It Only Takes 90 Seconds To Make Me Look At Black Kids Riding The Sliding Board A Little Differently
There's something so innocent about playing at a playground as a child. But what if the behaviors we learn there take on a different meaning when we're older?
Here's a little background:
In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri, protests surrounding the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson, hundreds of poets have recorded themselves reading meaningful and mostly original works that highlight systemic racism, police brutality, injustice, and the love of black life using the hashtag #BlackPoetsSpeakOut on Twitter. There's even a Tumblr devoted just to pulling together all the videos from YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else black poets are posting.
There are so many good poems there, written and read by people from all walks of life. Some of them are long and intense, some short and angry, some sad, some defiant, and all filled with metaphors and wordplay that would make Maya Angelou proud.
But my favorites are the simple ones that use really powerful ideas and imagery to make a powerful point. Images like this:
And what in the world does a sliding board have to do with #BlackLivesMatter? Well, that's the beauty of poetry! Clint Smith's poem "Playground Elegy" tells the story of him as a little boy being told by his mother to raise his hands in the air on his first ride down a slide.
He remembers the feeling of freedom he felt as the air passed through his hands on his first slide. And now, as an adult and in the wake of Mike Brown's death, he wonders about the connection between raising his hands as a young black boy and the young men who are taught to raise their hands as a way to stay alive in the presence of police. Deep, right?
(In case you're wondering about the explicit connection between this poem and Ferguson, remember that eyewitnesses said they saw Mike Brown with his hands up in the air as he was shot by Darren Wilson. And while the prosecutor disputed that claim, the facts of the case remain unclear as to the exact positioning of his arms. As a result, the position has become a symbol of protest and solidarity for people all over the world since the shooting on Aug. 9, 2014.)