So Much

Two Black men kneeling on a stage facing the audience. One is behind the other and his hands are on the biceps of the man in front, who is wearing a grey tanktop and white trousers. Both men have serious looks on their faces. The man in back has long hair and a short beard, and his face is partially obscured by the man in front. The man in front is Lateef McLeod and he has very short hair with a hint of a beard. His hands are balled into relaxed fists and are laying on top of each other at the wrist. They are bathed in a warm light, and the background is bathed in an electric blue light.
Lateef McLeod (with Sean Shelly) from Sins Invalid’s 2020 show, “We Love Like Barnacles: Crip Lives in Climate Chaos.” © Richard Downing

About the poem: I wrote this poem after the murder of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown as a tribute to them.

About the poet: Lateef McLeod is a member of CommunicationFIRSTs Board of Directors. He is a writer, scholar, performer, and PhD student in anthropology and social change at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. His books of poetry include A Declaration of a Body of Love (2010) and Whispers of Krip Love, Shouts of Krip Revolution (2020), and in 2021, he co-authored Studies in Brotherly Love with CommunicationFIRST Advisory Council member DJ Savarese, Jorrell Watkins, and Claretta Holsey. He co-hosts the podcast Black Disabled Men Talk with Leroy Moore, Keith Jones, and Ottis Smith. Lateef is featured in the See Us, Hear Us video series, and he lives in Oakland, California.

So Much

by Lateef H. McLeod

I hear their painful cries jut up from cracks on the street.

The block is a scorching frying pan,

frying my brothers on the pavement.

Our bodies are etched on the concrete,

blood drenched as permanent ink.

Chalk should not outline our deathbed

or a body bag be our first casket.


Bullets lurch out of guns,

slice the air, and

pierce the thin borders of our black skin.

Eat away at our muscle and bones,

borough through sinews and blood vessels,

until it reaches and stops our hearts.


It is not just the gang member on the corner

whose aim we have to dodge,

but also police on the beat

whose itchy trigger fingers

leave us with our brain matter

splattered on the concrete.


Now we have to watch out for 

the neighborhood watchmen.

The wanna-be-cops who think 

we are foreign to our own neighborhood.

Trayvon had a hoodie on to protect him from the rain,

but it didn’t protect him 

from the bullet from Zimmerman’s gun.

Old George just couldn’t help 

being a deadly Don Quixote,

and shoot at every black boy,

claiming he was a harden criminal.


My coco skin is not a target for your gun.

It is the sacred encasing of God’s masterpiece

that gives warmth and joy to every loved one it touches.

No bullet will destroy what God has made immortal.

We will all rise again one day to walk under the sun.