Poetry Corner: A Chance’s Ballad

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Ms. Dyson, I wanna believe but how am I supposed to have faith when I walk in these streets.
vacos, hookers and needles
Everything around me was designed to defeat me.
Yea I hear what you saying and trust that you’re true but none of that is helping me deal with the constant red and blue.
The pop pop pow
That’s as common as music.
Normalized.
I can’t function in this state of calm you’re pushin’.
You’re intentions are good but your advice to walk away from the war that is my life might get me killed.
See conflict is not just a conflict.
Conflict is life.
Just like war, street conflicts speak dollars and these dollars put food on the table.
Ms. Dyson, I know you wouldn’t want me to abandon my family.
These dreams you speak of and hopes you have for me…
There no room for.
Dreaming is selfish.
No room for dreams in the hood.

Can’t even dream in my sleep
You’re always poking me
“Not in my room” you say
Then where?
How many times I gotta tell you I gotta a family to feed
And I’m only 16 so not too many tryna pay me
Its aight tho
I learned young not to depend on no one.
The hustle is the only constant.
Can’t do my kinda hustle under the eye of the sun
And to protect what’s mine sometimes I have to use my…
Well, I don’t want you to see me that way.

Would you believe me if I said I don’t want to be bad?
Do you think God hears me when I tell him I’m sad?

What kinda God would let so many innocent people struggle?

Not my God.

Where I’m from, you gotta be your own God

And sometimes someone else’s.

Life and death lies in the index finger.

Mine is on the trigger

But Ms. Dyson believe when I say I wanna be a better person.

I do some fucked up things

But I believe the means justify the ends.

Maybe I won’t be shit

But lil sister…

She’ll be a queen.

Inspired by books and classy things.

My baby Bro

Won’t ever know the struggle of poisoning his own.

No hope for me except my hopes for them.

So I sacrifice

So they can be

Be better

Be happy

Hell anything that requires them to be… here

The world I mean.
Ms.Dyson did you hear about the murder today?

Walked out the door and I saw the crime scene tape on display/

Not even 7am and it’s already hot.

It makes me sick

Knowing that nigga coulda been me.

Pure or corrupt

We all have targets on our backs.

Keep ya back against the wall so you see the threats coming
I wanna be everything you say I can be

But that kinda success means jumping blindly.

Do you think I can afford blind faith?
You say everything thing worth having is worth fighting for.

Well, I’m fighting for my life.

But maybe just maybe you’re right

Look, If I make it through another night

If I can walk down one block without getting shot

I’ll reach for the stars you talk about.

I’ll be somebody special you can brag about.
Bang bang pop.
Ms. Dyson…

just say you’ll never forget who I was

Not the thug the news will describe me as

Know that I wanted everything we talked about

Just feels like I was never given the . . .

Just feels like life stole my . . .

Just feel like this bullet just ended my . . .

chance.

 

 

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*This poem is not to be republished. 

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Black Mizzou: We Are The Elite


The University of Missouri, better known as Mizzou, has a sea of problems.  The biggest problem being systemic and blatant racism, classism, and gender based violence.  My alma mater has been in the news over the last few years and few of the reports are positive.  

I graduated in December 2012.  I spent 3 and ½ years actively working against campus and community racism and sexual and domestic violence against women.  I was involved passionately in the school’s NAACP, RSVP (Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention), LBC (black student government) and more.  So while recent news seems to be ‘exposing’ how oppressive Mizzou has become, it has always had those elements.  Mizzou’s first accept black student, Lloyd Gaines, subsequently went missing after his lawsuit (Read about Gaines Now).  My point is, this is nothing new. (check out my old blog from the college days).

Students of color who choose to go to PWIs (predominantly white institutions)  must go into it knowing that they will not fit in.  You must acknowledge that for every nice and liberal white person you meet, there is one closet or blatant racist in the crowd.  There will be classes where you are the only black person.  There will MANY, MANY times where your response will represent ALL black people to those ignorant white students.  For those of us that grew up in poverty, you will also have to deal with your financial hardship in a sea of spoiled, rich kids.  Some of your well off peers will only work to pay for booze, while you struggle to pay for a meal.  It can be frustrating. There will be times where you wonder why you have to work so hard.  (Please read Nikki Giovanni’s, College Racism 101,  It is required reading  here ). 


All that being said, I (overall) LOVED going to Mizzou.  I made some of the best friends of my life.  I had some of the best opportunities.  I made lifelong connections with some of my professors.  I can only speak on MIZZOU, but we had (and from what I have heard still has) one of the strongest black communities I have ever witnessed.  The desire to fit into the rest of the Mizzou community was non existent because we had our own.  We had our own student government, professional organizations, choir, homecoming, events, parties, etc.  We had our own midday meeting area.  We had our own twitter hashtag.  I know that some of, if not all of this, is a part of the systemic racism black students at mizzou have had to endure over time but we successful and excelled in spite and despite all of this.  


Similarly to HBCUs, we had the opportunity to connect to Black excellence in a way that endures longer than the college experience.  It is our constant reminder in a sea of whiteness that we are absolutely amazing.  I went to college with people that not only went on to be business men and women, lawyers, teachers, doctors and nurses but actors, artists, entrepreneurs, authors, social media coordinators, journalist, and more.  I am soooo proud of every single person I got to know at MIZZOU and those I didn’t know.  We exude excellence and magic and joy.  We didn’t just become successful for ourselves but for our community.  Many of us still volunteer, or work in non profits.  

I know that this does not undo all of the negative aspects of MIZZOU and other PWIs but it shows you how strong we are.  Its shows how little we need to fit into mainstream society (whatever that means).  I am a teacher now, and when my students ask me about my experience at Mizzou, this is what I tell them.  I tell them that society may treat them  as if they don’t belong.  As if they do not have the capacity to be great without assimilating.  It will make them feel inferior at times but they are not.  They are the strongest people most of the world has ever seen.  They are creative and compassionate.  They are logical and calculating.  They won’t fit in because they were made to stand out.  


My fellow Mizzou Alum, y’all taught me that.  You all taught me that we are beautiful and tough.  We are educated hustlers.  We are spiritual and hold knowledge beyond our years.  I love you guys.  I love all of the future Mizzou tigers too.  Keep your head up.  Don’t give up and Mizzou is just as much yours as the rest of the students.

-Imani

Baltimore: Is it Necessary?

source: Washington Post
source: Washington Post

The last year has been eye opening for many people. The black American plight officially made it past the boundaries of this country and is open for the entire world to see. While the rest of the world is finally seeing the struggle the black Americans still go through, black people have always been aware. We are always reminded of the color of our skin; whether it’s in the classroom, at the store, walking down the street or with a group non-black friends. No matter how good you are, it is never quite good enough to prove to the world the worthiness of black people. If you are a successful black man or woman, you are believed to be the exception. You are not really representing blacks. We are always reminded the much of the world views us as inferior.

Freddie Gray
Freddie Gray

The murders of people of color by officers over the past year have been amplified. These acts of brutality aren’t new but thanks to social media and technology, it is no longer just the problem of blacks. Growing up we knew better than to trust the cops. We wouldn’t call the police unless it was absolutely necessary. The black community and law enforcement have had strained relations long before now.

Source: USA TODAY
Source: USA TODAY

Many people are criticizing the acts of youth in Baltimore right now, the same way the criticized the youth in St.Louis. I refused to do that. Right now teenagers of color have it bad. They are being taught in classrooms that they aren’t shit. The government reminds them that they are worthless everyday when more money is invested in the prison system than in their schools and communities. As a youth worker, I’ve had discussions with teenage boys who had no desire to dream because they knew for most of them it wasn’t worth it. Many black teens have accepted that they may not live past 24 and that their days as a free man are limited. Prison has become an accepted right of passage. Violent encounters with the police are expected. Living in poverty with no access to health care is the regular. So excuse them for not giving a damn. Excuse them for their refusal to respect the institution that doesn’t respect them.

Personally, I think they have it right. They have the right to be angry. They are the main targets. Those who hate people of color are trying to eliminate POCs while they are young. Black youth are choosing to go out fighting over laying down. They are challenging an unjust and illegitimate authority. I fear for them just as much as I am proud of them. I want them to know that they have power. They can change their own lives. They can make a difference. The youth are so often ignored and silenced and now they refuse to be. I admire it.

Source: Madam Noire
Source: Madam Noire

I wish things could be peaceful, fair and just. I wish that peaceful protest garnered as much media and political attention as the riots and uprisings did. We don’t live in that world right now. A friend of mine told me a long time ago to be a hellraiser and to raise hellraisers. He told me that polite people don’t incite change, only those who are willing to disrupt the comfort of those in power can. I think today’s teenagers are hellraisers. I believe that they know where the world should be and they will continue to push the world to that level.

Is the violence, looting and destruction of property necessary? History has taught us that every great revolution has two sides: the violent and non violent. So to answer the question, I would say yes. Yesterday’s events in Baltimore were necessary. The events in Saint Louis (Ferguson) were necessary, LA was necessary. That being said, we still need the other side. We need those leaders that call for calm. We need those who will redirect the anger of the youth. We need those who are willing to stand in front of storefronts to protect the community’s businesses. Together both sides have a role. They balance each other. So, I can admit that the violence and destruction of property is necessary. It has a role to play in the growing revolution.

Ending Police brutality is just the first step. We will eventually break down the foundation of the system that oppresses people of color. Poverty will no longer determine a person’s health or ability to be successful. It is not just about Mike Brown, John Garner or Freddie Gray. It is about setting a group of people free that have been enslaved since the slave trade.

I could go on forever about the subject. Instead I will suggest some readings.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Nigger by Randall Kennedy

Black Boy by Richard Wright

Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton

Motorcycle Diaries I and II by Che Guevarra

Angela Davis, An Autobiography by Angela Davis (she also have several books on prison injustice.  I have not read them yet).

*Yes, I have read them all.  I am recommended them because they give different perspectives throughout time of the effects of racism, poverty, classism, etc.