Human Rights – a poem by Christopher D. Sims

Our beloved, sacred human rights
take flight the day we are born.

Born into a world of injustices,
harms, hindrances, limitations
People of color are slapped in the face
from nation to nation.

As a universal concept, we all should reject
any notion against any person’s worth, dignity.

We all have voices. We all have minds.
We all know what bigots and dictators are,
especially in these political times.

Your rights are mines, my rights are yours:
a mantra true and righteous forever more.

We dream, we hope, we unite, we fight
For the liberties that come along with
the power of human rights.

From nation to nation, there’s a war
going on. The youth are becoming educated
the elders are getting strong.

We sing a song crafted by the trials in our paths.
Justice is a love word that will always last.

Power to the people in Africa, in Haiti, in Palestine.
Power to all the people who have been in shackles
for lifetimes.

We need compassion, resources, and loving-kindness
shared with the downtrodden. Human potential is
the best weapon against those who have been overlooked,
forgotten.

We collectively, virtually sit by the camp fire
at night. The moon glows brightly despite
what’s happening in communities where
crying is being unheard. We know we’re on
the verge of a huge turnaround, even when
loud tears hit the ground.

The sound and sight of people of all races and classes
coming together, means, human rights will be that much better.

©Christopher D. Sims
February 25, 2017

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Remembering Michael Brown – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

Four and a half hours your body laid there
flat on hot summer concrete untouched, unmoved,
not cared for. Your people in  Ferguson started
crying and fighting back, fighting back and crying.

Dying harshly seems to be young Black men’s plight.

Death knows our name all too well. It’s either death
or jail and prison cells.

Your tragic story is all too commonplace in the thick of
the hate and inequality of the United States.

We are remembering you Michael. We are remembering
the lies, the pain, the struggle, the voices that followed
in those Ferguson streets. We have yet to find justice and
peace.

It’s been a year but it feels like yesterday that your death
sparked an uprising; a resistance; a movement; movement
building. Black Lives Matter is not yielding!

I’ve remembered you in marches since then in St. Louis,
New York,  Illinois, and New Jersey. Marching with the
masses in what is a state of emergency.

We breathe the horrible air of American injustice that you
won’t ever again. We are fighting, igniting, engaging, and
conversing about race. We are taking over space after space
to be heard.

And the name Mike Brown sits proudly our tongues as we
fight and fight until we have won. Until we have won.

I am remembering you lost soldier who died with your hands
up in submission. Because of what happened to you, we are
making sure the world listens.

Copyright Christopher D. Sims
August 10th, 2015

michael-brown

Tales from my Earth Day 2015 Spoken Word Tour

This year’s National Poetry Month (April 2015) and Earth Day has made this my most productive and active month as a spoken word artist.

April is a great month for poets and performers of poetry, especially if you’re actively looking for gigs and looking for opportunities to share your poetry with craving crowds who are either expecting your message, or new to the art form of spoken word.

On Earth Day I went to Madison, WI and shared my environmental justice focused poems “The Return of Earth/She” and one of my latest pieces “Poetry that Protects the Environment.” At Hawthorne Elementary School and Fran Allis Elementary School in Madison, WI I was introduced to captive crowds of fifth grade students who were anticipating my poetry. I had never visited two schools on the same day, let alone two schools in the creative and conscious haven that Madison, WI is.

Earth Day was a great day to share with the students about my environmental justice experience, and for me to share what environmental justice is. Since students are not taught what those things are, it was indeed an educational opportunity. They did not know what those terms meant at Frank Allis Elementary School, but when a teacher asked them did they know what global warming is, most of them threw their hands up. I can imagine them sitting at home with their parents watching the national news and hearing the latest news on global warming and how it’s effecting our planet. It’s important for the future people of this planet to know what’s going on.

At both schools examples were shared about some of the local efforts that they knew of in regards to environmental stewardship. It was great to hear about those actions from the students. They are paying attention to what’s going on and participating in some of those efforts.

They listened intensely to each poem. They had lots of questions as I finished each poem as well. They asked me some great questions. We discussed elements of both poems. It was identified that “The Return of Earth/She” is a metaphorical poem. That I crafted that poem and gave it the essence of a woman. Personifying the earth with a feminine existence. This was an epiphany for me: I hadn’t looked at that particular poem that way. But thinking about it, to give the earth feelings, makes it a more effective poem that youth and adults can relate to. Here is a video version of that poem: 

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Poetry that Protects the Environment is more direct, not metaphorical piece like “The Return of Earth/She.”

I ended my day at Hawthorne Elementary School with a lot of positive energy with much to look forward to and to appreciate and be thankful for! It’s always an honor to speak with youth and have their attention like I had. It’s always a heart-warming experience. I even signed autographs for the students who were eager to receive them. They will attach my name to an experience the had on Earth Day 2015, which is a very special thing.

I got back home to Rockford after 5 PM that day and went to a live concert that honored and remembered Pete Seeger, and served as fundraiser for JustGoods for their music license. The place was packed with those who definitely remember Pete Seeger’s songs and what he stood for. I settled in, was greeted warmly by people I know and respect from the community, and performed those same pieces with adults this time.

David Stocker, my friend a local musician, backed my poetry with drumming from a djembe drum. It gave my performance an element that didn’t exist in Madison. Combining music and spoken word is one of my favorite things to do. David’s percussive excellence inspired me to recite “The Return of Earth/She” with a rhythm and pace I hadn’t recited it in before. My performances were well-received that night at JustGoods.

Those are my tales, what a magical Earth Day!

Healing the Waters: Addressing Race, Class, Gender and Immigration Status

From March 13th – 15th, 2015 I participated in an environmental justice conference entitled Healing the Waters:  Decolonizing Our Communities and the Climate Movement that focused on the intersections of race, gender, class, and immigration status in New Orleans, LA.

Focusing on those intersections, we knew as people of faith, and environmental activists and stewards of the earth, that we needed to have a deeper conversation around these national and international issues when it comes to climate change.

Two organizations got together and made this important conference and conversation(s) happen: Diverse, Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) and Allies for Racial Equity (ARE). These two groups are working on creating an anti-racist/anti-oppressive Unitarian Universalism, and also, an anti-racist/anti-oppressive United States.

Keynote speeches and workshops addressed all of these issues creating dialog that lasted until the next workshop or address. The history of the South, including its racism, oppression, and corruption all came together, especially in Colette Pichon Battle’s words. Colette is the Executive Director of the  Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy. Her address laid out the historical and institutional racist practices that have created the harsh situations experienced by displaced and the impoverished people of New Orleans and its surrounding cities and communities. It was an education that I welcomed because I had only heard of or read about the injustices taking place in New Orleans, and in other southern cities, after Hurricane Katrina. You have to go there and listen to the locals in order to know what is really going on, and how climate change and political corruption has affected the people there.

As a human rights activist, and as an environmental activist, I feel that if we’re going to solve 21st Century issues relating to the climate movement, these intersections must continue to be addressed, discussed, and documented as we deal with a changing world and a changing global climate. The communities that are usually affected by all of this are usually front line communities who have been dealing with and learning about Earth’s climate changes for centuries. Front line communities have the experience, knowledge, and leadership that will help change our situation and develop strategies that will bring us together in the process of creating a healthier planet for generations to come.

Healing the Waters was created with an intentional multicultural focus that allowed us to keep front line communities’s at the center of our work. It also provided us with the opportunity to have a much needed conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement.

UU World writer and nationally known blogger and activist Kenny Wiley and myself led a conversation on the Black Lives Matter movement and discussed our activities within the movement and how Unitarian Universalists can be involved and more engaged in this human rights struggle.

White Unitarian Universalists were looking for better ways to be involved, and were willing to have the tough conversations that happen when we’re discussing racism, police brutality, or mass incarceration here in the United States.

The workshop was very engaging as we decided to sit in a circle and address our concerns, fears, and thoughts about what is taking place with the Black Lives Matter movement. What came out of that dialog was as simple as white (Unitarian Universalists) doing whatever they could on their own level to help with the situation. As long as we’re doing something to save the lives of black women and men, and brown women and men, is helpful to our struggle.

New Orleans was a great setting for this conference. We talked about how we could invite Colette Pichon Battle to help do more of this work with us, and what future workshops and gatherings in our Unitarian Universalist faith movement could look with a lot of what was shared at Healing the Waters: Decolonizing Our Communities and the Climate Movement.

With our upcoming gathering of thousands of Unitarian Universalists in downtown Portland, OR this summer (http://www.uua.org/ga) and our climate movement focus with Commit2Respond (http://www.commit2respond.org) now is the time for a lot of important work to be done to help heal our hurting planet.

To learn more about this conference, visit http://alliesforracialequity.wildapricot.org. To learn more about Diverse, Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries, visit http://www.druumm.org.

Serious Fun – My Newly Released Music Project

Serious Fun is my first ever studio release, outside of 2012’s Ladder to the Sun album The Naturals. Teaming up with Phillip Ryan Block and Independent Ear, Inc. we bring you a project that has a variety of lyrics, thoughts, and concepts.

It’s great to be releasing a new project, especially in the new year! I know that I can speak for other artists who have labored putting together what they hope to be a project that will take their career to the next level, and feed the fans that help keep them going. Completing a new project and anticipating its release is quite the feeling, and something to look forward to as an artist.

I wanted this project to be different. It feels and looks different than my previous projects and compilations. The title serious FUN comes from the idea that there’s a time to be serious and there’s a time to have fun. A balance in life I think we all strive for. Myself, I can often be the serious type. I’m analytic, and a “deep” thinker. With that said, tracks like The Detroit Water Shutoff Crisis, Brown At The Borders, and Ballad For Black Boys And Black Men capture me being analytic and delving into the kind of words and thoughts that brings these things to light. Those of you who know me for my activism will appreciate these songs. They represent the signs of the times, and where we are in this country when it comes to race relations, immigration, and local people fighting for water rights and the like.

The fun side of this album is mostly me flexing my lyrical capabilities and talents. 30 Bars of Lyrical Fun is a tongue-twisting song that finds me rapping at a very fast paced over a track that pushes those energetic words. It was tough, yet fun, completing that track. That’s the fastest I’ve ever rapped in a song!

I reached back into my archives and added two songs – I Am A Poet and Incredible – to show some diversity in my ability as a poet and a lyricist. Those two songs come from an earlier project that I worked on with an old friend, and someone who is sharp at creating the right beats for the right rhymes. I hope you rock out to I Am A Poet and bob your heard to Incredible. They are lyrical and poetic songs I am happy to have a part of this project.

The Sungod Story is a recording that allowed me to remember my times with my crew The Sungods who I met back in college in Mississippi in the early to mid 90s. We represented the culture of hip-hop daily with our thoughts, actions, conversations, and the clothes we were. We became friends, and much like family. The song is an autobiography of those times mentioning some of the names of the people that I still respect and love as brothers this very day. I hope it serves our experiences and our love for the culture of hip-hop well.

Enjoy the album! I had serious fun putting it together and I am glad that Independent Ear, Inc. and I teamed up for it!

Buy the album at these digital music outlets:
iTunes:  http://goo.gl/hfy837
Amazon: http://goo.gl/hkEICh
Google Play:  http://goo.gl/ZRvNzB

A Reflection: Participating in New York City’s “Day of Anger” March for Millions

This was the third march that I attended this year in regards to the injustices that have been done unto Black women and men in the United States. As I marched for blocks and blocks in the most racially diverse city on the planet, it made me proud to continue to be a part of a movement that feels old and new.

I say old and new because we have been marching for years in this country. The 1960s were pivotal times that influence and guide what is going on today here in the United States. We are marching in St. Louis, New York City, Rockford, Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, Portland, Oregon, and all across the land with a connection to earlier movements that were ripe with injustice and racial tension.

Thousands and thousands of people are fighting against a system that has not ended like we want it to, like we need it to. Even in the cold in New York City I felt just as connected to this modern-day civil rights movement as I did at the “a Weekend of Resistance” march that took place in St. Louis in October. The urge is there. We shout “shut it down” and “hands up don’t shoot”with urgency that is not going anywhere any time soon. I have a feeling that just like the marches in the 1960s, these current marches will help bring about a change that is desperately needed. Institutional racism should have been on its way out years and years ago.

We will need laws to change in order for a drastic change to take place, however. Laws will have to change that honestly protect black and brown people in a way that will be effective for years to come. We will need to start on the grassroots level focusing on local laws that have given the police the power to do what they have done to countless innocent people. Those laws being changed can come through the energy and urgency of these marches and protests we are participating in. If you know of any laws that are being written or worked on to help protect innocent people from dying at the hands of law enforcement, please let me know.

We are connected and marching, making new friends, and making improvements in the way activists, organizers, and planners have done things over the years to help make these marches and protests happen.

Social media a great tool just the same. I find myself being not only a person that is showing up at marches, protects and vigils, but also being an “arm-chair activist.”

New York City’s “Day of Anger” march definitely contained justifiable anger as we loudly protested against law enforcement. It felt strange as we marched those long New York City blocks saying things like “Hey hey, Ho ho! Those racist police have got to go!” They were on every corner watching us watching them. They looked comfortable in their positions and unmoved by rhetoric aimed directly at them. That’s the way things will be as we make it known all across the United States that we’re tired of what’s going on, and they are some of the biggest reasons why.

I heard drums and I saw children marching with their parents. Just like in Ferguson I saw the youth being the loudest and most determined in the NYC “Day of Anger” march. I felt moved and I participated in call and response, just like I did in St. Louis. I hope we continue to organize these marches and protests and be heard in the United States and across the globe.

A friend of mine who lives in London told me the world is watching. With those eyes on us, we can lead the change in regards to mass incarceration and the senseless deaths of black and brown people. The world needs to see us do so.

We have much work to do and some catching up to do when it comes to equality and justice. Let us be angry enough to continue to march, protest, and plan for more actions that will create the kind of country where we will no longer mourn for young people of color who died at the hands of the police.