In the wake of the murder of Alston Sterling and not even a full 24 hours later Philando Castille, the world is shook. Oh, no, that’s wrong. Black America is shook and no one else seems to understand why. The same sympathies and support that were given to the victims in the devastating tragedy tragedy in Orlando, Florida are little to none in the case of our Black men, our Black boys.
It hurts and irritates the hell out of my soul knowing that the country that my little brother is out here protecting, won’t protect him when he comes back dressed in regular civilian clothes. I look at my baby brother who is only eight and doesn’t even understand the target he has on his back. I think of my own father and what I would do (not what I might do) if he was laid there out in the street, body not even cold before I have to start hearing some made up bullshit about how he lived his life.
My mother when she’d come home from work after a long day, she’d say, “I’m tired. And I’m tired of being tired.” She’d laugh then, with her high pitched chuckle I often miss. But we’re not laughing. And we really are sick and tired of seeing our people lay slaughtered in streets without any regards to the life that they lived and could have lived.
I’ve been up half the night because I haven’t been able to sleep. I’m tired. I’m afraid. I’m disgusted. I’m mad as hell. I’m confused and don’t what to do. What can I do?
I can write. I can use my voice.
This here poem is something that I’ve been working on for almost five years, very well not be completely finished. But I feel the need to share. Inspired by Jamaica Kincaid and the countless of lives being taken away from here far too soon (Tamir Rice just missed his 14th birthday!). I don’t have children, so I can only imagine the instruction that a mother today gives her Black son. I imagine that the discipline and guidance she gives may seem overbearing, overprotective and erratic but only because of her underlying fear of one day seeing her black boy in the street. The question I ask is, how do you talk to your young boys about the value of life, when their’s gets taken away?
Iron your clothes Sunday night; brush yo teeth before going to school; don’t be talking to no teachers with no stank breath; this is how you keep a nice and sharp crease in your pants; a balanced breakfast is the most important meal of the day; be careful not to spill any orange juice on yo clothes; don’t you go out there giving these people any reason to look at you differently; I heard you been trying to skip school with that boy from across the street; this is how ya walk with dignity; I hope you not out here skipping school; don’t look so menacing; stay away from some of these females; but I don’t be skippin school; keep that beautiful smile on your face; I ain’t one of ya lil friends; be careful how you look at these people; this how you tie a tie appropriately and so prevents you on the thug you trying to be; where are yo books; I wish I could of taught you how to fish; don’t you be talking back to no one; I love you; read those books yo daddy gave you; don’t be bringing no babies up in this house; don’t be smack talking none of these people and maybe they won’t see the thug that you think you are; don’t be out at all hours of the night; go out and find yourself a nice decent job and don’t be out here on these streets; keep these dishes and this house cleaned; if you just got to be out – yo curfew is 9:00 pm; do you know how to fish; when taking out the garbage make sure you don’t arch your back; don’t lose your temper around these people; you sound like your father; don’t give these people no attitude; your voice so deep and heavy; don’t speak so loud; listen closely to those of your elders and to these people; you don’t know everything; some things in this world just don’t make sense; you think you all that with that basketball, huh; don’t be so money-hungry; idle hands are the devil’s background; don’t be in such a hurry to understand these people; they barely understand themselves; don’t be a walking contradiction; your eyes are always full of such wonder of this world; don’t keep your hands in your pockets for too long while talking to these people out here; turn down that riff-raff you call music giving these people a reason to pull you over; you so damn beautiful boy; don’t be out here staring these people down; I heard you bought a gun; pull up your pants and tuck in your shirt; keep yo hands where their eyes can see that you are a young boy and not the thug they believe you to be; be honest; keep your fists unclenched being careful about how you defend yourself because these people are quick to see you as the aggressor; having a gun will make you the thug I have instructed you not to be; no, you cannot go over yo lil friend’s house, the people always up over there; you gotta stay out of places like that; these people always disrespecting us; don’t let petty things get you so riled up; I see it in your eyes the thug you are soon to become; don’t walk too quickly in neighborhoods where there’s not a lot of us; what you doing giving these people reason to treat you like the thug I’ve instructed you not to be; what if I stand up for myself and demand the respect I deserve; you mean after all I’ve told you, you’re still going to end up murdered by these people like your father?