Poetry & Pain: 10 Poems That Sum Up The Fight Against Police Brutality


Each and every day that we wake up, it feels as if we learn about another Black person being killed by police. Yesterday, it was Isaiah Brown. Before Isaiah Brown, Ma'Khia Bryant was killed by police and Daunte Wright died before her. It feels like a never-ending cycle that is both painful and numbing. Consistently being absorbed in the fight against state violence can often leave us not knowing what to do, what to feel or even what to say. Thankfully, there are leaders, activists, organizers, protests, musicians and artists that have incredible ways of encapsulating everything the world is feeling in their work. Celebrating the end of National Poetry Month, here are ten poems that capture different aspects of the collective fight against injustice.

Adrenaline Rush

Poet: Rudy Francisco

Performance Venue: Camp Bar (St. Paul, Minnesota)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: Once, a friend of a friend asked me why there aren’t more black people in the X Games and I said, “You don’t get it.” Being black is one of the most extreme sports in America. We don’t need to invent new ways of risking our lives because the old ones have been working for decades.

And The News Reporter Says Jesus Is White

Poet: Crystal Valentine

Performance Venue: Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: How can she say Jesus was a white man when he died the Blackest way possible? With his hands up! With his mother watching! Crying at his feet!

Still Life With Police Sirens

Poet: Joshua Bennett and Zora Howard

Performance Venue: Le Poission Rouge (New York, New York)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: Young and defense. Labeled reckless. Light begets us. Fire won't end us.

Sandra Bland

Poets: Kai Davis, Nayo Jones and Jasmine Combs

Performance Venue: University of Texas (Austin, Texas)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: I know what it is to be crushed. To have hope drained from my bones, a trembling black woman with trauma stretching across generations. I’ve been crying for centuries. I cannot stop. I know what it’s like to have one foot in the grave. To have a freezer stacked with liquor but an empty fridge. To come to stagnancy and decay in my own bed; my nightmares clamoring out of my own skull. Panic attacks shaking me until I, too, am a prison. I’ve wished death on myself many times but it was never my idea.

Da Rules

Poets: Saidu Tejan-Thomas, Em Allison and Marvin Hodges

Performance Venue: Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Virginia)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: Wait! But my melanin has meaning. It is profound. Dark skin is so greedy. It gobbles up nouns, thoughts so tangled. Look what it did to my hair. Reaching to the sky at all angles. Praying that you don’t shoot. I’ve always been black.

Simon Says

Poets: Ashley Davis and Oompa

Performance Venue: 2016 National Poetry Slam (Decatur, Georgia)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: Office Simon said if you can't handle your jail cell, how will you handle your casket.

Emmett

Poets: Philly Youth Poetry Movement

Performance Venue: Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: Look how quiet white folks get when the Black boy is hushed. The sins of white men know too many colored graves. Our mothers crying over hollowed caskets. Emmett won't be the last name to settle on our tongues like sediment.

Black Lives, Tigers and Bears

Poet: Pages Matam

Performance Venue: 2016 Southern Fried Poetry Slam (Greensboro, North Carolina)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: During a class discussion, my students begin to ask me, "Why is it so important to care about the environment, anyway?" I tell them it is important to care about the environment, so that we don't go extinct right from the place that we borrow a home or food from. One of my students then replies to me and says, "Well, Mr. Pages....as a Black boy in this country, I already feel like I am going extinct."

Poets: Saidu Tejan-Thomas, Em Allison and Joshua Branstein

Performance Venue: Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Virginia)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: Solidarity is a safe word for white people who get into bed with Black issues.

Survival The Police

Poet: Christopher Michael

Performance Venue: Avant Garden (Houston, Texas)

Lines That You Need To Rewind: I am from Texas where we have a right to open carry. The problem with open carry is that it makes you a target and by open carry, I mean the melanin loaded in the chambers of my skin.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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