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 offered our blog as a Virtual Open Mic, open to all who responded to our call for Poems that Resist Police Brutality and Demand Racial Justice. The poems below were submitted in response to that call. All of the submitted poems in this and previous posts were delivered to the Department of Justice on January 23, 2015 and the call for submissions is now closed. To see photos of the reading, demonstration and delivery of the poems, visit Split This Rock's Flickr account.
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.
Unconstitutional Grill America’s Unconstitutional
Justice for Joy
by Delroi Williams
Full of the self importance given by a number and rank
Enforced by legislation designed to deny the right to reside
In a land built on the sweat of her peers and foreparents
Supported by 500 years of might is right, ignorance rules OK!
Yuh push she down
Gag she mouth
Till blackout! Blackout!
Blacks out! Blacks out!
Another case warranting closer inspection
Fails the detection of truth. Court codes
Spell remorseless, one more less, no rest
For you people, this place is just a sojourn
Well jus in case yuh feelseh
We’d ah let it pass
Don the mask of silence forget
Fullness, watch this space
One beautiful race together in joy to overcome the sorrow of a
A campaign to end the veins of our family being cut any more
To heal the scars of your society’s mad and vain attempt to stop the black
From flowing, every growing, changing this sad cold place into
Little St Kitts
We still ah come!
Echoes the cries of children deprived of mothers
Mothers deprived of sons, sisters deprived of brothers
Brothers deprived of brothers, sisters, fathers, sons and mothers
We still ah come!
An’ any fool know the rule of law;
A Jamaican woman’s home is fe’she yard
Nuh badda enter widout a welcome
An’ nuh raise yuh voice, muchless yuh han’
Only a pig would ignore this, insist she leave, without due cause
That her resistance was excessive, warranted a dumb death
Another stifled voice on the other side of the waters
But we’ll neva stop beat feet to de riddim
Sing songs of remembrance until we receive Justice for Joy
*Note: Joy Gardner was killed by police, by being bound and gagged, at her home in, London, England, 1983. The Police had tried to serve a a deportation notice, as she had overstayed her visa. When Ms. Gardner resisted the police forcibly gagged and bound her with 13 ft. of tape, leading her to fall into a coma, from which she later died.
There was a gun
By Camisha L. Jones
There was a gun
There was a cop
There was a Black boy
The Black boy had no gun
The Black boy had
The Black boy had enough
For the cop to be afraid
The Black boy ran
The Black boy ran
The Black boy ran
The cop chased
The cop was not chased
The cop had
The cop had fear
It leaned into his car
Ugly words all in its mouth
Strong arms bruising his thinking
About the boy
The cop said
The kid’s hands were thieves
The kid’s hands were violent
The kid’s hands forgot how history brands itself with new names
At the trigger of white men’s fear
They say that evidence
That evidence is fact
They say the boy is dead
And that is a fact
They say the cop had a right to deadly force
And that is another kind of fact
They never say
The boy was afraid
That fear put running in his legs
They say the child with no gun
Rushed toward the cop
And the cop saw the darkest brutality
Growing in the guilt of his skin
They say the kid forgot
What his momma taught him ‘bout
Black boys and police officers
They say the cop had a right to his fear
No one is sure where the boy’s hands were
Some say the boy
Had his hands up
Had his hands over his head
Had his hands in front of him,
Palms up, ready to receive
What we know is
His hands were his hands
His hands had nothing in them
His hands couldn’t hold him to this life
What we know is
The cop was afraid
And the kid was
The cop held his fear
Like the weapon it is
In this land of liberty and amnesia
And the gun
It knew the boy
Like any precious prey
by Bob McNeil
Near the counter,
One seat away from a guy named Uncle Sam,
I sat in
Notorious for its discrimination special.
Recollections took my psyche traveling
Throughout gripped and whipped generations.
I remembered Sam’s culture-ramming family
Capturing my kin
And reducing them to abused horses
In a round pen.
My temper went from a semiautomatic pistol
To a ballistic missile.
My anger could have leveled
Right before my left was going to punch Sam
So his teeth would meet a dirt heap
Beneath some table’s feet,
Noncaucasian children came in.
They ordered cheeseburgers.
A sour-cream-demeanoured waitress,
Wearing a hairnet,
Said, “The Grill did not get
The School Budget Tomato Sauce yet.”
Judging from the way
Their liveliness took a graveyard turn,
Noncaucasian children did learn
Unconcern made their meals burn.
According to other Noncaucasian patrons,
There was not much pepper
In the House and Senate stew.
Noncaucasian patrons spat discontent
Over the cop-frisked pork biscuits
Accompanying assorted penal-smelly vittles.
Seconds from leaving
America’s Unconstitutional Grill,
Despite my refusal to select a speck,
The waitress tossed me a check.
After I tabulated
I told the ashy cashier,
“Get the damn owners to atone
And reimburse for every year
My people spent here.”
Black Lives Matter
by Liliana Hernandez
It’s 2015 and I want to stop counting
The names of all those that we have lost
The travyon martin,
In unnecessary murders committed by the police.
I want to stop counting that
There were 593 people killed by police last year
And 108 homicides in DC.
Its time to stop counting and to start demanding accountability
We have taken to the streets, closed traffic on the 14th st bridge, blocked trains in Baltimore, paraded on the streets of all the major cities in this nation
Stating Black Lives matter
This is our time to stand up
to count every voice to say
why black lives matter
because we are here today to change this world
we are going to fight to get guns off of our street, drugs out of our community,
we are going to fight to hold all citizens accountable for murder, including the police,
we will stand up to the NRA and say more guns are not the answer.
We will stand up to our city officials and demand affordable housing and homes for all our homeless that are on the city streets
And we will demand from all businesses that living wage jobs are available to all DC residents.
This is our time to stand up and make our voice heard
Because its 2015, and I’m done with counting the names of the lives we have lost.
It’s 2015, and we will love all our young black and brown brothers and sisters, and we will create communities of courage that we are all proud to live in.
It’s 2015, and its time to make our voices heard.
“This movie can’t be about race.” - Danez Smith
It can’t be about the Black teen with dreams and aspirations born in the wrong neighborhood.
It can’t be about the sexy Latina who is never going to become a doctor because she is just a sex image.
It can’t be about African American children growing up without their fathers.
It can’t be about Black people and Latinos fighting over streets and white people living in gated communities.
It can’t be about family problems because of an interracial relationship.
by Jai-Anna Carter
“I want a scene where a cop car gets pooped on by a Pterodactyl, a scene where the corner store turns into a battle ground.” - Danez Smith
Why should my brother be shot down at the local corner store, whether by police or an unmindful being. Every life counts. Put your guns away & save your bullets for nourishment, make this a memorable one, go to the corner store & offer advice, something to save a life, even the binge drinker will listen, the cashier with five kids making ends meet will listen, the young boy who is surrounded by gangs will listen, just my brother will listen, that young boy who could be you, giving advice one day.
We are who we see
Thick hips, long legs
Long hair, manicured feet
Strong Black woman on the outside
Weak little girls on the inside
The Big Screen depicts skewed views
Society accepts what is viewed
The stereotypes of loud, ignorant
As for aspiration, they haven’t a clue
We are more than what you see on the big screen
We can better influence our young
Better roles in Hollywood is a start
But it all starts at home
Let’s start building better black women from the inside out.
Why do people judge by the color of people’s skin? Why not judge by their compassion & life?
Why kill them because of their skin? Why kill them for things worth killing them for; killing,
stealing & other stuff.
A man once told me “Let freedom ring!”
so let it ring.
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