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Most of the time you’ll find me chilling. Laid back, just being Black and minding my business.  Saying, it is what it is. And that’s it, that’s all! 

But lately I’ve been feeling a certain kind of way in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake. In the wake of being constantly reminded that America is not so great!

I mean, I’ve been trying to keep the dream afloat. But James Brown is no longer around, saying loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!  And B.B. King is not singing the blues to help me cope. We are losing our souls as Black folks!

Tell me, how do we make America great again? America was only great because we soaked up its hate and swept it under a rug. Because we refused to live by the sword and waited on the Lord. That’s what kept this divided country united.

It wasn’t racism but resiliency — our hope, our strength, our turning the other cheek. That’s what’s kept America thriving. Stockholm syndrome. Four hundred years of being dethroned. 

It used to be, while the illuminati was leaving black bodies rotting, I would escape into my fantasies. But now I’m being forced to see I’m just a fugitive slave in these divided states. Bull Conner and his dogs have removed my brain fog.

A civil rights leader is dead and so is a Black Panther. And America is dealing with a virus more deadly than the flu. A metastasizing cancer. A crippling disease that has gouged out the eyes of liberty and left her hollowed sockets bleeding into the Atlantic.

And the tired and poor, who cannot breathe, are still unfree, teeming ashore, unhuddled. Wretched and refused and incarcerated in masses. From across the Atlantic to San Quentin, Soledad, California Institute for Women, and Chowchilla. Attica, Rikers, Angola and Marion. All of my brothers and sisters are suffering — just for being Black as a matter of fact!

Who said racism is dead? I knew it all along, racism lives on. It’s venom is spewing. We’re stewing in its fake news, and fake political feuds and dog whistles. 

While we’re screaming Black Lives Matter and marching in the streets, racism is growling, bearing its teeth at George Floyd murals reminiscent of the Sphinx. It’s vandalizing shrines to Breonna, while secretly worshipping the Black Madonna. 

Now Kenosha is burning, like Oakland and Portland, Seattle and Washington. And I passively sit in this pit of blasphemy, like nothing is happening. But the message is resonating.

We’re returning to the misery of the 1960s. Fanning are the fiery flames of history. And it’s the President I have to thank for not deceiving me, for being so frank with his hate and refusing to say ‘ Black lives matter’  to a fugitive slave.

For forcing me awake to see, 

How fragile it is to be free;

For reminding me that liberty is bleeding.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Steve Brooks

Steve Brooks is a contributing writer for the Prison Journalism Project and San Quentin News, a newspaper published out of San Quentin State Prison in California where he is incarcerated. He has been published in the San Francisco Public Press, Street Spirit, All of Us or None and Voice of Witness. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and won a 2020 Journalism Excellence Award by SPJ's Northern California chapter for two of his columns in PJP. Steve has completed two college degrees in liberal arts and social and behavioral sciences and plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in sociology.