Raise Men, Not Martyrs (WWOP Slam 2014)

If a black teen is murdered

and there’s no one around 

to hear the sound

was it really murder at all?

Three to four hours

after he was shot

and killed

Michael Brown’s body 

was left out in the open

discarded

like Emmett Till

and slowly

the masses began to gather

swarming

vultures picking him clean

to the bone

until he was white

white enough to have lived

to have not been shot in the first place

his ivory bones exposed

for all the world to see

to be fought over.

He was turned into scraps

thrown onto the pile of wrongful deaths

that has been rotting beneath the very same sun 

that saw human beings 

brought over on slave ships

and you wonder

you scratch your head and wonder

why a person my age and color

would say that enough is enough

would say that I’m tired of hearing what

“My people” went through

would say that I’m tired

of it being used as an excuse

to throw teenage boys to the slaughter

to turn another teenage boy into a martyr

yes

I am tired

tired of wondering

that if my fifteen year old brother

put his hands behind his head

and dropped to his knees

and he screamed

and he screamed

would it help him to not be 

just as black as he seemed?

Would the fact that he

is a single shade lighter than me

be enough to ensure that

he continued to breathe

that his heart still beat?

If a black boy is shot out

in the middle of the street

and there’s no one around

to see him knocked off his feet

is this nation still one of equality?

I am tired

so very tired 

of hearing about the war on terror

when there is clearly a war being raged

on color.

Sometimes I wish that I could rip

the skin off of my back

because gunshots

are nothing but

whip cracks

and zip-ties

nothing but nooses

around young black men’s necks.

Emmett Till

Medgar Evers

James Chaney

George Stinney

Travon Martin

Ezell Ford

Michael Brown

the list is endless—

and it isn’t getting any shorter

you want to choke our boys

with the very same bandages

you used to wrap them in

smother them

so that even in death 

they can’t speak

can’t breathe

these

are the things

that pile up bodies in the street

the sound of a thousand promises

that sink

we were told that we were free

we were told about a dream

but it seems

that the color of our skin

will always determine 

the color of our character.

So we will be beasts,

throats thick with fury

and nostrils spitting fire

we will rip your regime

limb from limb

and then

perhaps the sounds

of your own screams

will remind you of how human

we all used to be.

I am tired of teens 

adorning mother’s warnings

like armor

just to walk down the street

and you seem to think

that this isn’t happening...

 

How many more black boys

have to die

how many more poems do we have to write

before this

is considered genocide?

Poetry Slam: 

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