I recently had a poem of mine selected as a winner of the weekly Rock the Chair challenge at Yellow Chair Press. I submitted a poem titled, Dear White People, a no-holds-barred call to my fellow white people to consciousness and to action. I’m grateful to YCR for selecting my piece, but more than it being another publication to add to my bibliography, I’m thankful for the opportunity for this piece to find a broader audience. It’s a hard poem, but an important one. I long ago dispensed with keeping people comfortable in favor of telling the truth. It doesn’t always make me a popular poet, but I care more about whether I live up to the name Jenuine–living, writing, being genuine–than I do number of followers.
Dear White People comes at a time when my community is acknowledging and remembering the horrifying acts of 1916 meted out upon one Jesse Washington–a young Black man who was found guilty of a crime he did not commit and was sentenced to hang. But before he could hang a crowd of over 15thousand people who had gathered to spectate, took him and brutalized him with cruelty and atrocity. There was no hanging. This was a mob murder and no one intervened. The city and all its white citizens participated, looked on, and cheered for such a flagrant display of racist violence.
I wrote Dear White People in response to where we are today, 100 years out from that event, in 2016 when we still have lynchings of innocent Black people–we’ve just traded rope for bullets.
I’m grateful also to the Black Poet’s Society for inviting me to share this piece at their recent 100th Anniversary anti-lynching #BlackLivesMatter open mic event at Cozys Lounge. Part of the work of change is white people standing up to speak to one another addressing racism, discrimination, and the systems of injustice we participate in perpetuating which keep individuals and communities oppressed. At least, this is what I understand my responsibility to be.
“anything less would be a farce
a hypocrisy of
Love” – excerpt from the poem Elijah