Confederate statue in Durham torn down; image from here.

EDIT (8/5/19): This was originally posted in 2017 and was focused on Charlottesville, but I’ve since added even more resources to this list, and broadened the scope to disrupting and dismantling white supremacy in general. That’s work that has to happen early, and teachers can play an important role.

At the top of this week, the Washington Post published this piece by Valerie Strauss: The first thing teachers should do when school starts is talk about hatred in America. Here’s help. The following links contain more ideas for resources, readings, and lesson plans, and may be a good place to start for educators who know that current events matter, and that not talking about Charlottesville makes a statement to your students that’s just as loud as any conversation or critical exploration.

Because my background is in using spoken word as a tool for narrative-building and opening up spaces for authentic dialogue, I wanted to share a few poems that have been on my mind lately. As always, list-making is tricky. This is not a list of the “best” poems about this topic, or even a list of just “poems about racism.” 

This is a list of poems that might be useful for educators looking for artistic work that can prompt some critical thinking about hate, white supremacy, and the recent events in Charlottesville.

I’m also thinking about this list in terms of what work needs to be done in educational spaces. Understanding the motivations of– and contextual factors that cultivate– white supremacists is one angle, but so is making connections between the explicit hate espoused by neo-nazis and the more subtle, implicit ways that white supremacist ideology pops up in everyday life. I think these poems, in different ways, explore those connections. Maybe we shouldn’t need personal, human stories to create empathy, to illuminate that other human beings matter. But they can be tools for that, when it’s called for. These poems also use metaphor, symbolism, narrative, and other tools to push the listener beyond the notion that racism is just “people being mean to each other because they’re different.”

Of course, not every poem is appropriate for every audience. Be sure to review before presenting, both in terms of language/accessibility stuff and relevance. Also of course, “talking about racism” is a first step, not a last one, and we should challenge ourselves to find ways to embed anti-racist approaches and policies into our schools and institutions in more concrete ways as well.

Joseph Capehart – “Colorblind”

This poem uses humor to open up space for a powerful critique for the very common idea that “not seeing color” is the answer to racism. “You want to strip me clean; bleach away the parts of me that make you uncomfortable… when you say ‘colorblind,’ you are asking me to forget.”

Jared Paul – “5 Times My Skin Color Did Not Kill Me”

Storytelling can communicate information in ways that facts and statistics can’t. In this poem/TEDx Talk, Jared Paul simply tells five stories from his life that illustrate how whiteness works in context, even for people who would not consider themselves privileged.

Guante – “How to Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist”

I wanted to write something about how “white supremacy” is bigger and more insidious than just literal white supremacists marching around with torches. But this is also about highlighting the *connection* between those people and the everyday acts/attitudes/policies that make them possible. Pushing back has to happen at multiple levels too– denouncing and disrupting specific acts of terror, but also uprooting their worldview in the classroom, the office, the church, the comment thread, the home, and everywhere.

Patricia Smith – Skinhead

A classic poem that seeks to explore the motivations of hateful bigots, without ever making excuses for them. There’s so much in here about empathy (in a critical sense), perspective, and what lenses people use to see the world.

Kevin Yang – “Come Home”

This poem is warm, funny, and approachable, using empathy-generating personal stories to make a larger point about xenophobia, the refugee experience, and finding home. “Call me Hmong before you call me American, because Hmong is the closest word I know to home.”

Bao Phi – “Broken/English”

This poem is heartbreaking. Sad poems can be useful when crafting activities or discussions focused on walking in someone else’s shoes. “Year after year she makes flowers bloom in the hood, petals in the face of this land that doesn’t want her here.”

Christy NaMee Eriksen – If Racism Was a Burning Kitchen (text only)

Talking about racism involves *talking* about racism, and this piece has always been a favorite of mine because of how it illuminates how those conversations so often go. It’s absurdist, and even funny, but it points to something deadly serious and can be a useful entry point for talking about how we talk about racism.

Anthony McPherson – All Lives Matter (1800s Edition)

I can’t think of a better deconstruction of the excuses and rationalizations that white people use to distance themselves from white supremacy. Obviously, this won’t work for every audience, in every situation, but it can be a very powerful exploration of how rhetoric can be used to mask racism.

T. Miller – “Ten Things You Sound Like When You Say AllLivesMatter in Response to BlackLivesMatter”

Another piece that uses juxtaposition and humor to highlight the absurdity of how white supremacy is, and isn’t, talked about in the US.

William Evans – “They Love Us Here”

Students sometimes struggle with the notion that tokenism, “positive” stereotypes, or other forms of “benevolent racism” are harmful. Even well-meaning people can contribute to a white supremacist society. This poem can be an entry point into that conversation.

Carlos Andrés Gómez – “12 Reasons to Abolish C.B.P & I.C.E”
So much white supremacist terrorism takes root in xenophobia and anti-immigrant hate. This poem can be a first step toward interrogating that.

Denice Frohman – “Borders”
Yet another poem showcasing the power of storytelling; this is a poem that might have different things to say to different audiences- but they’re all valuable.

Aamer Rahman – “Reverse Racism

I’m cheating here since this isn’t a poem; it’s just really good. One reason we talk so much about “racism” in the US rather than “white supremacy” is because racism can be (incorrectly) framed as attitude. And anyone of any identity can have a bad attitude. But white supremacy is about power. It’s about history. And this short video illustrates that perfectly.

I hope this list can be useful; feel free to share more in the comments. 

Of course, these are all for sparking dialogue, because dialogue matters. But action also matters. Whether it’s a classroom full of high-schoolers, a book club, a discussion group in a church basement, or some other setting, what matters is how we translate these discussions, these epiphanies, and these feelings into action. That’s another post, but hopefully, there’s something here that can be a useful start.

For teachers, student affairs folks, social justice activists, and beyond: this is a playlist of 30 poems that have been useful to me in classrooms, facilitated discussions, and other educational spaces.

It’s not a list of the “best” poems ever, or the only poems about these various topics; but there is some really powerful work here, work that meaningfully engages with these issues and can serve as great entry points or dialogue-starters. If you’re a teacher, another kind of educator, or just a person who understands the power of art, story, and conversation, I hope you find something to use here.

Of course, be sure to review the poems yourself first, since not every poem is going to be relevant or appropriate for every audience. Aside from these 30 poems, though, I hope people can fall down rabbit holes finding more work from these poets and these channels.

Additional lists and resources:

Also wanted to share this piece that’s been on my mind a lot this summer, as I get ready to hit the road again this fall: Towards an Antifascist Pedagogy by Guy Emerson Mount. A relevant quote for educators, poets, and everyone: “Following Davis and Robeson, the first rule of an anti-fascist pedagogy then is to refuse to continue with ‘business as usual’ and recognize that the anti-fascist battleground is everywhere.”

New video up via Button Poetry. This poem is in my book, which is available now.

This is a poem about dominant narratives and counter-narratives. To quote MPD150:

As the bodycam footage in the Thurman Blevins case is released (which we won’t share here, since enough people are sharing the footage via news networks and we don’t want to re-traumatize people), we can see the official narrative starting to take shape.

Our challenge is to not lose sight of the context around that narrative. Police, politicians, and media will almost always zoom in on the specific details of a given case; this is understandable (and of course, we can’t lose sight of the real human being and family at the center of this), but it’s also a tactic that keeps us from talking about the bigger picture.

The MPD150 report exists, in part, to provide some of that bigger picture and historical context. Explicit instances of police violence are part of a larger system of violence; it isn’t just about how individual officers act in individual moments; it’s about the larger system/culture that led to those moments in the first place. What relationships between the police and that neighborhood existed before that moment? What kinds of mindsets did the police enter into that moment with? What sorts of resources and alternatives are missing from the picture? These aren’t always easy questions, but they’re worth asking.

This is all also in the context of just the last couple years here in Minneapolis– from Thurman Blevins, to the ketamine scandal, to the Justine Ruszczyk lawsuit, to the occupation of the 4th precinct after the killing of Jamar Clark, to debates about mayoral vs. city council oversight, to ongoing, deeper questions about punishment vs. prevention and what we choose to invest in. Aside from the MPD150 report linked to above and this FAQs on police abolition, I’d also recommend this overview by Unicorn Riot. Knowing what’s happening is a necessary first step.

For people interested, MPD150 is organizing a big interactive exhibit this fall, in collaboration with some amazing artists, to bring the report to life. If you’d like to support that, you can donate here. Look out for more details on that soon. Full text of the poem:

POLICE MAKE THE BEST POETS

Note the creative phrasing, the novel juxtaposition of words: the officer discharged his weapon, striking the individual. Note how the poem is so well-constructed, the newspapers print it as-is.

Note how they call it a perfect storm of human error; poetry is weather, after all, not climate. Note this attention to detail: height, weight, what size pants he wore, the specific model of toy gun. Poetry is, after all, about zooming in on these concrete particulars. Note how precise they are with their cuts: history, context, connections, trends— they focus only on what is necessary— so every time we hear the poem, it feels fresh again.

Note their mastery of repetition. Note how they show all the things they cannot tell.

EDIT (8/5/19): This was originally posted in 2017 and was focused on Charlottesville, but I’ve since added even more resources to this list, and broadened the scope to disrupting and dismantling white supremacy in general. That’s work that has to happen early, and teachers can play an important role.

Confederate statue in Durham torn down; image from here.

At the top of this week, the Washington Post published this piece by Valerie Strauss: The first thing teachers should do when school starts is talk about hatred in America. Here’s help.

Update: a couple other good links:

Those links contain more links to resources, readings, and lesson plans, and may be a good place to start for educators who know that current events matter, and that not talking about Charlottesville makes a statement to your students that’s just as loud as any conversation or critical exploration.

In that spirit, and because my background is in using spoken word as a tool for narrative-building and opening up spaces for authentic dialogue, I wanted to share a few poems that have been on my mind lately. As always, list-making is tricky. This is not a list of the “best” poems about this topic, or even a list of just “poems about racism.” This is a list of poems that might be useful for educators looking for artistic work that can prompt some critical thinking about hate, white supremacy, and the recent events in Charlottesville.

I’m also thinking about this list in terms of what work needs to be done in educational spaces. Understanding the motivations of– and contextual factors that cultivate– white supremacists is one angle, but so is making connections between the explicit hate espoused by neo-nazis and the more subtle, implicit ways that white supremacist ideology pops up in everyday life. I think these poems, in different ways, explore those connections. Maybe we shouldn’t need personal, human stories to create empathy, to illuminate that other human beings matter. But they can be tools for that, when it’s called for. These poems also use metaphor, symbolism, narrative, and other tools to push the listener beyond the notion that racism is just “people being mean to each other because they’re different.”

Of course, not every poem is appropriate for every audience. Be sure to review before presenting, both in terms of language/accessibility stuff and relevance. Also of course, “talking about racism” is a first step, not a last one, and we should challenge ourselves to find ways to embed anti-racist approaches and policies into our schools and institutions in more concrete ways as well.

Joseph Capehart – “Colorblind”
This poem uses humor to open up space for a powerful critique for the very common idea that “not seeing color” is the answer to racism. “You want to strip me clean; bleach away the parts of me that make you uncomfortable… when you say ‘colorblind,’ you are asking me to forget.”

Storytelling can communicate information in ways that facts and statistics can’t. In this poem/TEDx Talk, Jared Paul simply tells five stories from his life that illustrate how whiteness works in context, even for people who would not consider themselves privileged.
Guante – “How to Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist”

I wanted to write something about how “white supremacy” is bigger and more insidious than just literal white supremacists marching around with torches. But this is also about highlighting the *connection* between those people and the everyday acts/attitudes/policies that make them possible. Pushing back has to happen at multiple levels too– denouncing and disrupting specific acts of terror, but also uprooting their worldview in the classroom, the office, the church, the comment thread, the home, and everywhere.

Patricia Smith – Skinhead
A classic poem that seeks to explore the motivations of hateful bigots, without ever making excuses for them. There’s so much in here about empathy (in a critical sense), perspective, and what lenses people use to see the world.

Kevin Yang – “Come Home”
This poem is warm, funny, and approachable, using empathy-generating personal stories to make a larger point about xenophobia, the refugee experience, and finding home. “Call me Hmong before you call me American, because Hmong is the closest word I know to home.”


This poem is heartbreaking. Sad poems can be useful when crafting activities or discussions focused on walking in someone else’s shoes. “Year after year she makes flowers bloom in the hood, petals in the face of this land that doesn’t want her here.”

Talking about racism involves *talking* about racism, and this piece has always been a favorite of mine because of how it illuminates how those conversations so often go. It’s absurdist, and even funny, but it points to something deadly serious and can be a useful entry point for talking about how we talk about racism.

Anthony McPherson – All Lives Matter (1800s Edition)
I can’t think of a better deconstruction of the excuses and rationalizations that white people use to distance themselves from white supremacy. Obviously, this won’t work for every audience, in every situation, but it can be a very powerful exploration of how rhetoric can be used to mask racism.

Another piece that uses juxtaposition and humor to highlight the absurdity of how white supremacy is, and isn’t, talked about in the US.

William Evans – “They Love Us Here”
Students sometimes struggle with the notion that tokenism, “positive” stereotypes, or other forms of “benevolent racism” are harmful. Even well-meaning people can contribute to a white supremacist society. This poem can be an entry point into that conversation.

Carlos Andrés Gómez – “12 Reasons to Abolish C.B.P & I.C.E”
So much white supremacist terrorism takes root in xenophobia and anti-immigrant hate. This poem can be a first step toward interrogating that.

Denice Frohman – “Borders”
Yet another poem showcasing the power of storytelling; this is a poem that might have different things to say to different audiences- but they’re all valuable.

Aamer Rahman – “Reverse Racism”
I’m cheating here since this isn’t a poem; it’s just really good. One reason we talk so much about “racism” in the US rather than “white supremacy” is because racism can be (incorrectly) framed as attitude. And anyone of any identity can have a bad attitude. But white supremacy is about power. It’s about history. And this short video illustrates that perfectly.

    Hope those can be useful; feel free to share more in the comments. 

    Of course, these are all for sparking dialogue, because dialogue matters. But action also matters. Whether it’s a classroom full of high-schoolers, a book club, a discussion group in a church basement, or some other setting, what matters is how we translate these discussions, these epiphanies, and these feelings into action. That’s another post, but hopefully, there’s something here that can be a useful start.

    New video! Here’s the official blurb:

    Guante & Katrah-Quey’s “Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood” features singer (and constant presence at Twin Cities rallies and marches) Jayanthi Kyle lamenting the deeply personal loss of something that used to mean something. While using the standard structure of a love song, the track attempts to explore the human side of an issue that, for too many, is an abstraction, or “someone else’s problem,” if it’s considered a problem at all.

    The song exemplifies the philosophy of “Post-Post-Race,” an album attempting to grapple with issues of race, racism and solidarity by pushing beyond platitudes and asking deeper, more challenging questions. Over Katrah-Quey’s lush, vibrant production, Guante (along with an impressive roster of guests) reaches for root causes, explores his own complicity in the system, and tries to find pathways to action.

    The full album is available here
    (a portion of the proceeds benefits Twin Cities youth arts/activism organization TruArtSpeaks).

    The video is directed by E.G. Bailey, fresh off appearances at the Tampere Film Festival, Riga International Film Festival, and Sundance Film Festival, where his short film, “New Neighbors,” was selected from tens of thousands of entries. Bailey (along with co-producer Sha Cage) was also responsible for Guante’s move to Minneapolis back in 2007, so this video represents coming full-circle, and affirming that community comes first. Full credits:

    • Director: E.G. Bailey
    • Cinematographer: Anton Shavlik
    • Producers: E.G.Bailey & Sha Cage
    • Editors: E.G. Bailey & Anton Shavlik
    • Costume Design: Trevor Bowen
    • First Assistant Director: Sha Cage
    • First Assistant Camera: Casey Bargsten
    • Production Assistant: Autumn Compton
    • Colorist: Anton Shavlik
    • Storyboard Artist: Cecilia Hsu
    • Titles: Eroll Bilibani
    • a Freeztyle film

    FULL LYRICS:

    Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood
    (words by Guante; music by Katrah-Quey; guest vocals by Jayanthi Kyle)

    I don’t recognize this place anymore
    Grew up around the corner, before these lines and borders
    but I don’t recognize this place anymore

    I ain’t afraid of ghosts
    I grew up in a place where they’re takin’ over slow
    like death isn’t always the fading of a soul
    progress isn’t always related to growth
    The first step in building a skyscraper
    is digging up a very deep hole…
    you ever seen a city melt into a shadow of itself?
    you ever feel like there’s a lack of all the magic that we felt
    split an atom or a cell like it’s progress
    like destruction and creation are the same process
    yeah, and our relationship
    just ain’t been the same since the chains moved in
    I still remember when
    I felt like a million bucks, wasn’t worth a cent
    your heart is still the only place I want to live
    I just can’t afford the rent

    I don’t recognize this place anymore
    it’s just a big blank canvas, after all this color’s been banished
    I don’t recognize this place anymore

    I ain’t afraid of ghosts
    a house can’t be haunted if it never had a soul
    but tell me what happens when that house gets sold?
    does a spirit shiver stuck out in the cold?
    so this is how the world ends? a casual exorcism
    the closing of a story dressed up as the beginning, what’s the limit?
    here’s to the history we lived in
    here’s to the years we were able to resist this
    here’s to acid rain as it falls
    enveloped in each other as umbrellas dissolve
    you’ll caress my skin and I’ll peel it off
    until we’re nothin’ but our hearts underneath it all
    and then we’ll sell ‘em to developers for cheap and fall
    deeply asleep as the concrete just crawls
    over the whole earth ‘til all of a sudden
    you got this look like a cop sayin’ “you lost or something?”

    I don’t recognize this place anymore
    so I’ll leave for the last time, and treat every memory as a landmine
    ‘cause I don’t recognize this place anymore

    The Japanese American Citizen’s League asked me to write a piece for the 2017 Day of Remembrance (the day in 1942 that Executive Order 9066 was signed, requiring internment of all Americans of Japanese ancestry), connecting it to current issues regarding xenophobia and anti-immigrant hate.

    Check out this story for a bit more background; there are a ton of other resources online as well. As the poem talks about, this is the kind of story I feel like a lot of people know about in a general sense, but that few internalize and really grapple with. And we need to be thinking about it, especially right now. Full text below.

    Finally please support organizations working to build immigrant power and/or fight xenophobia, Islamophobia, and hate of all kinds. Locally, that might mean MIRAC, Navigate MN, CAIR MN, the Young Muslim Collective, or others. Find more at the MN Activist Project’s database.

    Also relevant, I have another new video up this week on Button Poetry’s channel. It’s called “How to Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist.” A few extended thoughts (plus the text) on it here.

    Dust

    1.
    “Asked what the infant city was like, those first residents might have, with some justice, summed it up with one word — dust.” –Journalist Taro Katayama, writing about Utah’s Topaz internment camp.

    The Japanese side of my family settled in Hawaii. And of course, during the war, they couldn’t intern all of the Japanese there; that’d be a third of the population. But still, decades later, I grew up hearing about the camps. For every story about one of my great uncles fighting for the US against the Japanese Empire, another story, about a different empire, an empire of dust.

    There was a kind of distance, of course: hearing the echo, of the echo, of someone weeping. It was subtle, like, for every Packer game, to make room for snacks, I’d have to move those three huge coffee table books: one about Hawaii, one about Ireland (for some reason), and one about Manzanar. This is where the “less” of my more-or-less whiteness lives. Not so much a waving flag as a map hidden in the sole of my shoe.

    I learned very early that ghosts are not just the disembodied spirits of the dead. They can be, but they are also more, in the same way that water is more than just rain, that history is more than just the history we are taught. Ghosts appear, like dust, everywhere, from nothing, they multiply. They swim in the ink of newspaper headlines, smile in the background of photographs seized by government censors, burst by the thousands from a grandmother’s single tear. They create patterns in the dust; we breathe them in, when we breathe in the dust. And I learned very early, that ghosts don’t just haunt houses. They haunt history. And that knowing your history, determines: whether you learn to live with your ghosts, or are devoured by them.

    2.
    Tennessee legislator Glen Casada calls for the National Guard to “round up” all Syrian refugees, despite constitutional protections. He says: “you have to ask yourself, which is greater: life or due process?”

    As if that were the choice. As if our history, if we listen to it, does not curse and condemn those who offer these kinds of choices– life or your freedom, life or your culture, life or your property, life or your language, life or your child’s life. Just do the math. How much can you carry, as you leave your home, unsure of your return? What do you leave, what can you not live without? Do you plan to return? Do you hope? What year is this? Is the distance disappearing? And suddenly it isn’t math anymore.

    Question #27: “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?”

    Question #28: “Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or other foreign government, power or organization?”

    Is answering yes an admission that you, at one point, would not have answered yes? Will you be loyal to that which is not loyal to you? When uprooted, will you still reach for the sun? Will you grow here, in this dust? Will your children? How will you protect your children? You have to ask yourself, which is greater: one grain of dust, or all those ghosts? You have to ask yourself: which is greater: that weight on the conscience of a nation, or all those ghosts? I learned very early, that you have to ask yourself: which is greater: your commitment to order, or your commitment to justice?

    3.
    Before he died, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave a talk at the University of Hawaii Law School about the Korematsu decision, the legal rationale for the internment of 120,000 innocent people of Japanese descent, most of whom were US citizens, born here, half of them children. He invoked a Latin phrase: Inter arma enim silent leges: “in times of war, the law falls silent.”

    And evolution is slow, slower than the sun crawling across the desert sky, slower than the fading of memory. The only real difference between who we are now and who we were in 1942 is our history, and what we choose to learn from it. I learned very early that it is always a time of war. That they will always find a scapegoat. If not our people, someone’s people.

    There are still people living, who witnessed lynchings. There are still people living, who survived the Holocaust. And of those Japanese Americans still living, who lost time to the camps, to the dust, we must hear them. And those who are not still living: we must hear them too.

    Fred Korematsu said: “… No one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy.”

    Mary Hirata said: …we have to make sure it’s never done again. It’s so easy, and the more I read about it, the more I know that this was already planned way before the war… it’s a terrible thing to happen. Of course, I don’t think they’ll ever do it again, they couldn’t. I think. But that’s what we thought, too.”

    Yuri Kochiyama said: “Remember that consciousness is power. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.”

    These words, these stories, are my family’s only heirloom. And we must listen. Through the dust storm of history, through the wailing all those ghosts. We must hear these voices.

    …But they must hear us too.

    Because when the law falls silent. We must not be. When the law falls silent. We will not be.

    Like a lot of people in my community, I was out this past weekend at a couple of different actions/protests regarding the killing of Philando Castile (and others across the country). Rather than write my own big think-piece here, I thought a better use of this platform would be to collect a bunch of the links and resources that have been helpful to me over the past week (I also did this back in 2014, but it’s time for an update). I’m framing this around the question “BUT WHAT CAN I DO?” which has come up a lot recently.

    I think it’s important to note that there’s no easy answer to that question. I want to say “organize.” I also want to say, though, that at different times, “doing something” will look different. It might be calling a jail to check on arrested protestors. It might be just showing up to whatever action is happening and standing in solidarity. It might be donating money to a bail fund, or dropping off supplies at an occupation, or filming a police encounter, or going to a meeting, or being there for a friend, or organizing a healing space or benefit concert, or a million other things. It doesn’t mean, however, sitting back and criticizing what’s going on when you have no skin in the game. It doesn’t mean emailing your one Black friend and asking them what to do (they probably have enough on their mind right now). And it certainly doesn’t mean business-as-usual. There’s always something that can be done, even if that “something” isn’t a big red button that fixes everything right away.

    So here are a few starting points. Feel free to add more thoughts in the comments.

    Follow: Activists and Organizers Doing the Work
    No matter who you are or in what ways you want to get involved, I think the first step would be to follow the organizers on the ground– not just the media talking heads, or artists who support the work, but the actual activists and organizations on the front lines. I will list Twitter handles here, but many of these orgs are also on Facebook and other social media.

    • Twin Cities
    • National
      • Part of the strength of the #BlackLivesMatter movement is that it’s pretty local-focused. There are “chapters” in some cities, but there are also organizations and collectives that use the phrase as a rallying cry rather than a specific organizational relationship. That being said, a few accounts that tweet info regularly include @BreeNewsome@DeRay, @Nettaaaaaaaa, and the national BlackLivesMatter account. I also always appreciate @PrisonCulture‘s perspective on the broader project of abolishing the prison-industrial complex. Note that this is not a list of the “most important” organizers, or founders of the movement– just a few links for people interested in more information. Feel free to add more.

    Learn: Readings and Resources
    Here are a few links to readings that have been useful this past week, both in terms of learning and challenging myself, and in dialogue with others.

    Organize: Get In Where You Fit In
    I know that this is sometimes easier said than done. But it’s still the answer. Change happens when people get together and make it happen. What might this look like?

    • Joining, supporting, and/or donating to existing organizations. The links in the first section of this piece might be a good start.
    • Showing up. Rallies, marches, vigils, and protests don’t solve problems on their own. But the bigger they are, the more energy gets infused into the movement that will solve those problems. Apart from that, these are the places to go to get plugged in.
    • Think about your own positionality and the spaces you have access to. For me, since my job is to build with college and high school students around the country, it’s pretty easy to make sure that a racial justice focus is part of that. Depending on what identities you hold, what your job is, or what spaces you have access to, this will look different. But thinking about our peer groups, workplaces, places of worship, families, neighborhoods, and beyond is a good step. Make problems that are so often so huge and overwhelming local. The thing is, there’s no easy five-step checklist to do that. It takes critical thought, and work, and dialogue. But it can definitely be done.
    I hope some of this can be useful. Feel free to add more thoughts or links in the comments.

    Think Critically: Whose Narrative is Valued?
    Thinking specifically of this past weekend, if you only listen to what the nightly news says, or what St. Paul’s mayor says, you’re not getting the whole story. Because where are they getting theirs? Often, the “official” police narrative becomes the story that gets repeated, even if that narrative isn’t entirely accurate. A few links:

    • While a lot of the local media’s coverage focused on the simplified narrative of “violent protestors,” this piece from HuffPo’s Black Voices gives a more nuanced report of what actually happened.
    • Do You Know the History of the Rondo Neighborhood? The march that shut down I94 had a lot of symbolic weight behind it. If anyone is going to be angry about a march shutting down a freeway, they should be a lot angrier about a freeway tearing apart a neighborhood. We need to know our history. Fadumo says it best.
    • Finally, the homie Abeer Syedah posted a firsthand account of what went down:

    The narrative that’s being painted about last night’s protest is appalling. As someone who, in my work capacity, engages with mainstream media & with liberal/progressive public figures, I find myself sometimes frustrated with the way stories are warped and repeated by those who aren’t experiencing it. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen anything like this. 

    Some of my role last night was to help people stay safe, peaceful, and resourceful. This means that I witnessed, or was involved in, some of the incidents being very much so warped in the storytelling of this protest. Yes, rocks, water bottles, and other items were thrown at the police. Majority of them were thrown by folks who identified themselves as attending the march “for myself” and disrespected Black Lives Matter. I personally confronted two of them on two separate occasions, before things were thrown, and they made it clear that they weren’t going to listen and their goal would endanger the entire crowd. Mica begged over the bullhorn for them to stop. Community members would ambush them and make them leave. On several occasions, I watched (and filmed) community members de-escalating folks ready to cause harm. I cannot put into words the DESPERATION in people’s voices & actions as they told agitators to “stop throwing shit, stop agitating, you’re endangering everyone, this isn’t us.” 

    Before the march began, through the bullhorn during the entire march, and after, Black Lives Matter pleaded for nonviolence and non-agitation, even though the Black community has not been afforded that treatment. 

    I counted at least a dozen firecracker-like items thrown at the crowd by the police. At one point we were gassed. I coughed so much, I vomited with blood. A woman next to me was heaving on the ground while folks ran over to her with gallons of milk to lessen the burn. Rubber bullets and markers were shot at the crowd. At this point, most major news media outlets, aside from the people of Unicorn Riot who livestreamed everything, had left the ground scene. 

    All the while, before things started getting really poor, people were told to make sure kids were out of the crowd. They were put on the pickup truck used by BLM to drive them away from the situation and keep them safe. Instead, the cops blocked them from leaving and, eventually, maced this truck with kids on board. Mayor Chris Coleman grossly and falsely claimed kids were being used as shields. Was he there? Where are the kids’ stories? 

    If you disagree with this protest style or the cause as a whole, that is a different conversation (that I had in 2014 and you’re welcome to use those Facebook statuses as my responss to critiques of protest styles and the BLM cause) but what I’m trying to make clear is that the stories being told are biased. Ignoring our words. Because, you know what I saw?

    I saw hundreds of white people link arms and stand ready to defend the black community from danger or harm. I saw people whose cars got blocked on I94 raise their fists in the air with us, give us thumbs up, and chant ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ from their cars. I saw families, couples, friends, strangers, black people, white people, APIs, Latixs and/or Native people, queer/trans people, straight people, men, women, folks of all gender identities, old people, young people, parents, and kids, marching together. I saw people carrying pictures of Philando while singing and dancing to Purple Rain.

    I saw, and joined, people grabbing empty water bottles from the ground so they could recycle them later because “we respect our streets.” I saw people, with tears in their eyes, chant “no justice, no peace,” and could only imagine which of their loved ones they saw in Philando, Alton, Tamir, Freddie, Walter, Jamar, Eric, Mike, Sandra, Akai, and hundreds more. I saw people making sure we never forget these folks who were LOVED, had FAMILIES, had ASPIRATIONS. I saw people who were demanding that people not forget, not move on with their lives, not be comfortable, with the executions of people who did not deserve to die at the hands of those sworn to protect them. I saw a lot of radical love.

    Fuck violence against anyone. Stop provoking a war when we want it to be democracy. Tons of arrests happened last night. The agitators don’t seem to be among them. Students, young people, old people, people of all races, are. UMN students are among them. I support them & am requesting their release as a civically-engaged Minnesotan. If you want to donate to the bail fund, send via Paypal to blacklivesmattermpls2016@gmail.com. If you want to request the release of protesters, call Ramsey County District Attorney John Choi’s office at 651-266-3222. You can also contact St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

    That might be a good thing to end with for now. Again, feel free to add more links, resources, or thoughts in the comments.

    ***EDIT: the video below is the NEWER version of this piece (the one that appears in my new book), posted on 2/12/17. The older one can still be found here.***

    I could write a whole thing here, but I will try to keep this commentary short. This poem has been through a lot of drafts– even this video is subtly different from the one on the album, and both are different from what I’ve been performing over the past couple of weeks. Just a couple of quick thoughts (all of which are in addition to the album commentary I already wrote):

    Probably the biggest theme on “Post-Post-Race” is the importance of having a more critical, wider perspective on issues of race and racism. Racism isn’t just about “bad people being mean to other people because they look different;” it’s about history, it’s about systems and institutions, and it’s about power. This poem is maybe the most direct exploration of that idea on the album.

    Especially today, in the context of Trump (and the movement that he represents) it’s important to see racism and xenophobia as bigger than one individual’s bigotry. We should work to defeat Trump, but we should not labor under the delusion that defeating Trump will be enough. It won’t. Electing a Democrat won’t be enough either. Even electing a progressive Democrat won’t be enough. Defeating racism (and sexism, homophobia, etc.) will take a multi-tiered approach, and I’d argue that step one is affirming that these problems are fundamentally bigger than individual attitudes or actions.

    And “bigger” doesn’t mean “invincible.” It just means that our work is not just the work of changing people’s hearts and minds; it’s the work of changing our institutions, laws, policies, media, and systems too.

    I get that this is a tough thing for some people to wrap their heads around. I also get that this particular poem might be a little tough to stomach as an intro to this concept, and might be better suited as a supplementary tool. So here are a few recommended links/readings:

    I’d encourage everyone to read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” which might be the most important book of the last decade. I’d also recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations,” which describes the system that we call “racism” as clearly as you’re likely to read anywhere. For all the visual learners out there, here’s the NYT’s “The Faces of American Power,” which lets us just look at the literal faces of people in positions of power in this country; hard to argue with that. Also, be sure to watch “13th” on Netflix! Feel free to add other good resources in the comments.

    Thanks again for listening and for sharing. The whole album is still available here:
    Post-Post-Race by Guante & Katrah-Quey

    Full text of the poem:
    HOW TO EXPLAIN WHITE SUPREMACY TO A WHITE SUPREMACIST
    (originally printed in my book)

    Sometimes, you are a lit match dropped into a boiling ocean. Sometimes, you are a stray dog proud of the sunrise after a long night of barking at the moon. Sometimes, you scream at the television, shadowbox mushroom clouds; your hand-to-hand hatred outclassed, outdated. You: post-apocalyptic litterbug. You: venomous spider in the basement of a burning building. You: whose anger is so vast, and so empty—all teeth, and no mouth, just that white rattle.

    Remember: white supremacy is not a shark; it is the water. It is how we talk about racism as white hoods and confederate flags, knowing that you own those things, and we don’t… as if we didn’t own this history too, this system—we tread water.

    And you: chum in a bucket. How many skinheads do you think are in the room when they set immigration law? Or decide curriculum for public schools? Or push policies like redlining, mandatory minimum sentencing, benign neglect, gentrification, broken windows policing, voter, ID, stop and frisk, three strikes, the drug war? Remember: the eye of the hurricane is the least destructive part.

    You: meanest glare in the chatroom, all poker-face and no cards. Was it your politically incorrect YouTube comment that made the median net worth of black families in this country nine percent the median net worth of white families?

    Which individual Donald Trump bigot bogeyman are we supposed to be angry at about the millions of people impacted by discrimination in housing, and banking, and education, and employment, and the criminal justice system, each year? Remember: sharks kill about one person each year; thousands drown.

    So, when there is a new name hashtagged each week, when police create more black stars than Hollywood; how long do we keep pointing out the bad apples, ignoring the fact that the orchard was planted on a mass grave? …and that we planted it there?

    Because of course, this isn’t really a poem for white supremacists. I don’t know any white supremacists.

    But I know a lot of people in this room. And I know myself. And I know how white supremacy is upheld, whether through our action, our inaction, or just through paying our tuition and taxes. How it isn’t just the broken treaty; it also the treaty. How a gavel can speak as loudly as a grenade. How a white fratboy in blackface on Halloween and his friend, who knows it’s wrong but doesn’t say anything, begin to blur together.

    How the real racists, today, are so often not even racist. Those teeth, sharper when smiling, sharper still when smiling, and meaning it.

    A burning cross is so dramatic. Just say: I don’t see race. Just say: we all have an equal chance if we work hard. Just say: all lives matter. Just say nothing; surround yourself with others who say nothing, and convince yourself that silence is the only song: this muted, underwater melody, this pulsing quiet.

    And when a chorus blooms in Baltimore, when trumpets sound in Ferguson, when every one of our cities breaks… into song, will we hear it? Will we choose to listen? Or will we just continue treading water, watching for that great, white, shark… not realizing that we’re drowning?

    (plus an image for Facebook share previews):