A group of poets assembled to reflect on the recent racial tension between police and African-Americans. They decided it was because of the injustice of the ever growing police state that several unarmed black men and women have been laid in coffins in the past year. A mantra was born: “I am a black poet who will not remain silent while this nation murders black people. I have a right to be angry."
Black Poets Speak Out lays out their goal in this campaign statement:
In light of the continuous murders of black people across the nation, Black poets across the country are sharing video responses in solidarity with those who refuse to accept these atrocities as a normal condition of black life. We are using the force of our art to transform policy. We can no longer settle for incremental adjustments. We are calling for an absolute transformation. We will not be done until we see justice for the murder of black people.
Just what exactly that 'absolute transformation' entails is unclear.
The movement is divided into three phases: The first was a social media video event, the second phase is poetry readings across the country, and the third is a letter writing campaign.
The grand jury decision to not indict the officer involved in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is apparently what really spurred these poets to launch the campaign.
In the wake of the decision not to indict the police officer who murdered Brown, the poets began looking for ways to respond with individual actions. Gadson suggested videos, and many decided to recite poems from the height of the civil rights and Black Arts Movement (BAM), in order to show that 30 years later the conversation is still the same.
In fact, if you listened to poet Cecelia Jordan's entry, you'd think we were still in the pre-emancipation days.
“We've been quiet for too long. No civil rights, but we stay strong.""Yes, I can still feel the chain and whip disguised by the laws they built to have no guilt for the tramautization of a people."
Jordan also suggested cops were the new KKK. (I guess she forgot the thousands of black police officers.)
Her poem received applause.
It's upsetting, to say the least, to see a campaign whose main mission is to target police who, for the most part, are just trying to do their job. The Department of Justice investigation into the death of Michael Brown, for instance, revealed that Brown, who had just robbed a liquor store, fought with Officer Wilson and even tried to grab his gun, leaving the latter no choice but to fight back. Deaths like these are tragic, but calling Brown a "victim" and his death a "murder" are very misleading terms. Of course, police make mistakes and some of these shootings should not have occurred, but to brand all cops as racist is horribly unfair.
Demands for fewer police have only ended poorly. After violent protests over the death of Freddie Gray burned parts of Baltimore to a crisp, the city pressured cops to make fewer arrests and local leaders even hinted that police were afraid to do their jobs. As a result, the murder rate skyrocketed.
Although President Obama is the first African-American president in US history, race relations have only worsened under his watch. Yet, poets like Ms. Jordan choose to blame the police and white society for the ills of the African-American community such as poverty and high incarceration rates.
Let's put the poems away and have some real conversations.