“Katrina 2031”

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


the ledge,

that connected the back wheels,



Our house,

fourth from the corner

on the left-hand side of the street

a dusty tan three bedroom

small porch

three steps,

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.





days fade

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


Nana’s face,

cocoa brown

with small pudgy features

wavy silver hair

that she always kept pulled back


Dad was home

late most nights

after work

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.

Those memories

so vivid . . .

They say I look just like momma.

Without pictures,

I can only take their word

can’t remember her face

vaguely her voice

in my dreams

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.”


Momma’s face

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

drunken nights

mak’n light of the hardships of life

my institutionalized desires have rebelled

26 years to the date.

Your rose-colored lens of protection

couldn’t hallmark

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.


After today

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


I cannot remember her voice.


After today,

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!



                                Of cousins.



After today,

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.


How fitting,

I’m scared,

lost in the darkness

tryin’ to speak,

forced silent.


After today,

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 . . .


My people,


“Listen to the cries,

burn’n eyes,


dripp’n . . . with . . .  pain.”

©️Sierra Leone