Black Girl’s Sonnet

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Why was there no plan for
My hand not betrothed,
My path not paved?
The future is not mine to see
Despite all, love I still crave
Bride price cannot be promised
I make haste and do not arrive
The elders demand homage
Dreams have been endowed, and thrive
The withdrawal is rhetoric
Cleopatra, Sheba buried with the crown
I am becoming historic
My brow creased with a frown
Bareheaded, barefoot and prancing
I am devising while dancing.

Quilted Soul

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On Happy Days
my hair is not nappy
I have more than I owe
and tomorrow I know
I will be building pyramids

On sad days,
I remember
that my place in Heaven is rented
and the currency demanded
is not the yen or dollar,
But my essence.

This will be
the prologue to my death
unless I find the missing fabrics
Of my soul
and weave them into a quilt
of my own design.

This poem appears in the anthology Quiet Storm: Voices of Young Black Poets (Hyperion Books 1999).

REQUIEM FOR AN AFRICAN PATRIOT

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REQUIEM FOR AN AFRICAN PATRIOT

“I have always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African Patriot.”
Nelson Mandela, April 20, 1964

(Umkhonto we Sizwe—the Spear of the Nation)
…we felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy the law.”
Nelson Mandela, April 20, 1964

Thank you,
For choosing to defy the law,
Rather than accept a permanent state of inferiority
Thank you, for enduring 27 years of imprisonment

Now they come from their Babylonian nation-states,
to sing songs of praise,
while conducting covert wars in brown and black lands,
their drones drop bombs to drown out the sorrows of motherless children

they judge you for being a friend of Fidel,
Fidel was a friend to you when their congresses and parliaments
were condemning you as a terrorist,
Cuba’s soldiers willingly shed their blood in Angola
while they tried to pacify the continent with Coca-Cola

What did Europe care of the killing of Xhosa, Ndebele and Zulu…
they are all “niggers” to us; bring us the diamonds, minerals and metals

White Supremacy is Europe’s child,
and Thatcher defended it till dementia took her mind
Apartheid is not a crime
Its communism, communism, communism
Its terrorism, terrorism, terrorism

Reagan’s America was of the same mind

They will try to mummify you as a gentle pacifist,
to suit their revisionist history, but you will always remain a revolutionary
they redact the CIA delivering you to your oppressors,
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand”

J’accuse Europe
J’accuse USA

They fail to understand how “the last shall be first, and the first last.”

Stop and Frisk Now, Stop and Frisk Tomorrow, Stop and Frisk Forever/Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever

Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.
― Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal.
― Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

The morning after a federal judge ruled that “Stop, Question and Frisk (SQF)” as it was being practiced by the New York City police department was unconstitutional, I found myself watching the MSNBC television program Morning Joe hosted by former Congressman Joe Scarborough and journalist Mika Brzezinski. The topic of discussion was the ruling. The guest panelists were advertising executive Donny Deutsch, former New York State Governor George Pataki, journalist Mike Barnicle and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. Robinson the lone person of color on the panel was not physically located in studio, but was offering commentary from a live video feed. Robinson’s physical absence was rather symbolic, it was clear that Deutsch, Barnicle and Pataki, all white males over the age of 50 were nicely insulated in their bubble of white male privilege, in which an appropriate space for black Eugene Robinson did not exist. The reality is that neither Deutsch, Barnicle, Pataki, or Scarborough have ever or will ever be the victims of racial profiling or any form of SQF. Their children and nephews will never be victims of ‘stop, question and frisk.’ It was quite clear that an empathy gap existed, where they simply could not put themselves in the shoes of a black or Latino male, to imagine the indignity and unfairness of being constantly stopped and frisked. Rather than argue against the inhumanity of the process they saw it as a necessary evil.

W.E.B DuBois in his landmark work The Souls of Black Folk, wrote about the double-consciousness of black Americans. It has occurred to me while black Americans may possess double-consciousness, and in my case being black, female, Haitian and American, I sometimes feel that I possess quadruple-consciousness. In my view some white Americans posses a singular-consciousness, which renders them incapable of perceiving, imagining and empathizing with the viewpoints, concerns and suffering of non-whites. It may be possible that no one in New York City posses a more singular-consciousness than its current mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg. Bloomberg is racially tone-deaf and insensitive and filled with zealous self-righteousness. Watching Bloomberg’s defiant post-ruling press conference, I saw shades of George Wallace 1963. On January 14, 1963, George Wallace as the newly elected governor of Alabama delivered an inaugural address, written by a known Ku Klux Klansman, Asa Carter, which has lived in infamy. Mr. Wallace declared “I draw the line in the dust at the feet of tyranny, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Wallace assured white Alabamans that they were going to let Washington know that were not going to abide by federal decisions against segregation in the south. In the same manner Bloomberg accompanied by police commissioner Ray Kelly, let white New Yorkers know that were not going to abide by the ruling of the federal judge, its goings to be, stop and frisk today, stop and frisk tomorrow, stop and frisk forever.

Bloomberg’s message was intended for white New Yorkers. He was was not addressing his comments to the black and Hispanic communities who together make-up about 50% of New York City’s population, but account for almost 83% of the people who are stopped and frisked. The black and Hispanic men of New York City do not want to be constantly stopped and frisked. Black and Hispanic mothers and fathers do not want their sons to constantly be the subject of police scrutiny. Black and Hispanic women do not want their brothers, husbands, uncles and nephews to be constantly stopped and frisked. If Bloomberg or Kelly ever took the time to ask the black and Hispanic community how they wanted issues like crime addressed in their neighborhoods, instead of paternalistically assuming that they know what is best for these communities, they would discover that black and Hispanic communities in New York are wholeheartedly against Stop and Frisk.

In his press conference denouncing the judge’s ruling Bloomberg stated “I worry for my kids and I worry for your kids”, really Mike? You are worried about Emma and Georgina Bloomberg? Are you worried that some random black or Hispanic man is going to try to steal equestrian Georgina’s horse? In George Wallace’s day among the rationale for the indiscriminate lynching of black men was the need to protect the virtue of white women. Bloomberg evoking concern about his two white daughters, who are living a life of privilege, far removed from the poor black and Hispanic communities where young black and Hispanic men have to deal with police harassment everyday is ludicrous. Bloomberg showed he had no concern whatsoever for black and Hispanic children when he appointed his thoroughly unqualified friend Cathleen P. Black to be the chancellor of New York City’s Public Schools. To Bloomberg’s assertion that he is concerned about minority children, I think black mothers would say to him, Mr. Bloomberg, your blues ain’t like ours. If you want to know about the ‘blues’ of black mothers, go speak with Patrick Dorismond’s mother, go speak with Amadou Diallo’s mother, or go speak with Abner Louima’s mother.

Writing in the New York Times Michael Powell described Bloomberg and Kelly this way in their Monday press conference

They are the aging Dead End twins, the billionaire mayor with his Hamptons-by-way-of-Bermuda tan and the square-jawed, crew-cut commissioner. Again and again, they displayed a fossil-like rigidity, refusing to concede even a jot of a point to the federal judge who imposed a monitor on the Police Department, or to the many critics who warned so often that a once-reasonable stop-and-frisk program had metastasized.

The panelists on Morning Joe, all accepted Kelly and Bloomberg’s argument that Stop and Frisk is an effective crime prevention tactic (“evidence…suggest that stop and frisk is, at best, ineffective, and, at worst, actively alienates communities with whom the police need to engage”) but it was never about the effectiveness of stop and frisk as a crime prevention tactic, it was about whether or not targeting a specific group of New York’s population (aka racial profiling) was constitutional, the judge ruled that it was not. On Page 2 of her opinion, Judge Scheindlin writes,

“I emphasize at the outset, as I have throughout the litigation, that this case is not about the effectiveness of stop and frisk in deterring or combating crime. This Court’s mandate is solely to judge the constitutionality of police behavior, not its effectiveness as a law enforcement tool. Many police practices may be useful for fighting crime—preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example—but because they are unconstitutional they cannot be used, no matter how effective.

Bloomberg and his ilk understand that the constitution is the supreme law of the land, maybe the confusion for them is whether the constitution applies to black and brown folk. After all, the United States Constitution originally counted black persons as three-fifths of a man. “We the People,” originally referred to white property owning males like Michael Bloomberg, and today in 2013 it is still being debated whether the constitution’s protection extends to non-whites.

Black People (America is Just Not That Into You)

Black People, Black People
the verdict will never be in your favor
Please
no more marches
no more petitions
no more sit-ins

America is just not that into you.

You shall not overcome
let hope die a merciful death

Black President?
You thought that was love?
Ask yourself, are you better off in 2013,
than you were in 2008?

America never has and never will love you.

America is happy to let you entertain her,
Run Nigga Run
Dunk Nigga Dunk
Sing Nigga Sing
Dance Nigga Dance

Is Stop and Frisk Love?
Does America love you?
Go ask Emmit Till
Malcolm X
Medgar Evers
Amadou Diallo

Go ask Trayvon Martin.

You think America loves you,
because you get to stand in Paris
Rapping about Niggas in Paris,
while Gywneth bobs her blond head on stage?

You think America is post-racial,
You think Hip-Hop has changed the world.

From the sixteenth to the twenty-first century,
America has enslaved you, lynched you, segregated you,
incarcerated you, divided and conquered you.

America will never love you.
Take your talents, some place further than South Beach,
the American dream was never meant for you.
Always separate, never equal.

La femme de couleur

Borrowed mother’s voice,
To pay tribute.
My aria ricochets.

Have the dark clouds been banished?
Are you dreaming of delicious blackberries?
Has my song ransomed me?

A dutiful daughter,
I am a parody of an echo.

These legacy chains bind me,
silken sisterly knots,
stirring soup in cast iron pots
to feed the ‘strongmen, as they keep coming.’

Merely, a ‘mule of the world’
constructed by colonial circumstance
laboring, loving, enduring and dreaming.

Copyright by Sherley Jean-Pierre

Autobiography of a Goddess

Autobiography of a Goddess

Emerging
from the head of a god?
fully formed from the sea?
No, falling
from a Cap-Haïtien mango tree
a suckling, nourishing on sugarcane.

Departing,
same hemisphere, new city.
an undocumented body
in the elementary factory
assembly line.

Discovering language
weaving tales like Scheherazade
not to defer death
but to invent myself.

Divine, gifted and black
Walking,
through a metropolitan labyrinth
searching for my matrilineal lineage.

Exhausted,
from the fruitless, quixotic attempts
to distill segments of my soul
to bottle the darkness.

Have you ever seen a goddess weep?
Jackie O shades, Conceal.

Even a goddess’s heart can be broken.

Possessed
Of all my powers
to conceive, to nurture, to weep
to think, to love, to forgive
to be detached—self-actualized
to accept being both the sheep
and the wolf.

Determined, gifted and black
there is a room for me
in the ivory tower.

Cognizant,
that hubris
is my constant companion.

Awaiting the classic end.

copyright by Sherley Jean-Pierre