Poem presented at Liberate Don't Incarcerate's 7.18.20 Art & Abolition gathering.
Song: Woyaya| Author: Sol Amarifio
Corner store Gravestone Part 1
SUNG: We are going, heaven knows where we are going,
But we know within.
When I travel, I seek out the Black part of town.
They are not hard to find. The style of homes, the kinds of stores, the lack of bus routes, and access to groceries and medical care are dead giveaways.
I think I seek this out because I need to know where I can go to feel safe, to find my people, to eat my food, I count windows to learn if the schools are for education or pre-detention, I need to know what churches line the corners, who is preaching on Sunday, what gods are allowed.
And if I can physically go, to be in the heart of those Black havens, I look for the makeshift,
memorials announcing where
Ray Ray was shot cause he wouldn't join the gang,
where Tina'em was playing and she got hit by the car,
where Omarion was shot but the police.
I can easily find the litter of grief assembled in a pile near a pole or fence. Covered with cheap bears with red ribbon neckties.
Balloons strings draggin in the wind.
And old santeria candles that no community mama can ever re- light.
I can see the old vigil flyers with grammar school photos,
funeral programs lined with the standard cloud frame of a young man in his JR ROTC uniform. RIH tshirts with all the kids airbrushed names.
I see the letters that no one will read but that had to be written. I see flowers, Still in the cellophane sealed with green rubber bands at the stems.
store bought carnations and roses;
Hibiscus plants from a nearby yard. Added to the altar. Added to the tribune
Added to the corner store gravestone marking where too many took their last breath.
The way a community experiences and then expresses grief matters to me. For the elders it is a cool familiar mist, For the youth it is an sudden quick Summer downpour
For the children, it compounds into puddles perfect for splashing
The way a community holds pain matters to me. The way it builds The way it stacks The way it shifts to sadness Shifts into anger Shifts into action
All this tells me all I need to know, That they will love me,
they will fight for me,
they will mourn me.
Should harm come to me
And I need that comfort sometimes with so much strange fruit hanging among the trees.
SUNG: And We will get there, heaven knows how we will get there,
But know we will.
Yes We will get there, heaven knows how we will get there,
I dont want Part 2
I dont want heaven if its not a late night spades game with brown liquor and stories about scooter'um.
I dont want heaven if it's not grandma's banana pudding after greens with juicy turkey legs.
I dont want heaven if it's not twerk dance battles.
I don't want heaven if its not the electric slide, cupid shuffle, wobble shake the whole floor/whole generations dance routines
I dont want heaven if it's not whole family karaoke jams
I don't want heaven if its not cousins returning from nature's medicine hot box car errands.
I dont want heaven if the seasoning aint right.
I don't want heaven if it not ever shade of earth browns. Swirling to a beat only the diaspora could make.
I don't want heaven if it's not aunties ladeling kitchen table wisdom and uncle's offering bbq grill life coaching
My Heaven is full of blackness.
I know in every part of my marrow, Everytime we gather.
Everything about us soothes, heals, restores, regenerates.
Shifting my spiritual axis back to a place it never should have left. woyaya, woyaya, woyaya
Quiana Perkins is a Minneapolis native who now lives in Ann Arbor. Her passion is Black liberation. She is the mama bear of two pre teens.