Can U Believe? – Live Poetry Performance

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Can U Believe?

Live poetry performance by Mel Chanté @ Bowery Poetry Club open mic.

 

 

Can you believe that it was legal
for a human to own another human?
Well, well, to be fair, we were considered 3/5ths of a human
but that’s beside the point;
or maybe that is the point.
Out of curiosity though, how is it one determines
that an entire race is beneath another, really?
I know it can’t be based on something
as inherently genetic as the tint of my skin
that I just so happened to be born with
because that would be crazy, right?
I mean, come on, that’s as silly as stealing, selling, enslaving and raping
a whole continent of people for simply, well, breathing?

If you think about it y’all, 60 years ago today
we could’ve been in completely different positions:
I could’ve been chained up over there,
or hosed down over here
or lynched right there,
or buried right here…

But that was my great great grandfather
and his brothers and their wives and my aunts and their children
my great great family, a great great family,
whose blood still streams in my veins
still screams from
the pain of biting tongues
from ripped whipped skin that stung while they slept
from cuts cutting into feet as they wept and ran to catch a crumb
of the freedom they’ve been yearning to taste the fruits of their labor that hung
from the same tree our heads, I mean, high hope’s swung.

You know what else I wonder?
Maybe you can help me with my answer,
How do I prove that I’m human?
Even though I’m Black of course
Do I alternate my vernacular in your presence to sound more educated
because God forbid the dialect of my ancestors accents my annunciation, right?

Or wait, maybe I straighten my hair and slick it back in a bun
so that you don’t confuse my crown for my afro or my afro for my crown, whichever.

Wait wait, no I got it, I got it!
I nod and smile more often to ease your worries that
I’m not yet another angry, dangerous, suspicious, nigger–I mean–criminal
with the chance of being shot while black
in the back
or in the head
or on the street
or on the screen
or wearing a black hoodie
or reaching for my wallet with my kid in the car seat
or pinned down on the concrete with my hands cuffed behind me while I scream
I CAN’T BREATHE
I CAN’T BREATHE
I can’t..

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