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How Do We Feel

Derrick Weston Brown’s Scathing Response to Charleston

A week ago, nine African Americans were gunned down during bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a man who hoped to incite a race war.  Unfortunately, this is just the latest in what is a daily assault on people of color.  For every achievement African Americans make, the news is quickly followed by someone taking “justice” in their own hands, or by a police officer who doesn’t see us as people.  Instead, we are beasts.  Chattel and stereotypical sapphires.  Not seen as children worthy of respect, but instead as criminals who deserve to die.  Nothing more than a caricature of images that people have bought into.

Washington, DC-based Poet Derrick Weston Brown wrote a blistering and piercing poem, “We Can’t Have Nothing,” that reflects many of the thoughts around the country in light of the latest racial tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina.  Until this country is honest about race, these are the thoughts that will linger for generations to come.

We Can’t Have Nothing

We can’t have nothing. Not our skin. Not our peace. Not our sanctuary. Can’t have nothing. Can’t shop, can’t swim, can’t walk home. Can’t pray. Can’t worship. Can’t have candy. Can’t sit in a car with friends with the windows down, bathed in bass. Can’t be a free black girl, free black child, free black boy. Can’t have courtesy. Can’t ask for help. Can’t have nothing. Can’t get the benefit of the doubt. Can’t get called by the names we want to be called. Can’t sit in church, pray in church, have a church, mosque, temple. Can’t have nothing. Can’t have a nice day, Can’t have an uninterrupted ride home. Can’t have a day when you don’t have to look over your shoulder. Can’t have nothing. Can’t have a day where you KNOW without a shadow of a doubt the people you love will come home alive. Can’t. Have. Nothing. Can’t have a day when our everything isn’t in question. Can’t even die without an “assist.” Can’t even have a proper burial. Can’t even have a memorial that goes untouched.
Can’t not be followed. In a store. For a block. For a mile. For a day. For days. For years. For life.
Can’t even get an isolated incident.
Can’t get an acknowledgement that the race card is manufactured, store bought, and made from our skin.
Can’t have nothing.
Can’t be a disappeared black girl found safe and in time.
Can’t get a disappeared black girl’s name read on air.
Can’t have an indictment, conviction, blah, blah, blah.
Can’t have paid leave, unpaid leave,
Can’t have nothing.

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