After the incident where School Resource Officer Rigo slammed young, black teen Gyasi Hughes to the floor without any repercussions, I wrote this poem to align myself as an ally with #blacklivesmatter and to address the constant threat of physical harm that looms over children of color in America. Meaningless condemnations such as previous drug use or even something as innocent as answering a cop when asked a question are used to justify bodily harm and death.
In American culture, black children are criminalized and portrayed as threatening from a very young age, encouraged by a media machine which insists that they are undeserving of compassion or justice. The body count of innocent, unarmed children (and adults) of color rises as corruption goes unchecked and it cannot be said that the survival of a child after a police encounter is a matter of the law or of morality–merely one of chance. The final stanza of this poem echoes the sentiment that black children like Gyasi may survive an encounter with police, but that the threat of injustice and harm is always present for people of color in this country.
Boy wore a backpack to class
and too much of his own skin over-
seeing himself in funhouse distortion;
unafraid ripples violent
when a cop asks you a question.
One moment, drawn like a police
sketch white hand
on a black boy’s insistence
one throat, one head
hitting linoleum, his English teacher making room for it.
“He was no angel” the world will claim;
a chorus of already-gone boys condemned
for C minus, cannabis, grab-full corner store cigarettes.
The angel choir always sings
“No Angel, not yet. Not yet.”
Lauren Harwyn, 2015