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Tuesday, October 15, 2019


by Judy Juanita

“Last Saturday, a neighbor in Fort Worth called the city’s non-emergency line because he was concerned about his neighbors, 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson and her 8-year-old nephew. It was the middle of the night, but her front door was open. The dispatcher sent police officers, who appear to have treated the call as a reported burglary. While searching the perimeter of the house, Officer Aaron Dean saw a figure in the window. Without announcing himself, he yelled ‘Put your hands up! Show me your hands!’ Two seconds later, he fired his gun, killing Jefferson in her own home.” —Radley Balko, The Washington Post, October 15, 2019. Photo: A makeshift memorial outside the home of Atatiana Jefferson on Monday. Jefferson was fatally shot by a Fort Worth police officer early Saturday morning. (Jake Bleiberg/AP via The Washington Post, October 15, 2019

We wear a masque called freedom
But Atatiana was shot like a fugitive slave.
We masquerade as upright citizens
Brave this deadly force every goddam day
Masquerade as independent thinkers
While our thoughts get shot down in the streets.

We believe, like true believers, in the rule of law
The gangs in blue shoot through that too.
Our red, white and blue masques say VOTER
But our ballots keep disappearing.
When the ancestors greet Atatiana
They shake her alive. The masquerade is over.

Faith leaders wear the masque of concern
But their brand-new bibles are warped and cracking.
Atatiana’s neighbor, in masque, cries out
They had no reason to come with guns drawn.
The ancestors ask: Are all the players numb?
Some, not all, though in costume, torn and dirtied, know.

The great pantomime and our long drawn out performance
Cracks and peels with every gun drawn and each bullet fired.

Judy Juanita's poetry has appeared in Obsidian II, 13th Moon, Painted Bride Quarterly, Croton Review, The Passaic Review, Lips, TheNewVerse.News, Poetry Monthly and Drumrevue 2000.  Her short stories and essays appear widely. Juanita's semi-autobiographical novel Virgin Soul chronicled a black female coming of age in the 60s who joins the Black Panther Party. Her collection of essays, DeFacto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland was a distinguished finalist in OSU's 2016 Non/Fiction Collection Prize.