I’ve been experiencing much grief following the death of George Floyd and the looting and rioting that has plagued cities across this country. I could only find one way to express that grief through my writing. I wrote this poem as a reflection piece to help me articulate what I was seeing and feeling.
Two black boys playing with the trash thrown out of the house
Taking apart a broken chair saying, “Hulk Smash!”
Young black boy playing on the porch with his dogs
While music in the car next to him blasts Nipsey Hussle
Three black children on the playground across the town
Running and screaming not fearing anything or anyone around
One black man on the ground telling his captors I can’t breathe
barely making a sound
More black men gathering around enjoying life in quarantine’s vault
Fearing nothing now until cops roll up and everything comes to a halt.
One elderly black man tending the garden in the yard of the home he’s lived in for years
Raised his children in community without fear
Now seeing scorned earth for blocks where life was once good
Hope all gone has deflated the neighborhood
Streets torn apart not by cops but by black brothers and sisters with ricocheting gun shots
One black man walking his dog in the neighborhood
Vexing less melanated citizens fearing he’s up to no good
His presence evokes fear and threats to others simply
Though he makes no noise or scene he is simply being seen
They avoid him like the flu desperately trying to get away
But he resolves that for his children’s future, it’s a price he’s willing to pay
Yes, people say Black Lives Matter
but we’re seeing in real time how quickly that black life can shatter
Into a million pieces of brokenness and breaking hope of generations past
Black man forced to be silent
Because he knows if he speaks too loud or too bold he’ll incite a riot
Too many black men and women caged in a cell
Cause a systemically unjust society condemned them to hell
With the same blindness of justice refusing them bail
Let them rot cause they’re better safe where they are
which makes us safe from them
The existential quarantine against the man whose blackness forces him to shelter in place
To stay in his lane and not run the race of freedom..don’t breathe just lie in state
Breathe or not its their own fault some say
The pain he sees and feels replacing the pleasure of a life promised to be lived
Being a black man in a fair-weather world
Trying to make a dollar every day makes you wanna holler
Rage against the machine as its raging against you
Copyright June 2, 2020 Lorenzo T. Neal
This week Jason Collins is being celebrated as heroic, courageous, brave, and all the like simply because he has come out of the closet as a gay man. While this may be worth celebrating for some, it has raised concerns for many others. Personally, I am not the least bit bothered by his coming out, but I question motive and timing. I am no conspiracy minded person, but let’s be realistic about this guy’s average career and the fact that career is almost over. What makes this unique is that no one, not one single person including Collins’ own twin brother or ex-fiancé was aware of his sexual orientation. That begs to question his motive also but again, that is inference only and not definite proof of his motive. Collins is certainly reaping the benefits of his announcement.
He has made the news cycle; he’s gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, and has received a personal call of thanks and adulations from President Obama and a tweet of support from First Lady Michelle Obama. I’m not sure why the need for either of them to do so when they are neglecting the other real brave, courageous, and heroic individuals that do simple things other than proclaiming their sexual orientation to the world. Maybe it’s because he’s a professional basketball player in a sport dominated by black males who often promote misogynistic ideals.
Perhaps it is because the Black community is one of the last great horizons for the breaking of same sex barriers and phobias. Whatever the case may be, I cannot say that his coming out is a reason to celebrate. I do however believe that if he encourages others in the league or any other professional sport to follow suit, it would all but turn the idea of the US being a normal country upside down. Jason Collins’ announcement is not likely to change the world as we know it.
There will be a multitude of young men and women who will come out of the closet or struggle in the closet regarding their sexual orientation. It is our responsibility as Christian believers to encourage them, love them, not judge or condemn them, and empower them with the faith of Christ.