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 CommunicationFIRST’s 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.
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.