstitutional statues hand fed to hand picked grand jury don’t matter
A community of witnesses don’t matter
Being unarmed don’t matter
Videotaped murder don’t matter
A Black attorney general don’t matter
A Black president don’t matter
No justice no indictment no remorse no revenge 
In a system that pretends that #BlackLivesMatter

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