race relations

STILL I RISE

i-riseprint-870x450.jpg

The day I watched the video of Walter Scott's murder, I happened upon the most beautiful necklace, made by the supremely talented Canadian, Tracey Tomtene.  My remedy for this despair was to listen to the reverent voice of Ms. Maya Angelou's poem, Still I Rise. Still I Rise1

After an initial reaction of disgust, and sadness, I revolted in to the fear of the unknown, wondering how many other black men have been murdered in the senseless way that Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Vonderrit Myers, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner and too many others have been? How many others didn't have the benefit of a camera to serve as a reliable witness to the crime?

My new necklace dons Maya Angelou's famous words: "Still I Rise." Wearing this necklace is my attempt to honor black men all over the country who continue to get up everyday, and venture out into a world that has criminalized their skin color. The shape of the necklace was important to me, as unlike my circular wedding ring (which symbolizes my never ending love and commitment to my husband), this necklace is triangular. The edges are spiky, and painful to the touch, symbolizing the pointed, obvious racial commonalities these crimes harbor. I chose a hammered finish on the necklace, but am unsure if the indentations from the hammering should signify the beatings black men continue to face by people whose job is to protect, the fragmentation of our nation, or the exhaustion and fatigue these repetitive crimes have caused so many of the still living - like myself. I suppose, as it's shape reminds me, it could mean all three.

Perhaps these tragedies will wane by the installation of more and more camera's, both in the hands of nearby Samaritans, and the cops. However, taking a cue from my new #BlackLivesMatter triangular necklace, I am hoping for a more sacred answer. A deeper conviction of character from those who have yet to acknowledge how their own implicit biases undoubtedly affect the way they do their jobs (this applies to all of us!). I wear my necklace in a humble dedication to all the men who are no longer with us and weren't able to tell their side of the story.

STILL I RISE

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

 

*** Although this poem is written by a woman, and about women, these first three words lend me to think about the black men who continue to rise up.  It is not an oversight or without thought that I'm choosing not to address the many women of color who have also been targeted and criminalized in our recent past. ***

Dear Writers, Listeners, and Writers Who Do Not Listen. Guest Post by Diku Rogers

This poem is exquisite in its beauty, and poignant in its words. I've chosen to share her voice on my platform as our society continues to grapple with what it means to be privileged, what it means to have privileges and how to reconcile that within yourself so as not to feel ashamed for being born in to a society that overtly values or devalues you, nor to be ignorant of this same point. I can especially empathize with Diku's frustration around spellcheck not recognizing the word microagressions, as I have often wanted to punch my computer screen for giving the red squiggly line under the word, "adoptee" -- what a clear example of one way adoptees feel that our very being is less than.  

Dear Writers, Listeners, and Writers who do not Listen

This piece was originally published at Soar. Diku Rogers is a junior in college from Brooklyn, New York. 

My poetry makes you uncomfortable My stories do not make sense to you My characters are not “relatable” So, like many have said before me, Please take several seats.

Your privilege will not show up on my pages. It is not my fault that the reality of my reality Is a universe you can never imagine The sh*t that goes down for me Goes right over your head You search through my words Like they are broken mirrors Looking for some resemblance of yourself You will not find yourself here. You will not find yourself in the dropping of my “g’s” Or my metaphors of city streets and Caribbean eats You will not find yourself In my similes of browns and blacks You will not find yourself In my harsh tone I have no atonement For your inability to empathize.

Stop trying to gentrify my stories They do not need more characters YOU can relate to. They do not need more characters that look like you. Go look in your English classes, History textbooks, dining halls and dormitories. I will not twist my words to appease you. My characters are already oppressed by the pages they are confined to. Every narrative does not have your voice. Deal with it.

How quick you are to praise The story of a “typical” college kid But notice how quick you judge The microaggressions faced by a little black girl. As I type this a red line appears under the word “microagression” I mean Microsoft Word doesn’t even know what the f*ck I’m talking about.

Dear Writers, Listeners, Writers who do not listen You wanna kick it with Raymond Carver but can’t take Audre Lorde out on a date. You’re afraid to sit with James Baldwin at lunch but you run to stand in line next to Bukowski.

Writers, Listeners, Writers who do not listen You amaze me Tell me what it’s like To pick up your pen And not have it bleed to death With ink that’s black like me Now before you tell me how hard it’d be To write with a white pen Have you ever heard of invisible ink? It’s written all over your face Signed on all your credit card receipts It’s used in court rooms And classrooms Which are sometimes the same thing Because while you cast judgement I am tired of being trialed I am tired of shining My black light on your invisible writing Trying to make you see the words You don’t have to say

Your privilege will not show up on my pages. And I am trying to get published So realize you will not find yourself in my words. Cause I had to realize- a long time ago- that I wasn’t going to find mine in yours.