Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

At what point I understood I was Black
I do not recall. For on both sides,
my grandparents are White.
My mother’s light enough to pass.
MLK was shot for preaching integration
before a nation that perpetuates classism
manifested in bold print: racism.
Different strokes for different folks
but this is no “sitcom,” when armed cops
are disguised as Klu-Klux-Killers killing kids.

Plagued with DWB — regardless of the destination
shot while ordered to produce
my license and registration.
Meanwhile, Chicago reigns genocide
with homicide after homicide:
Black, Brown, Beige, no badge
to protect their lives.
Affirmative action and civil rights
have not saved their lives.
How do I aspire to the ideology
of an American Dream when,
each night I am awakened
by shots and screams, hard and loud
posted on corners black and proud.
The civility of this barbarity, sings
nursery rhymes to fatherless children.
How the truth remains treason
in this empire of lies.
How do I revive the the pulse of
humanity’s heart, when respect and honor
remain unconscious.
A dichotomy of audacity’s hope,
for we will never witness the birth
of a nation when ignorance
bears the burden — and,
intelligence is a glimpse.

Bear witness, as I dig in the scene
absent any gangster lean and all
unwitting passengers are forewarned
the stench of stranger fruit
rotting on these judicial branches
will render your airbags
and seat belts useless.

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Sheldon P. Johnson

Sheldon Preston Johnson is a writer incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York. He writes to bear witness to redemption and love. He is a graduate of the Cornell Prison Education Program, a member of the Phoenix Players Theatre Group and a contributor to Prison Writers.