2017 – 21st Annual Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam – "Backwards" by Samuel

Emmett Till was 14 years old when he was beaten mutilated shot and thrown in a river by two grown white men in 1955 neither of them served any jail time Tamir rice was 12 years old when he was shot and killed by two cops that were soon placed on paid administrative leave in 2014 neither of them served an hour of jail time see Tamir was three months older than me but now I'm older than he'll ever be and he was 12 and now I'm 14 so I'm starting to feel a little like I'm overdue we are moving backwards like adults to black teens to black children to black babies chains fit better on smaller wrists don't they you can fit more children into a casket can't you they label the super-predators but we were always the ones that were preyed upon now tell me what is it about black skin that seems to tent metal from shackles and plantations to handcuffs and prison cells black folk in this nation are no strangers to the cool kiss of a bullet video after video of black bodies falling like dominoes like if a black boy gets shot in the middle of the block and no one is around to hear his body hit the ground as he still makes the evening news does he still matter does he still make a sound gunshots in Wales echo in my head like the chorus of a song we all know this national anthem has never been more than the soundtrack to a massacre star-spangled banner soaked in black blood and draped over indigenous bone where the hell do you think those stripes came from this flag has never been more than the carpet you sweet black and brown corpses underneath bloody murder in the name of American patriotism and you still think you're triple K your GOP your make America great again scares us their mamas in East Oakland who have lost five sons in a year every day is a dance with the skeletons of their children they buried the same bodies they crack themselves to bear you think you scare us I know the Reaper better than I know myself we spend our entire lives chasing our tombstones cousins and brothers uncles and fathers moralized on t-shirts the only thing we have left to eulogize is all men created equal like rest in peace justice like I I am living defiance I am the American Dream is worst nightmare a black boy with an opinion and the heart that's still beating just by standing up here and saying these words I'm contradicting every definition of a black man that you ever forced upon me I was supposed to stick to basketball in pants sagging at my knees never supposed to read never supposed to write nurse was the thing I was never supposed to wake the hell up like this skin this hair this voice too loud too smart too much too much to say I never knew how to bend my back so I can still keep writing these poems till I break like let me dress up my scars and hand them to you let me slap a bow on this and see how high it scores because that's how this goes we both know how this goes I believe and I bleed and I bleed and I make it pretty I'll write a poem of my own blood I make it presentable I scream my pain through a microphone does an oppression make the loveliest art keep

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