BLACK:

I wrote this poem this summer around June 16. I saw the news that the police officer who killed Philando Castile had all charges dropped. It’s tough to see a pattern of problematic behavior seemingly endorsed by our criminal justice system.

I started the performance with a compilation of inflammatory statements I’d heard from different news anchors and personalities over the course of the last few years, particularly Bill O’Reilly and Tomi Lahren who both have a history of race-baiting and coded racism. A video was to play during the performance but the system malfunctioned at rehearsals.

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I feel like I’m in chains and not the kind that we want to be in

Head in the clouds but I stay grounded like a pedestrian

But when I get a leg up, something always comes up

When I focus on my come up, paranoia always comes up

 

I grew up without a safety net, no Jim Morrison

So I’ve had to remain on brand like an endorsement

I’m code-switching more than Neo in the Matrix

Impress the right people, I guess that’s the price of greatness

 

And my plight is only magnified when my complexion

Perplexes a nation, got them worried about the dress I’m in

But to be fair, if Fox New was all I consumed

I would probably start to think that I’m a criminal too

 

Philando was killed by the bridge of his nose

Spoke to Lady Liberty, she said “you know how it goes”

Justice isn’t blind, she’s just hiding her face

I just can’t tell if it’s for shame or if she’s hiding her hate

 

All lives won’t matter until black lives do

But I’m afraid that this country is put off by the truth

So I keep a hoodie on and say “Fuck Fox News!”

They want me to stop talking like the good cops do

 

And I know some will ask “why so political?”

I got hella melanin, skin and ID are integral

“For a day, let’s ignore these controversies”

I’m a person of color, I don’t have that luxury

 

Interim, I took a flight to France

Cuisine, women, language all put me in a trance

Had to get away, I was tired of the news

Ate a ton of cheese and I drank a ton of brews

Thought about my life, tried to find some inner truths

Development arrested like a member of the Bluths

Lost my black boy joy that my momma used to cultivate

I guess I left a big part of myself back in Alsace-Lorraine

 

I’m so afraid to fail

I’m not moving weight, just trying to shift the scale

I could shuck and I could jive and they still would give me hell

Bonner Scholar, Mr. Wofford, they’ll still pull a…well

 

I shouldn’t say names, I just don’t think that it’s appropriate

Promise that the joke wasn’t lost on my associates

“We stand behind your message, we don’t stand by your approach to it”

The way they make me run circles, you’d think that they were coaching it

 

Not to boast but I’m just coasting now

Pulled over on the road, paranoid about how things go down

Hands on the wheel, no sudden moves, I know these things go south

Simple traffic stop but fuck man right now I’m stressing out

 

I’m a creative, I’m independent

Daily dose antidepressants,

I’ve got a penchant,

For hour-long depression naps,

My school attendance

Takes a hit like it’s a mobster,

With no defenses

That’s why I have two legs but fell like a brown recluse

I miss a lot of class but can’t tell my real excuse

I show fake smiles to fake friends, it’s not them, it’s me

It feels like a nightmare, the American Dream

 

To be young and gifted and BLACK.

 

No song for this part, I did it acapella

They ask about my blessings, I’ve got hella

First generation college student, what a time

It’s a blessing and a curse and here’s why:

 

Got a big scholarship but can’t pay my phone bill

Friends like “let’s go out to eat”

I’m like “Sure, at Burwell”

Got a big scholarship but can’t pay my car insurance

Graduate from Wofford College

And make more than my parents

I put pressure on myself, the need to be great

News like Charlottesville has me staying up late

Prescription for Klonopin just to get past the hysteria

Shadow of Confederates, I need to get out of this area

Watching the news is watching my mother tearing up

Young black and gifted but he’s still in America

Omar Elmore

Writer. Dreamer. Doer. I’m the type to say a prayer then go get what I just prayed for.

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