Friday, September 30, 2016

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.

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


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