Friday, September 30, 2016

Terence Crutcher shot by a police officer in Tulsa

Here is a link to a petition. Here is more info.

Keith Lamont Scott shot by a police officer in Charlotte

Here is one link to info about the shooting and the protests.

Deciding Where to Care: racial justice poem 3 (TRUTH)

See my first poem for the history behind why I started writing "poetry." The theme for the September open mic in Medfield was truth. Below is what came to me. 

At the open mic, I started by asking if folks in the room would be willing to do a non-violent action and stand if they agree that black lives matter, and/or to join me in the chant at the end. (maybe 50 there?) It looked like everyone stood. I welcomed them to sit down during the reading of the poem if needed. No one did. The poem lasted around 5 minutes. 

I was appreciative and felt supported with that effort on their part. I also felt they might have been "in the game" at least a bit more that way...listening and feeling a part...not separate from me? It is my third time reading a racial justice poem there. That action helped me know who else was in the room...not just the visual awareness of lots of whiteness there. 

Deciding Where to Care

I am a white woman and 51.
          I am embarrassed to say that only after half a century
I finally woke up to the pains and struggles that other folks
          a less privileged group of folks
                    Black folks
          have gone through for hundreds of years.

Though old for them, it seems new to me
Not moved so much before
          when I learned of the history of slavery
now I feel empathy
          when I hear about
another black person shot to death
          by a cop
                    innocent or not
                    not given equal justice
or read about the whipping machine
          forced labor
          forced marching to a new owner
          families pulled apart.

What took me so long to see
          the struggles of these others are worthwhile for me
                    to know and care about?

I could have learned much earlier
          from others around me.
I wasn’t living in a white suburban bubble
          all of my life.

When I was a little girl
          my father worked with his friends
                    Black Panthers
          supporting them in their work
          bringing food to hungry school children.
When the home of 30 Black Panthers
          was bombed with plastics only available to cops
Dad joined a line with other pastors
          between his friends
          and the police
                    who were not trusted.
I was not hungry for food myself
                    it seems
          hungry to learn what Dad was doing.

In Chicago’s West Side for my first years of school
          I was a scared white girl
          a minority in my classroom
                    and playground.
          I learned double-dutch
                    but not how my black friends
                    were at home
          or if they struggled to survive.

While in the North Side of Chicago
          as a junior high school student
I learned to type and sew and such.
I knew about the Gaylords and
          other gangs in my school and neighborhood.
My mostly white group of kids
          living together in a cult
          were seen as another gang so we were left alone.
Not there by choice
          I felt abandoned by my parents.
I didn’t care then
          to learn why they chose their gang.
Looking back
          I complain that I had to eat expired food
but I had enough
          I didn’t go hungry.
          Did they?

One of my younger sisters
          has been working for racial justice
          for more than 5 years.
Did I never pay attention to what she
          must of been
                    sharing with me?

Was I blind and deaf to all of this going on around me?
          I was asleep for sure.

I didn’t personally see a reason to care until
this little sister that I love
          did a dangerous
          and misunderstood protest.
She used her body with others.
          They blocked traffic on a major Boston highway.
Why would this wise woman
          risk being run over
          risk painful tear gas
          risk being locked up?
I had to question her.
          I had to ask
She answered
          in a fashion
          and gave me things to read.
I woke up while reading
          and while writing a letter to her DA
                    asking for a reduced sentence
          to match the crime
                    with less or no time.

Now I have my eyes
          my mind
          my heart

Other white folks need to join us who are woke
for racial justice to be available
          for all.

I understand not getting emotionally caught up in
          the deaths and misfortunes of all others.
I can’t open my heart to care deeply about
          innocents in each and every
                    terrorist attack
                    war overseas
                    bombing of buildings and
                              racers of a Marathon
          each and every
                    truck crashing through crowds
                    shooting in nightclubs
          or all death and destruction from natural events.

I have to decide
          how to feel for others
          who I don’t personally know
                    and love.

I have decided to open my heart
to a group of folks who in our history were
          wrenched away from family members
          made to live and learn
          drink and sit
                    in broken buildings and schools
                    from dirty fountains
                    on backs of buses
                    on the most dangerous front rail cars.

Their forced labor in cotton fields
          made this country rich and powerful.

That was the past
          you might say.
But the problems for Black folks are not only
          in the past.
There is now
          mass incarceration
          a school to prison pathway
          racial profiling
          killing of innocent folks
          ongoing stress syndrome
          neighborhood gentrification
                    forcing folks to move
          daily fear
                    even in “safe” suburban towns.

Will we wait
          until one of these modern injustices
          touches us
                    us white folks
          before we feel deeply enough to act?

I read as much as I can
          and meet with others
                    to support
                    to learn more
                    to learn how to best

Black lives matter.

Black lives want
a live affirming future too.

I march
and wear my heart
          on my bracelets:
                    Black Lives Matter!
                    Black Lives Matter!
                    Black Lives Matter!

© DG., September, 2016 
Read at a Medfield Open Mic Coffee House

I was challenged last time, by a black author who usually goes to the open mics there, to stay in a place of power and not cry during the reading...that it make folks feel sorry for me...I practiced and tried really hard not to cry. I did not succeed. During practicing, I was breaking up during the last part, but last night at the event, that isn't where I choked up, it is was earlier about risks my sister took.

Cats and Dogs: racial justice poem 2

See my first poem for the history behind why I started writing racial justice "poetry." This one uses cats and dogs because that was the theme for the August open mic in Medfield.

Cats and Dogs

My thoughts and concerns these days
are with a topic not so sweet and cuddly
          as the pets of this poem.
I am concerned about the inequality
          between races 
what happens differently for
          black folks than for white folks
in our society where often seen
          white is right.

When comparing pets with people
          we know
cats and dogs are not the same species
but white folks and black folks are
          but you wouldn’t guess it
          from how they have been treated.
Both are human
          all are folks
          with feelings.

Race is not real
          but it causes real pain.
The difference between cats and dogs is real
          not only fur-deep.

If you think about who is on top
          among each group
one might say “man’s best friend” over
          often aloof cats
but if you have seen them living together
          you know that cats are the boss.
In this country
          scales tip toward white
          when it comes to power
          and privilege.
Yes, there are a few
          rare cases
where black folks
          against all odds
          with extraordinary strength and perseverance
          have mountain-climbed to the top.
One man now
          at the very tip top
is still not trusted and is attacked
          led by a white man’s biting words
cat clawing at our black leader’s place in power.

All equally special
both furry:
          cats and dogs
and skin-covered:
          folks of different colors
can get along
          can coexist.
But cats and dogs
          can’t have children together
as folks of different colors can
          and what a wonderful thing that they do.

With more and more mixing
of black with white in
          work places
          and police departments
maybe some day
there won’t be such hurtful differences in
          work places
          and criminal justice.

From my experience with my cats:
          striped Tigger and shoulder-clinging Macaroni
with neighborhood and family dogs:
          loyal Acadia, obedient Rudy, and sweet Ranger
I see that cats and dogs
          are cared for and treated similarly
by their owners who love for them
          by vets and animal control.
Why can we do this for our pets 
          but not for folks of all colors?

I have dreams at night
          of the past with my cats
and day dreams for the future
          where racial differences are simply
          something to celebrate.

© DG., August, 2016 
Read at a Medfield Open Mic Coffee House and Old Souls Open Mic (Natick)

Let’s Talk about Race: 1st racial justice poem presented at an open mic in the 'burbs

In June, I was invited to an open mic in Medfield, MA. It was a nicely attended event with talented folks telling stories, reading poems and singing/playing music. I was struck by amount of whiteness in the room. I decided to write a poem about racial justice and read it at the next event in July. Below is what I presented.

I also read it in Natick at "No Racism in Natick Rally" on Nov. 19, 2016. See more about this rally here in a Boston Globe article. My handmade sign "No racism. Full stop." was quoted in the article.

Note: I am a visual artist. I wrote this poem, and later more, to read at public events where white folks go, where they are not expecting to hear about racial issues. I am trying to get more white folks in the game...willing to act with us.

Let’s Talk about Race

I learned lately that I am white. And what comes with being white.
         I learned I live in a society that supports me
a society that works to keep black and brown folks separate and not equal.

Now I know I have work to do
          to undo this society that supports me
the society that works to keep black and brown folks separate and not equal.

What race do you identify with?

If you are a Person of Color, I invite you to tell me how you identify
          so I don’t erase this one
                     and only one 
part of your identity.

Are you white too? If so, say it. Face it. That is an important first step.

For us white folks, there is an overwhelming amount to learn
          about history and current events
          about police that support us
but keep black and brown folks separate and not equal
          out of fear or anger or lack of understanding
or because they were taught like we were taught
          that white was right.

I am for change. I can not go back to living in the bliss of the not-knowing
          about my society that supports me
a society that works to keep black and brown folks separate and not equal.

If you are for change too
          for racial justice
          and just getting started
here is a way to build your stamina:
          talk about race with white friends and family
                    and strangers even 
make it as common and easy as talking about the weather and sports.

But don’t ask the Person of Color you work with to teach you
          about history and current events
          about police that don't support them
or to speak for their race
          like they can speak for their race.
Respect their space
          as they need it more than we can even imagine.

We can listen
          simply listen
                    without defending any good intentions
                    that might have had an opposite impact
and watch youtube
and read words
          from People of Color who are willing to share with us what they know
          about their history and current events.

We can talk with white folks who are willing to pass on what little we have learned
          with others who are white
                    white folks willing to lean into discomfort
making mistakes as we learn, supporting each other.

Let’s build a new society full of bridges
          that can be taken by People of Color to join white when wanted.

Let’s build a society that supports all of us
          a society where all folks can be equal
          and together.

© DG., July 30, 2016
Read at a Medfield Open Mic Coffee House and Old Souls Open Mic (Natick)