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Black Words Matter: Poems by Baltimore Students

Black Words Matter: Poems by Baltimore Students

Black Lives Matter, and Black Words Matter. The nonprofit organization Writers in Baltimore Schools, founded by Patrice Hutton, hosts Black Words Matter write-ins, where Baltimore students write about race and police brutality. The poems below were composed at the most recent write-in on May 3, just two weeks after the death of Freddie Gray. In the time that’s followed, much has been written about Baltimore youth, but here are four young Baltimoreans in their own words.

I almost forgot
By Afiya Ervin (grade 10)

I almost forgot
about the time
I took a walk
with my sister
and admired the
on the brick walls
at the end of
every crumbling
row house.

I almost forgot
about the time
I fell asleep on the bus
and had to find my
own way home,
in awe with every piece of

When I turned on the T.V.
I almost forgot
how bright Baltimore was
because not the flames
from cop cars and CVS
blocked the way
the sun danced
on the looters faces.

The lights and cameras
flashed too bright
and stunned me from
seeing that the father
was only taking
toilet paper, or milk,
or any other necessity that
his family needed.

The helicopter was too loud
and left a ringing in my ears,
so that I cannot hear the screams
from every Baltimorean
asking, crying, begging
for justice.
Every hashtag pounded
too loud. Every journalist
talked too much. They shut
us up and kept us
from remembering that
if they fixed the streets children
wouldn’t have rocks
to throw in the first place.

But I turned off the T.V.
and I remembered.
That this is my city
these are my people
my brothers, my sisters.
This is Baltimore.

At night I still rest
and in the mornings
I still rise.

I feel safe in Baltimore
without the cameras and
without the foreign correspondents
making me forget.

By Jaida Griffin (grade 11)

From behind the Fox 45 cameras reporters throw around the word “thug” like limbs thrown about by the wind.

Limbs dangling from a tree in Mississippi, in Missouri, in my backyard.

Thugs. They are thugs, animals, only interested in destruction.

This is what is reported. This is written on paper, cut into skin, etched into bones, the bones on my brothers.

News gives reviews on the destruction of my people and their dreams.

This has all happened before. 1968. Left buildings in my city charred.

The Revolution begins again. Children write on cardboard that matches their skin. “No Justice, No Peace,” “Please set us free,” or cut holes into tires, etch cries for help into buildings, in their neighborhoods.

When the cameras are cut, “Thug” goes through a transformation. Thug, gun, thug, gun, thug gun nig-gun thug gun nigga. What are you trying to say?

It’s great to see a woman beating her child. A child throws rocks at stores on his block because he is not here today. There is no one listening to him read poetry or spit bars about who he is and what we are going through.

It is great to see a woman beating her child. She will do their job for them. Silence him. It’s not assault if it’s for a good cause.

From behind the camera they will tell you that blue lives matter, and new lives matter, but tell me; does mine?

I feel most colored when
by Jaida Griffin (grade 11)

I feel most colored when the pen bursts. When spurts of pigment mark my palms I see that brown and blue is not a combination so common as black and blue.

Black by culture, brown in color, I find there are blue veins in my wrists.

I will be beaten black and blue later on tonight, by a man in black and blue.

Let’s not talk about white as if it’s not the issue because half of the officers were black, right? I feel colored.

I feel most colored as I sit here eating this strawberry, wondering if it’s the same red as the blood that will likely be shed tonight.

Tonight I feel most colored.

Every night, through, I feel colored,
As the beautiful blackness of the sky gets no attention,
Only the moon and stars.

By Christian Pearson (grade 8)

I feel most colored when the voices preaching “Black Lives Matter” are finally heard.
I feel most colored when African-Americans relive the same hell
And yet still keep their heads rather than tearing down their communities.
I feel most colored when African-Americans fight for justice using peaceful, dignified demonstrations.
Or, I feel most colored when Malcolm X’s preachings are remembered
And we take down The White Man instead of a CVS.
I feel most colored when Freddie Gray finally receives justice
And his murderers are charged for the blood on his hands.
I feel most colored when the National Guard is called
In fear of what the colored are capable of.
I feel most colored as I dream of The White Man
Begging for mercy as we color him with his own blood.
I feel most colored when I dream of The White Man
Feeling the years of pain he put us through.
I feel most colored when I dream of The White Man’s karma
And it killing him slowly, poetically, with The Black Man’s hand.

Do I Feel Safe in My Community?
By Nekia Hampton (University of Baltimore student)

The police scare me.
I felt safer knowing that they were on Penn-North all together and Downtown “protecting” the money

Do I feel safe in my community?
I don’t. Not even after a curfew was cast upon my whole city BUT only enforced in the black areas

Do I feel safe in my community?
On Penn&North Ave., Tuesday morning…
All of Baltimore was outside cleaning, hugging, supporting and comforting each other
And in the middle of the street stood police officers dressed like they just stepped foot in Iraq during the “War on Terrorism”

Do I feel safe in my community?
Because one of those images did not belong.
I felt the love from my brothers and sisters but I couldn’t help but think that at any given moment bullets could spray from their guns like a shower head
And they could get away with it.

Do I feel safe in my community?
Well…would you?
If the same people who are supposed to protect and serve you had the ability to eliminate you, get charged weeks later then set out on bail in the same day.

Do I feel safe in my community?
Excuse my language, but fuck no.
…and it isn’t because of my community either.

I feel most black...girl.
By Nekia Hampton (University of Baltimore student)

I feel most blackgirl when I walk into my internship and all of my white co-workers want to touch my hair and figure out how I can wear it short one day and long the next. I tell them it’s the black girl magic* AKA the power of the weave.

I feel most blackgirl when my white former mentor takes me to an upscale restaurant and attempts to teach me “proper” etiquette because she assumed I wouldn’t know by the way that I look.

I feel most blackgirl when Cosmo magazine praises Kylie Jenner for her make-up tricks that produce the illusion of full lips but I got teased for the ones I was born with.

I feel most blackgirl when I’m explaining to someone the hurt I feel about people who look like me being shot down every 28 hours BY POLICE and they tell me I’m too aggressive.

Or when I talk about the injustices we as black women face every day but I’m just labeled angry.

I feel most invisible when people shout “ALL LIVES MATTER” but their ancestors were considered 3/5 humans at a period in time.

I feel most tired when I have to call and text my loved ones every night to make sure they’re still alive.

I feel like I don’t know how to feel anymore.

Amy McDaniel

About The Author

Amy McDaniel

Amy McDaniel teaches high school and runs 421 Atlanta, a very small press that publishes poetry and short prose. She is the author of two chapbooks, both with the words "Adult Lessons" in the title, and her writing has been published widely online and in print. She is the editor of Real Pants.

Real Pants

Good hair, crooked gait

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