we must live: a poem for oakland

tired of being called ‘you people’ and ‘that one’
tired of the reapers mistaking fear for guns
we rose up, held within the borders of the town
we rose up, only to learn we’d forgotten how
we’d forgotten who we were, and then who else was i
first try, we gouged glass thumbs into our eyes

tired of the dung and the dirt and deception
the same thing when old blacks won their elections
and gave stump speeches and were not King
or Detroit Red or a new and righteous thing
we gave up, gave into a dance of destruction
we gave up, gave into the devil’s instruction

tired of wiping our shoes at the door
so as our problems wouldn’t dirty your floor
when we did our dance for the cash in your hand
‘allowance from the man, cash allowance from the man!’
we ran, with bullets in our backs, in defense
we ran like comets, like we had no sense

tired of the echo, copter, whisper, mad shout
we said it to each other till we figured it out
we said it to each other till we had no doubt
till it was the promise, the future, the route
we must live ‘unbought, unbossed and unbowed’,
we must live (black)! we must live (proud)!

– jan 31, 2009
adrienne maree brown
oakland, ca