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Dear All Lives Matter,

©All A Gray Area 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Video contains graphic content

Exactly one year ago, I sat on the patio of coffee shop in Colombia. I cried. Not just because there was another unnecessary shooting of someone who could have been my brother. But because I felt broken and detached; broken by fear and detached from family and friends who would understand that fear. Then, in my new home, even with its own form of racism, I couldn't quite make people understand why two deaths in one week shook my world in a way that devolved me to tears. And so, I did what I normally do when I feel this way; I wrote. I penned a poetic letter to the All Lives Matter movement.

Update - No justice for Philando Castile

July 6, 2016

Billie’s Strange Fruit ain’t hangin from the trees.

Now it’s lying dead in the streets

So sometimes I turn off my phone. And I sit.

I stay still and quiet, just like they want me to be.

I mute my anger and fear. I silence my sadness.

And I listen…

I listen to names as far back as those unknown whose blood soaked the ground we were expected to hoe.

I watch as videos turn from grainy, black and white to crystal clear color.

I feel. I sit. And I feel. Not anger, not fear, not sadness. I just feel. And it’s the most heartbreaking, gut-wrenching thing I can do because the list continues to grow.

The names are written down in tears colored by anguish

And I wonder, how can you not stand with us.

I wonder why you are angry that we scream.

Why is self-defense considered aggression when that rule applied to only one group is so clearly oppression?

She said we get mad when they try to erase slavery from the books, but our children will know. The plantations are now our men in orange and the new 3/5 rule is “We’ll take them to court but we won’t convict.”

Replace Plessy with Jesse and you got another light-skinned dude telling his truth refusing to stay in a box created by and more comfortable for you.

It’s bountiful when it comes to passing out benefits of the doubt,

Then they get to people who look like me and run clean out.

Langston Hughes said we were docile and kind but to be careful when we change our minds. And the time is now.

Somewhere along the way, my people tried to pass the torch.

And because the lessons of the world they wished for us were mixed with the realities of the world we live in, we were slow to grab it.

We sat in our integrated schools, lived in multi-racial neighborhoods, loved in our interracial relationships and failed to realize these were only scraps.

And as the blood continues to pour out, I’m claiming my place at the table.

I’m eating the meal I deserve not the one they choose to give.

And I know they will try to silence my voice. Detract from my words. I know I may be painted as a villain because that’s easier to convict.

It feels like I’m damned if I do but I’m already damned because I didn’t.

So sometimes I turn off my phone. And I sit.

I prepare to no longer stay quiet like they want me to be.

I turn up my anger and fear. I scream my sadness.

And I want you to listen….

Keep asking me why I talk about it so much. Keep wondering why I’m angry.

And I’ll tell you it’s because…

Billie’s Strange Fruit ain't hangin from the trees no more.

It’s lying dead in the streets

For more poetry by Janelle, grab her book Mosaic: Pieces in Poetry.

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