Anomoly: The Toll of Police Brutality Across the Diaspora
I hate ultimatums
but this decision is black and white:
It's between the Ivory Tower or the Collie block
& I can’t go back to the murders and suicides
of people, I never got to say good bye to
I won’t go back to driving
Through Queens streets at 25 mph seeing
Pictures on every other street corner
memorializing those who didn’t make it
I don’t miss the hour-long bus rides from my home,
Through the hood, to my high school neighborhood
Where there are gyms, grocery stores and clean sidewalks
My anxiety is correlated to the pressure placed on me
It’s clear the relationship is strong
And I just can’t go back.
At this point I'm so unstable
The movements in the dark shadows have me looking over my shoulder only to find nothing,
The ache in my back never stops throbbing,
My heart beats hard and fast in my head
& this migraine hasn't gone away for 4 days
I’ve been here before
You know, that feeling when you can still speak
but it hurts to form words and ideas…
I just need silence before I break.
I don't want to end every semester
One split end away from a nervous breakdown.
As if on cue, my life is sent into chaos
When the same "model police department,"
who walked besides Vandy students
during protests in Midtown
found themselves on the Eastside, scared shitless.
Even if they don’t have hate in their hearts,
they’ve been taught brown skin signals guilt.
They can't even tell the difference
between stopping crime and destroying our community.
They relentlessly rain down bullets on black and brown bodies
Because they don't see a human being,
they just see skin
When the news story broke
& I saw his name all over my timeline in the articles
I broke into fear
Could this be a typo?
Or Are they be talking about my father,
Or my uncle, Jacques-Mary,
Or my grandfather, Jacques Auguste,
Being murdered in his own neighborhood?
I was shaking as I walked into class
With Jocques on my mind…
Flashbacks of statistics popped in my head,
Of my damning urban studies readings,
Of my teacher ignoring me when I’m the only one raising my hand
& I wonder who’s next
I try to explain to my teacher
Why “predictable outcomes for Black students”
Makes me feel invisible in this elite sea of white
But she calls me an “outlier” and moves on
Today the Nashville council meeting
Was rightfully decolonized by protestors.
Brown people mobilized in the name of Jocques
& for the community to know:
they are not suffering alone
As I see a sea of brown hues protesting, I wonder:
Where were the women’s march protestors today?
If we’re lucky: writing hashtags and wearing safety pins.
How is it that the great equalizer doesn’t accommodate for difference?
Can’t pull myself up by bootstraps if I don’t have shoes.
No matter who is President, or what law gets passed
my skin will be a glaring signal
Therefore, my existence is an act of defiance
& Black lives matter.
Because even if you thought
he was just a thug or a statistic,
He had a life, a family, a daily struggle,
A favorite snack, dreams, fears, and memories.
& all the world cares about is if he was
a statistic or an outlier.
Get Out: A Hair Horror
I saw women walk in and out
Of the doors of Felicia’s house for years.
Her house was older than ours
& there were vines that lined the wooden panels
on top of the walkway to the backyard,
It was quite an odd sight for Jamaica Ave
I swore that place had magic,
Women would walk in one way
And come out a little different, with a pep in their step
My mom finally let me come inside with her
One day in elementary school
“but you have to be quiet” she said
When I stepped inside Felicia’s house
Her kitchen was unlike any kitchen I’d ever seen
The sinks weren’t for dishes or food.
They were for Mizani and Just For Me.
Most of the time I played outside with the boys
Skating, racing and wrestling on the concrete.
I wanted to have a little taste of the women’s world
The moment this crossed my mind, I heard an inaudible whisper.
It’s not that I didn’t want to be clean,
There just had to be a better way, I thought
As my mom poured another bowl of water over my head
I covered my mouth and nose when I felt the
Soapy water stream down my temples, into my ears
My mom began combing through my coils
& She broke a comb in my coils
But that wasn’t all… something broke inside of her
She was done.
By Friday, I was at Felicia’s house
& The small indistinguishable whisper had grown quite annoying.
Felicia cloaked me in a black cape
Smeared petroleum jelly on my edges and scalp
And began coating my hair in opaque whiteness
It was cool at first then I felt a light stinging
Light stinging transformed
into intense agony in moments
But I did everything in my power to keep
my pain from escaping my body
but I failed and a whisper escaped like a small scream
I smiled as a tear fell from my eye.
The most painful infliction was the silence…
From the other women in the salon,
From my mother.
I let out a silent “help” seep from my eyes
And my mother jumped to my rescue
Thank God, I thought.
“Felicia, it’s time,” she said
but Felicia said, “no, her hair is thick”
She couldn’t save me.
I got up and paced in pain
And felt a cool breeze coming from the open door
I looked outside and saw the boys playing outside
What did I do? I thought as I burst into tears
Felicia rushed me to the sink
And washed my coils, kinks and chemicals down the drain
When she was finished
She sat me in front of the mirror
I saw my mother’s confused eyes in the mirror
Waiting under dryers for their turn at the chair.
I looked outside
The sun had gone down
& novelas were playing from Felicia’s living room.
I finally glanced at the stranger in front of me
& Ay Dios Mio shrilled at the top of the tv actress’ lungs
My hair lay limp, dead and wet
On my shoulders
“Do you like your hair?” Felicia said
No, No, N-No, No, No, No, No, I thought
But I breathed in, exhaled and smiled
“It’s lovely, thank you”
Normally I sit up front
But for this class
I sit all the way in the back,
In the corner.
It’s hard for me to see the screen
But it keeps me out of sight
& I have a good pulse of the room
In case the spirit catches me
And I decide to participate
This happens often
And lately, I notice my professor
Misunderstanding my answers,
Avoiding eye contact with me,
Praying someone else’s hand goes up
But no one’s hand is up
And no one can see my hand up in the corner
She sighs, “fine, Valencia”
All eyes turn to me,
& I thought I deserved a seat in the classroom
but the Brown decision is still a myth.
I’m not a threat
I’m a student
who just wanted to take a shot.
Statistics don’t intimidate me,
I’ve been fighting not to be one
my whole life…
But I guess she’s fighting harder
just to stand teaching me
I hear her sigh again
And wonder why she’s so tired of me
I’m getting more and more
Tired of this woman
Slide after slide
She guides members
Of the cohort through statistics
As painlessly as possible
But after hearing it for the third time
It’s finally starting to make sense
The gears are turning
And I power through the exercise
With my peers
The class reviews,
We get to a question and the class
Is quite stumped
After a few minutes of no response
My hand slowly creeps into the air
“Jasmine,” she says.
While looking right at me
Although Jasmine is also black,
She’s on the other side of the room
And her hand isn’t raised.
I sit quietly waiting for her
She’s confused the two
Black women in the class
And sit puzzled,
Wondering if this is reality
After an awkward silence
She is corrected by
The tension in the air
Makes it hard to breathe
I guess she didn’t mean to
but her intent doesn’t
invalidate her ignorance
She asks me to speak,
& like clockwork
the answers flow out of me
these words are the thoughts in my head,
the air in my lungs
Although it’s a guess,
I think I’m on the right track
But when I speak
You don’t hear me,
You don’t even know my name
After calling on other
She finds herself repeating
I’ve zoned out of this session
But I hear
“Valencia was actually right”
and it snaps me out of my haze
and into a rage because
She doesn’t speak my language,
She doesn’t understand my mind
She turned my academic sanctuary
Into a torture chamber
Just by simply being in it
Check it out at: bmpvoices.com/teacher-torture
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