TEDx Dayton Talk 2013
Twenty-six years ago,
I owned a red tricycle;
it was passed down
from four generations of cousins,
the right back wheel wobbly
that connected the back wheels,
fourth from the corner
on the left-hand side of the street
a dusty tan three bedroom
the bottom one broken,
didn’t have a gate
but you could tell where our yard ended
the grass was greener on both sides of us
I loved riding that red tricycle
up and down the sidewalk of those four houses
would sit on the front porch, yelling,
“Child, tell those chil’ren to get off that corner
and ride back toward the house.”
That day was just like every one before it.
26 years of faint despair,
meshing with what I can still
taste, smell, and hear
every time I close my eyes
or taste a slice of sweet potato pie
with small pudgy features
wavy silver hair
that she always kept pulled back
Dad was home
late most nights
close to bedtime,
Momma would fix his bath right after mine.
he’d kiss me on the forehead and say goodnight.
Nana said, “He was a quiet, hard work’n man;
Momma should be glad to have him”
Sunny days ain’t shined quite the same.
so vivid . . .
They say I look just like momma.
I can only take their word
can’t remember her face
vaguely her voice
in my dreams
We are standing in my bedroom
and she’s say’n,
“baby girl, you gone wear a dress today,
maybe shorts tomorrow
don’t give no lip,
it ain’t necessary.”
has faded with the outrage of our displacement.
Now at 29 years of age,
the rage has kept me breathing.
folks are tired of hearing my story,
but after today
my story will finally have meaning
Momma’s & ‘em’s death will not be in vain.
My abandonment will no longer threaten my survival.
This is the best therapy I’ve ever had.
I prayed to Jah,
talked to the counselor
now the judgment of the oppressor
will finally see my invisible color
After one time there is another.
that good Christian God-fear’n brotherhood
will have a reason to march like my people didn’t.
No more homeless worries
mak’n light of the hardships of life
my institutionalized desires have rebelled
26 years to the date.
Your rose-colored lens of protection
eighty percent of the Big Easy under 25 feet—
that’s 2wo basketball rims
plus the height of the dead girl’s body
I seen float’n up my street.
Hard to romanticize a travesty.
You only saved
newspaper clippings & media footage
not the permanent burning images of eternal distress
America’s natural displacement
of colored old ladies, babies,
and me . . .
For days all we heard was “help’s on the way.”
I held my dad so tight
night after night
I’ve never known hunger like that since
anguish mixed with torment
just think . . .
matriarchs & patriarchs were killed that day
that’s why they took so long
to sound the alarm,
but after today
you will remember
remember who took centuries of pain
birthed soul into this place
Congo Square will never be the same
26 years later
I’m still preparing to die
dying to prepare to live
just dying to live
because living is dying
manifested into the souls that birth you
all I remember from that day
is a man with a black face
big hands say’n,
“come here, I won’t hurt you.”
I wiped the tears away
just to see
the river split our house in half
swallow my mother.
This is for you . . .
could not live through the conditions
sixty years my senior
too old to hold on
at the time
didn’t understand what happened to Tee Millie
Nana would always say she had a
“touch of sug’a”
none the less
she’s not here either.
our souls will rest in peace
I turned to science ’cause faith failed me
at least provided an explanation
for not being able to…
Feel my mother’s skin
brush her soft sandy brown hair
look into her mirrored eyes
IT’S BEEN 26 YEARS!
I cannot remember her voice.
it will all come back to me
resonating like the stench of dead bodies
shit, piss, and women on their periods
It’s still open season on Negroes
desegregation closed doors
integration obviously closed more
21st century bureaucracy
the Creston city’s 20th century technology
Katrina went east
but the hypocrisy
had folks go’n for days…
without something to drink.
Virginia passed that red tricycle down to ME!
I will have a place in the same
history books that did not mention
the systematic gentrification
carried out some 26 years ago
high rises, condos, & boutiques
Bourbon Avenue has been extended
much further than Cannel Street.
lost in the darkness
tryin’ to speak,
I won’t be look’n to know if I am wrong
simply for eternal peace;
ain’t even think’n ’bout that
steel slab & white sheet.
Too far gone,
no turning back
it’s judgment time
and I’m gon’ render it
on behalf of the 2wo- thousand-some
children who lost their lives.
Time for the fourth man-made disaster
to hit New Orleans
hurricane season ain’t over
. . . ’til the fat lady sings
I hear her in the distance . . .
“Listen to the cries,
dripp’n . . . with . . . pain.”