Amplify Us: Who Will Survive in America: a 2020 Horror Story
Poetry has the power to capture a moment and our feelings in a few minutes of reflection and we are finding ourselves in a pivotal moment where all of our inequities as an American are exposed. On top of global riots for the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor & Ahmaud Avery. I wanted our workshop to focus on two poems. The first is “Meet The Boss, joseph” by Dena Rash Guzman, an “I am” poem that calls out the patriarchy but also addresses gun violence, borders, immigration. The poem would allow Carolyn Lowery, a brilliant social justice and race dialogue facilitator, and me to assess participant’s political views. The poem has a rebellious, sassy attitude.
The second poem, “Who Will Survive in America: A 2017 Horror Story” by Ashley M. Jones, speaks to the current problems we are facing in regards to police brutality. With lines like a “raging wreck from sea to shining sea,” we find ways of twisting the superlatives of our country. The poem addresses how our Starbucks orders take precedence and how people feel “woke” cause they fill their home with Nina Simone. The lines “to wake up knowing your brown arms cannot protect you” and the allusion to the magical Negro trope, where a black character possesses another worldly power and is killed off i.e. The Shining. Resonated with the dozen participants which were largely female identified and African American. The poems that were written started with a Dear America Letter and the responses were full of attitude, biting sarcasm, and believe it or not laughter.
Carolyn Lowery absorbed all of the group’s feelings of uncertainty, doubt and fear, prompting us to create a greeting card to this transition to COVID life and all the changes that we are all going through. I decided to create an UPSIDE DOWN CARE package, since we seem to be living in an upside down world where Time is not Time but a broken function.
Want to lift your own voice? Join our Community Poetry Project and submit your own lines of poetry here. We have extended the deadline for submissions to June 10.
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From Story Tapestries' Executive Director, Arianna Ross:
We as an organization, a network of individuals collaborating together, commit to creating safe, equitable spaces for dialogue, both in person and online. We continue to commit to recruiting and hiring teaching artists of color and board members that reflect the communities we stand with and work alongside. We commit to continue creating a safe, equitable and inclusive work space where all voices are valued. We commit resources through the Amplify US! Initiative, to create spaces for stories to be told and heard while shifting the narrative of power.
Our programming now and will always continue to embrace the diversity of voices needed for dialogue, listening, and understanding to occur.
The author, James Baldwin, warned “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
With that in mind, I offer you two poems:
Listen/watch the recording of the poem, "I Am Not A Virus"
I Am Not A Virus
for Soo-Jin Lee
by Regie Cabico
I am the galactic center
like a birthday cake
Stop asking me how old I am
or my origins
I am a bent nail
hidden in a shaggy carpet
you stepped on
That you forgot
about when you
colonized my space
tightening quick sand
cause you listen to Nina Simone
& went to the African American Museum
Fall into MY center
I am a cloud
rootless and so above you
navigating my space & your privilege
wherever I go
I Want To Survive America
by Regie Cabico
When will black and brown people
Survive the horror story
Let me be Sigourney Weaver
And Newt let me be the one to laser shoot the
Gory alien predator
I want to be the one who gets to stab the racist boogey man
With a knitting needle
Let me for once be the white person
Who gets to be hero
But today I wonder if I should even try and save
America when folks are willing to save a Target store
Than one black man’s cry to breathe
Uttering Mama as his last words
The complicit action by the Asian police officer
Disheartens me. You care more for your Apple stores than a human life
It pains me to know that Madonna will post her African song dancing to Michael Jackson
So you adopted an African boy does not make you woke
Watching the Tv show Roots or The Central Park 5 is not woke
Inequities exist in every facet of life
It is a virus that we can fix not with plastic bullets or tear gas
But with our hearts breathing and beating at the same time