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Sunday, July 12, 2015


by Elbert Tavon Briggs

Gun violence in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend left 10 dead and 53 others wounded across the city. Amari Brown [pictured above], a 7-year-old boy on Chicago’s West Side, was the youngest of the fatalities. Amari had spent the day celebrating with family and riding his scooter up and down the block where he lived with his grandmother and several other relatives in Humboldt Park. Just before midnight, a gunman opened fire outside a relative's home where Amari and other children were playing, hitting both the 7-year-old and a 26-year-old woman in the chest. —The Huffington Post, July 5, 2015

‘There have been more than 200 killings so far this year in Chicago — up about 15 percent. And there have been more than 1,000 shootings. More Americans have been murdered in Chicago in the last 15 years than have died in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Much of the mayhem happens on the South and West sides. The black and brown sides. What they call Chiraq. In the racial mathematics of America, a black person is six times more likely to be the victim of a murder than a white person, and eight times more likely to be the murderer.’ —Vice News, June 25, 2015 

‘”Chi-raq" has been shrouded in mystery since news of the project first leaked in the spring, but a visit to director Spike Lee's film set this week revealed that much speculation about the movie — sparked largely by the title itself — has been off the mark. . . .Before a single frame was shot, the title became instantly polarizing — the term has been around for a few years now, equating gun violence in the city with that of the war zone in Iraq — and curiosity has been intense.’ —Chicago Tribune, July 9, 2015

                                                         friday to saturday
the end was not week
20 shot and wounded
one shot dead in ChiRaq

may have been another month
 even an 80 something years young person
still thirstin for life
 caught in the eye of  multi-caliber storms

while multi-colored talking heads
curse a word
curse a word

spring 2015
 a father placed his tiny son
in front of corner store mural
of the whole world

painted by teenage vato
young asphalt Picasso
pointed concrete brush towards graffiti verse
tell your story to the world

but the end was not week
urban street life painted
another view
father shielded son with hopes

january to june 2015
the end was not week
1050 shot and wounded
 in ChiRaq

absurd blaming urban warfare on a word

mother’s scream
“not my baby”
“not my baby”

                                                          concrete asphalt actions
speak louder than words
children, teachers, parents and grandparents
getting shot down too
can’t shield violence with silence
urban combat is more than gang related

violence has many relatives
                                               while multi-colored talking heads
curse a word
curse a word

                                                           while watching
                                                             saturday morning cartoons
before noon
taught  grandson to stop-drop and roll
so the body count bell would not toll

July 4th 2015
53 shot
10 killed
7 year-old Amari Brown’s
tiny voice
is stilled
                                                                      in ChiRaq

Author's note: This poem reflects my lifelong commitment to incorporate poetry, music, art, dance, and drama, to give voice to the voiceless. 

Elbert Tavon Briggs was born 1952 in Minneapolis, Minnesota,  raised in Omaha, Nebraska. Elbert studied at Northeastern Illinois University and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. Currently creating with the Randolph Street Poets @ the Chicago Cultural Center and workshopping with Poets & Patrons. Elbert graduated from Arizona State University and served two years in AmeriCorps fighting the war on poverty in the Lower Delta.