Hakim at the DP Wigley Building, BONK! series, 2014
I’ve had some extra reading time with the extra days off this week and I wanted to post at least a couple of the really phenomenal poems I’ve been coming across over the next few days. Today we’re starting with the inimitable Hakim Bellamy.
Hakim got a piece published by the White Privilege Conference Understanding and Dismantling Privilege Journal that knocked me out. You can read that here (click on the “Download this PDF file” link). And here’s an audio version of it, too.
The poem focuses on the phenomenon of black invisibility and especially on the effects of that phenomenon in law enforcement. It’s not that people of color (and black males especially) are indeed invisible , obviously……but that the individuality and humanity of people of color vanish into thin air in so many situations, and are replaced by whatever demonic stereotype currently overwhelms mainstream media. Since law enforcement officials deal with people in dire situations, the temptation to bypass the individual for their stereotypical counterpart is–as we’ve seen in this country over and over again–often too much to resist, apparently.
Hakim talks about “sticking out”–even if awkwardly– as a defense mechanism to ward off the horrors black invisibility can result in. But he also talks about assimilation in newly crafted ways:
image found here
“We’ve worn these neckties for years
because we’re least threatening
at the end of a leash.
Speak jive only
as a second language,
because when in Rome
do as conquered people do.”
Later in the poem, in a parent’s voice, he instructs:
“Wear your culture
like a butt naked emperor.”
The poem meditates on how different people see things differently, especially based off their fears. It reminds me a lot of a song the current Kenosha Poet Laureate, Brent Mitchell, played at the BONK! 100 Thousand Poets for Change event last September about the Tamir Rice shooting. I’ll see if I can get a recording of that song from Brent to share with people.
And since Hakim is a BONK! alum too, I’ve added his video here (from 2014), just in case you want to get a better sense of his work.
Thank you, Hakim, for making such substantial work about such a under-discussed issue!
I’ll try to drop another poem or two on here as the week goes on. In the meantime, happy 2016 everyone. We gonna ride this year to glory!
addendum (added 1.7.16)
Here is the video of the above mentioned Brent Mitchell song for Tamir Rice: