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Oh Say Can You See: A Spoken Word Response to MLK Day

This spoken word poem was originally performed at Where Do We Go From Here? for Martin Luther King Day 2018. 


Where we are, dusk of a king, a shooting star.

Come back with me to the funeral of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, walk the aisles and look around. Pause.

One side of the room wept

Drowning with dry gasps [huh], heaving in cold, heavy loathing [huh], lungs like traps not releasing any short breath [huh], breathing life like cigarettes [huh], take it in too deeply and you might burn em [huh], can’t walk the shallow end of grief with a King’s death.

So look around, who sits in the pews, who remains to be found?

One side of the room was empty

Dark skin contrasts white silence,

The masses of men and women who couldn’t move en masse even for a man who spoke only peace to violence.

If we imagine the world as Martin Luther King dreamed how would we find it? In the case of his death we would see those of every nation weeping at his casket, tears accumulating into clouds for the highness.

As we sing the national anthem, let it be clear that the banner will wave for the free and the brave when we’re free enough to bereave the brave and look at his grave.

Look at his grave.

The gravity of this day. Mark your calendars, don’t let your memory file it away.

This history of race has dead bodies that can not simply be reconciled away!

This is something that needs a grave and the true feeling of grief to release us from the days when most white men and women could not hear him speak without feeling a little bit...afraid.

But what did we have to fear but fear ourselves, a nation where talking of slavery became passe while white hollywood cowboys saved the day and racist criminals became cachet in this state of post racial bliss we thought we were good because we could say we liked him, MLK, we’re even celebrating his birthday, without paying due respects by weeping for the loss of hearing any more of his dreams, and the simple truth that another great black man died at the hands of racist rage.

We need headstones to hold back the headstrong hope that overly simplified optimism boasts, when we say how do we fix this race problem right away, it’s like asking how do we fix the dead body at a funeral home.

Part of the problem of race is that the problem of a murdered Martin Luther King cannot go away.

The grief must be embraced.

Before you do anything else against the problem of human race, show up for the funeral.



Picture this...I mean from an artist who only uses words

Although the stroke of my brush bends it’s still truth, uncurved...

Straight like bullets, straight light diatribe meant to wound, hate that consumes

Straight like rows of browns faces that race against racists

Straight like arms before they form fist

Straight like pale apathetic faces at dark funerals

Straight like rules and commandments

Straight like clothes on Sunday

Straight like light bills due, but check don’t come ‘til next week...I mean easier for me to sleep

Straight like perm when we’re trying to have a good night

Straight like the fire of my new mixtape…

I’ve given you the culture, but can you taste the salsa, inherit the sauce ahh the recipe

Maybe that leads to reciprocity or restitution

Anything that leads us past ambitions of retribution

How’s about a revolution that leads us to revelations about restoration

That restores First Nation, but I can feel your reservations

Patience I’ve gotten ahead of myself

Some of you haven’t even felt it

Still gotta get the feel forreal of the fabric of this conversation, the feel of felt

Can we all feel the feel of Philando Castile...Tamir Rice...Freddie Gray...Oscar Grant...Amadou Diallo...Eric Garner...Michael Brown...and Sandra Bland...all the way back to Emmett Till

What about the trumped age; Armound Brown, Daundre Phillips, Jerome Keith Allen, Chad Roberson, Rodney James Hess, Desmond Phillips, Alteria Woods

I could continue the list for longer but the over 200 names from just last year would bore you

I implore you to look beyond your eyes and see in your heart

Whatever they did they didn’t deserve the death penalty from the gavel of thug judges, let’s be honest

Selling cigarettes doesn’t deserve death (alleged), carrying weed doesn’t deserve death., mental illness doesn’t deserve death,

Being Black doesn’t deserve death!

From the ones who should be taught to detain they seem to be trained to maim

Can we acknowledge that, seek to agree, and lament the bodies cause it’s bigger than just you and me

We can’t deal with the problem if we don’t feel the problem, too many people just wanna heal the problem but can’t stand under degrees (so let me school ya) feel me


Both: Lift every voice and sing

LeMarr: There’s a new way to live, a new way to think


LeMarr: Come into this new journey, where we recognize the lives of the lost,

Recognize the lies that were taught


Scott: Recognize the line behind the pallbearers

Recognize the weight of the loss


Both: Recognize the battles that were fought,

Not focusing just on whose fault but,

Acknowledging the assault...together

In a bland world we need a little salt...and pepper


LeMarr: In a world where anything smooth and black was deemed black ice

Both: Dangerous

LeMarr: Not taking into account the oppressive white snow



Scott: In a world where Jesus came impoverished, oppressed, and in flight

Both: Dangerous

Scott: But we make him beautiful, white, hanging in churches where hands hold purses tight, fearful of what poverty may impose



Scott: Because in Martin Luther King’s words, We may be more concerned with size of our purse. Than a society where moral justice is the pursuit.

And with a shadow of foreboding he says racial stress will keep on growing,

Look around, I think we’ve seen the proof.

LeMarr: Our next steps in the sand look like tear ducts swelling up like clouds

Then precipitation falling around the imprints of different sized feet

Rugged and beaten, because barefoot we ran up stone mountains and across hot coals

Just to prove to each other that there is no height or depth that we wouldn’t go for JUSTICE 4 U


Scott: The love for you, the Jesus above our selfish pursuits. The Jesus that makes love for giving to you, regardless of our skin’s hue.

LeMarr: But before we even step into the ring for each other, We have to acknowledge our cards and the pain that’s been felt but never dealt with, and that leads us past selfish


Scott: So here’s the question

LeMarr: Where do we go from here [1...2…]


Both: We will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the hateful words and actions, of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people


LeMarr: Feel, really really feel the pain of every victim no matter the color

Scott: Recognize you’re my brother


Both: And stand up for each other

We must change!

We must act!

We must educate!

We must advocate!

Remember the dream, wake up, and do not hesitate

We...must...Stand Together

[Honor the dream]


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