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
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 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
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
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
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.
I complain that I had to eat expired food
but I had enough
I didn’t go hungry.
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
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
Other white folks need to join us who are woke
for racial justice to be available
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
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
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
a school to prison pathway
killing of innocent folks
ongoing stress syndrome
forcing folks to move
even in “safe” suburban towns.
Will we wait
until one of these modern injustices
us white folks
before we feel deeply enough to act?
I read as much as I can
and meet with others
to learn more
to learn how to best
Black lives matter.
Black lives want
a live affirming future too.
and wear my heart
on my bracelets:
Black Lives Matter!
Black Lives Matter!
Black Lives Matter!
© Deb G., 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.