Black Lives Matter

Power

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The difference between poetry and rhetoric

is being ready to kill
yourself
instead of your children.
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I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.
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A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.
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Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.
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I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”
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By Audre Lorde
(also known as Gamba Adisa – “Warrior-She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.”)
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The Difference Between Poetry and Rhetoric

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Rhetoric is violent action far before it is a dialectical tool. These actions are guided through narratives written long before you, and yet are about you. Poetry is something that originates from the speaker, rhetoric is something imposed on the speaker from the outside. Rhetoric is always political, poetry is granted the right to be non-partisan. Rhetoric trawls, obdurate through the shifting attitudes of time, feeding on the detritus of the past.

A Racist mentality understands the other through rhetoric that subjugates individuality to narratives written from the colour of skin, the way you dress, where you live. Rhetoric is the ally to defining one’s identity through their social demographic, the ally to simply causality. Subject x was born in y and therefore equals z. White privilege is being allowed to manipulate, play with, dodge expectation – x was born in y but maybe that doesn’t equal z ?

Rhetoric pulled the trigger that shot Philando Castile in Minnesota – the cop had read the sign of him pulling out his ID as him pulling out a gun because Castile had already lost his right to individuality, he had become a collection of visual associations leading  to the cop predicting the next action according to a narrative that provided a simple causality. Castile (x) is an African American (y) = he is about to attack me with his gun (z).

White privilege would have added 10 seconds of delay. The situation would have been ambiguous for the policeman, through the more complex cause and effect – relaxing the agitated arm and the twitching finger on the trigger of his gun. “They took a good man, a hard-working man” Castile’s mother tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Castile’s mother was granted the platform to define her son through her knowledge of his individual character too late: rhetoric is the fastest form of meaning. The pulling of the trigger is the signified of hateful jargon.

“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else

only the colour”

The cop from Audre Lord’s poem explains. ‘Only the colour’ –  this is the meaning of being colour blind in America.

The judges do not remove the filters over the eyes of racist cops, their acquittal darkens their vision. The allowance for this colour blindness accepts a system that makes black skin and violence synonymous. The system that ignores the correlation between (racist, socialised) ‘instinct’ and (pre-meditated) ’self defense’.

The primacy of meaning is placed on the need to protect the self, on the 2nd amendment – not socialising the ‘self’ through viewing it within the context of the larger social reality, and seeing an isolated moment as symptomatic of a larger problem. To view the ‘self’ as a sacred entity in isolation permits the dissipated morality, the anachronistic engagement of self-defence. All acts of self-preservation are permitted in the battle between life and death that has always fuelled the myth of American Exceptionalism. Is the perpetuation and advocation of these battles between different social demographics surprising in a country that carved its identity through the genocide of the Native Americans? No, it’s America’s Manifest Destiny.

‘I have not touched the destruction within me’. The speaker of ‘Power’ has to learn not to respond to the shooting of the 10 year old boy with more violence, as this will not mean justice, this will mean further death to black children. White privilege is being able to fight violence with violence, but for the causality of the provoked violence to be taken into account as a cause. The privilege for the situation to be rarefied through contextualisation. A Racist mentality is seeing the response of violence as a dialogue in continuum with other acts of unrelated violence that cumulate to form the mentality that the law will use to denounce the offender. Rhetoric always lift an act and an individual out of their specific context.

The white cop, acquitted, will have the freedom to wield their destruction again in the name of the law. In Lorde’s ‘Power’, poetry paradoxically becomes an effacement of self, a mode of metaphorical self-murder. Why ? Within the violence of the society the poem springs from, the desire to use language removed from the social realm becomes tainted by the deficit of action this entails against those that impose rhetoric on the verbally and physically oppressed. It is using a foam sword against the metal baton of a policemen. It is rhetoric, action, that supersedes poetry in an environment that will read someone’s skin tone over listening to their words.

“Let me tell you first about what it was like being a Black woman poet in the ‘60s, from jump. It meant being invisible. It meant being really invisible. It meant being doubly invisible as a Black feminist woman and it meant being triply invisible as a Black lesbian and feminist”.

Lorde, In A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde, battled with her poetry against the system that imposed rhetoric over her, that tried and failed to efface her individuality. In the Black Lives Matter protest on the 11th of July, thousands of protesters listened to the poetry of ‘Power’, thousands saw her words and responded with more words, shouting out the rhetoric.

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,A reading of ‘Power’ 

Black Lives Matter Protest

12/07/2016

A(enable HD viewing >)

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Sharene

(from Tennessee)

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blacklivesmatter

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#IBIM

(I’m Black I Matter)

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