For Real (or Ode to a Conspiracy)

Author’s Note: I remember standing on the stoop of my grandmother’s brownstone in Harlem, and we watched a line of people form because the drug supply had come in. There were young men in business suits, mothers with baby carriages, and wide mix of ages. My grandmother turned to me and said, “This sure is a weak society out here.” Given the time she grew up in, and the circumstances she had to endure, I had no answer. Did our ancestors really fight so hard, so long to survive, so we could kill ourselves, and say it was someone else’s fault?

 

“The CIA put drugs in our neighborhoods.”

And we used them.

 

“The government put guns in our neighborhood.”

We used those too.

 

So let me ask you: If I put a bomb on your doorstep,

and you take it inside, and it blows up on you,

who’s responsible for the damage it caused?

 

The key to countering conspiracies is sabotage,

not compliance.

 

Break the strings

 

Become a real man

instead of a ‘real nigga’

 

And free yourself.

For real.

 

Still On Tryal

Author’s Note: This photo was taken at the Slave Museum. As the little girl’s mother was explaining what happened, she hugged the statue and said, “Everything’s going to be okay.” This is a poem that reflects that faith…

 

 

They sure tried:

 

To strip us culturally

To bend us spiritually

To break us physically

To give us second best

To question our humanity

To question our intelligence

 

They sure tried:

 

To stop us from voting

To stop us from organizing

To stop us from demanding

To stop us from marching

To stop us from praying

To stop us from fighting

To stop us from protesting

To stop us from singing

 

They sure tried:

 

To deny us access

To reduce our numbers

To convince us we don’t belong

To tell us we had nothing

they didn’t give us

To stop us from voting

To erase us from history

 

They sure tried:

 

To tell us to get over

the very history they

imposed

on us

 

They sure tried:

 

To tell us we’re violent

Ignorant

Beastly

Savage

Sexual predators

Dopefiends

Whores

and Pimps

and

Criminals

 

They sure tried:

 

To keep us illiterate

To keep us afraid

To keep us unaware

To keep us drunk

To keep us in vice

To keep us down

 

They sure tried:

 

To keep us enslaved

 

We tried too:

 

To be patient

To be non-violent

To suffer

To fight through the system

To die on our feet

 

But we got tired of trying

because they mistook

patience

for weakness

 

So we said

No,

and we said

No longer

And we said

No more

And we said

Our lives matter

 

And now they try

to say it’s our fault

they have to kill us.

 

And now, in 2016…

We find that

the

Tryal

is far from over

 

But if we stand

and work

and build

and teach

and love

TOGETHER

the verdict

is

Victory.

Jazz Dancer

Jazz Dancer

balancing

brassy bronze

jazz sax solos

with your

ballet shoes

 

Notes in the air

scoop up

your feet

and you dance

on

beams of wood

and

bars of music

 

Ah, there you are,

Spinning en pointe…

En garde, my heart!

(but I’ve already lost this fight;

in fact, I’ve taken a dive for love)

 

In your movements

I hear Beale Street

 

In your eyes I see

Storyville

and

Birdland

and

Paris

 

Your feet write rhythms

 

Your hands transpose keys

 

Your elegant fingers twirl them

together into something

Transcendent and Divine

 

You are a

Jazz Dancer

and I

a mere mortal

crying with gratitude

at the

Miracle

you’ve given

me.