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Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash

Once upon a time,
Long before whippin’ your child became a crime,
Malcolm X was laid to rest and M.L. King had his dream,
I thought it was cool to drop outta school
or hate another brotha ’cause he wore blue.
Cocaine was turned into rock
and I was still afraid to smoke a little pot,
Strike three meant 25 years to life
and we still settled things with a fist fight.
Once upon a time
It was all good in the ’hood!
We were like one big family and everybody looked out for each other —
“Stop that or I’ll tell your mother,”
was all it took to get your butt back in line,
because if you didn’t, you knew Mama would take a switch to your behind.
There was a time
when Black was Black and the old school
taught the new school some of life’s golden rules.
Like be quick to listen, slow to talk,
and if it didn’t concern you, don’t open your mouth.
But that was then and this is now, shit’s wild.
Never see my neighbors smile, seems we’re livin’
under a black cloud —
tell me how it all turned so very foul?
We seem to always find a reason to sit down
but never a reason to stand up.
Shakin’ our responsibilities is the cause
of our pain and misery,
It’s no longer a mystery.
If we don’t take heed of the past
when Black was Black and it meant I got your back,
we won’t last!
Once upon a time is more than just a simple rhyme:
re-read these lines, analyze what you find,
then with truth and understanding give sight to the…

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.

A.L. Blake is a writer incarcerated in California.