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Monday, July 25, 2016


by Akua Lezli Hope

Each new report reopens old wounds:
time we pulled off the Jersey highway to nap
police lights blinding as husband yanked me
awake that night, fear and fury urgent in his voice
uniforms on both sides yelling, you can’t rest
on this white shoulder, threatening me back
to 16 with sweet baby sister on the subway
the short uniformed man’s hand on his stick
did it matter that we were on our way to Natural History
that she was only four like Lavish Diamond’s
girl made to witness violence and her protector’s
vulnerability?  We thought no, no, never again
when grandmother Eleanor Bumpurs was shot
at home for no good reason, never again be killed
for art, for its denial, or repression like Michael Stewart
never again when Abner Louima was broomsticked
and never again when Amadou Diallo was drowned
in a hale of 41 mistaken, misguided missiles and before
that did we think ourselves lucky, nothing permanent
when it was only a night stick upside Doug’s head
at the protest, only blunt force trauma,
not a noose in a lonely cell like Sandra Bland,
not spine-severing vehicular lynching like Freddie Gray,
not bullets, bullets, bullets as in Delrawn Small,
a father angry at being imperiled, bullets for preteen
Tamir Rice playing alone in the park, bullets
in Alton Sterling selling CDs, number 558
to be shot and killed by police this year
and I tremble remembering, remembering
all the insults hurled, the bullets I’ve dodged

Author’s Note: Eleanor Bumpurs was an African-American woman who was shot and killed on October 29, 1984 by New York City police. Michael Jerome Stewart  was a graffiti artist, beaten into a coma by New York City Transit Police for graffiti on a subway station wall  and died September 28, 1983. Abner Louima, was tortured by Brooklyn police (1997) and won $8.75 million dollars. Douglass David Walker was the founder of Alien Planetscapes and an activist. Amadou Diallo a West African immigrant was shot 41 times by 4 policemen in the doorway of his apartment building (1999). Sandra Bland died in a Texas jail cell after a traffic stop. Lavish/Diamond, the girlfriend of Philando Castile, broadcast the aftermath of their deadly traffic stop. Delrawn Small, a 37-year-old father of three, was killed in front of his family at a traffic light by an off duty Brooklyn cop while on their way to see July 4th fireworks this year. See “The Counted” at The Guardian.

Akua Lezli Hope is a creator who uses sound, words, fiber, glass, and metal, to create poems, patterns, stories, music, ornaments, adornments, and peace whenever possible. She has won fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Ragdale, Hurston Wright writers, and the National Endowment for The Arts.  She is a Cave Canem fellow. Her manuscript Them Gone won Red Paint Hill Publishing’s Editor’s Prize and will be published in 2016.