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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Anxiety In America (After the 2016 Presidential Election) -a poem by Christopher D. Sims

There is anxiety in America,
a deep unease after the 2016 presidential
election. The selection of Donald Trump
has many scared, nervous, or down
in the dumps.

America is in a funk; Americans
who are confused are singing a brand
new blues; a blues with heavy woes
as we continue to be divided,
political foes.

Who knows what this new administration
will bring?! As women, immigrants and
people of color sing the saddest of songs.

The division and separation is strong.
Conversations and debates are taking
place about who belongs here – leaving
many in fear.

There is anxiety in America, a deep
unease after the presidential election.
Many are screaming “Not my president!”

Canada is a location where some of us
want to take up residence. Hesitant about
what this new administration will
bring. How will community organizers,
activists, and leaders sing a new song?

How will we react to the coming wrongs
of newly selected political leaders? How
we will fix political wounds that may only
get deeper, and deeper, and deeper?

There is anxiety in America. For this
new administration many of us are
not prepared. Our girls and women
are scared. There is a change that’s
coming and you can feel it in the air.

Daring to travel to DC are a million
women who will march with justice,
equality, and togetherness in their
hearts.

The Arts is in danger, I saw it in
the subject line of an email. I can
only imagine what else, will being in
America feel like we’re living in hell?

There is anxiety in America. What
will your new tune be? Will you choose
to fight harder for the rights of you and
me? How will we make sure the future
of our children is not filled with worry?

Let’s a take a moment to breathe, to be,
to relate, to call to action, to gather, to
meet, to pray, to say what’s on our minds,
to find common ground, to create a new
universal sound that we can all groove to
and benefit from.

The work is just beginning. Our time has
just begun. The work is just beginning. Our
time has just begun. The work is just beginning.
Our time has just begun.

© Christopher D. Sims
January 2, 2017

2016-presidential-election

Smuggling Poetry Across Boarders

I have a confession to make:
In one of my earliest days as a
spoken word performer, I smuggled
poems across the boarder to Canada.
I told a white lie to get in, those words
needed a stage, freedom.

That was the beginning: knowing the
poems I was penning were taking
me across interstate lines was the
most ultimate of times, of times.

Lines on paper traveling on buses
and airplanes to arrive to be unpacked,
spoken, or slightly rapped.

Sacred Woman, I took her to Washington, DC
with me; I Met Her at A Book Store, we went to the
Memphis Black Writers Conference & Film Festival;
Word Warrior, we cruised out to Chicago to the
Chicago Poetry Festival; She has Breast Cancer
has traveled with me to Cornell University.

These are poems with miles on them – frequent
flyer miles where they received applause, praise, smiles.

They are packed, packaged, unpacked. Poems, rhymes,
rhythms, raps packed, packaged, unpacked.

Poems, rhymes, rhythms, raps
Tucked neatly inside of my bags. Traveling
vocab. Traveling vocab.

They’ve helped me develop a following
and a name. Poetry written, but born to be
wild. Experiencing long bus rides, just as
tired and worn as I am. Just as tired and
worn as I am.

I open the bag, then let them breathe. They
have come to achieve. Been places you
wouldn’t believe. Smuggled consistently
ready to please.

Happy to satisfy, especially after they’ve
been requested or ordered, are the poems
of mines smuggled across boarders.

© Christopher D. Sims
March 7th, 2013

Cool Christopher wearing A Cap

Listen to a recording of this poem with music here: https://soundcloud.com/universoulove/smuggling-poetry-across-1?in=universoulove/sets/internacional-sounds-words

Words and Water: Katrina Ten Years Later – a poem by Christopher D. Sims

Neighborhoods-Sunrise-9th-Ward1

This poem formed, brewed inside of me
Like you did Katrina before the levees broke
As you rushed forcefully, undeniably
into New Orleans.

This storm of words inside me took
their time. They aligned with thoughts, feelings,
emotions, tears, devastation, loss.

So many lost everything: lost family; lost pets;
lost homes; lost a sense of belonging; lost their
ability to return home.

This is jazz and blues for the displaced; the
people who were called refugees. Easy, no
the rebirth of New Orleans has not been.

Gentrification has pushed the poor out. Young
Black men cannot find jobs. Isn’t it odd
That the people who created the culture, the dance,
the music are not benefiting financially?

Katrina’s wrath can still be felt ten years later.

These words are brewing still. My memory
takes me to images of bodies floating in high
waters, to the eyes of the distressed, the shocked,
to a president’s response that was too little and too late.

I wait.

I wade in rivers of words.

I listen to spirit and sound.

I remember Katrina rushing through the Lower 9th.

It’s been a struggle to arrive at these ten years.
These words are the Mississippi in the form of tears.

© Christopher D. Sims
 August 27, 2015

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

The Ghost of Sandra Bland – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

The ghost of Sandra Bland wants us to understand
That the lives of Black people in the United States
are fragile; are for the taking; are worth nothing when
a cop is confronting you.

The ghost of Sandra Bland haunts me in the day time,
and even in my sleep. She creeps among us fresh from
a suspicious hanging – her life physically not remaining.

The ghost of Sandra Bland watches us watch what happened
to her on social media and on the evening news. She watches
her devastated family sing the blues. Sing the blues.

The ghost of Sandra Bland knows what happens.

She’s waiting for us to find out. She’s waiting for us to demand
justice and cry out!

The ghost of Sandra Bland is just as strong as the young
black woman who knew her rights; who lost her life; who
went down in a fight just because she was black and determined.
Black and educated. Black and situated hoping for a better life.

The ghost of Sandra Bland is among us all.

Will you hear her call?

Copyright Christopher D. Sims
July 22nd, 2015

sandra-bland

black churches are burning – a poem by Christopher D. Sims

It’s a hot summer. It’s burning hot in the south. Black churches are burning down in the south. Black connections to African roots are being threatened and uprooted in the Deep South. Even in God’s house. Even where people gather, pray, seek lives of purpose. Black churches are burning. Black people are hurting. Black people are worrying. Black people are not forgetting. We are not forgetting about similar times. We are not forgetting about the same kinds of wicked minds that contain hate. Even in 2015 we can relate. Black churches are burning down. Burning down in old southern towns. Black churches; Black memories; Black gatherings that have happened for centuries. Black people praying and swaying; Swaying and praying. What is this new hate saying? What is it conveying? Black churches burn. Black churches are burning in the Deep South. Yes, even God’s house. They want to burn away our history. They want to burn us into misery. Even when we’ve been a part of this nation since its early beginnings. Will the burnings have an ending? As Black churches burn who is winning? Black churches are burning, burning in the Deep South.

Copyright Christopher D. Sims

July 3rd, 2015 

Black Man Down – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

Black man down
His blood is spilling out on the ground
The Universe makes another sad sound

The Universe makes another sad sound
His blood is spilling out on the ground
Black man down

Down in the dumps
Down Black man slumps in the ghettos of the States
Black man down, how many of you can relate?

Black man down

Down on his luck
Who will help him?
Who can he trust?

Black man down
Black man isn’t up
When Black man is down
The Black man will erupt, or self destruct.

Black man down
Black man has no job
Black man looks for others to steal from or rob.
Black man has been taught that the dollar is God.

Black man down
His blood is spilling on the ground
The Universe makes another sad sound

Black man down: Trayvon Martin
Black man down: Jordan Davis
Black man down: Eric Garner
Black man down: Michael Brown
Black man down: John Crawford III
Black man down: Tony Robinson

Black man down: Another one just
the other day. His name was Freddie Gray.

Black man down, down, down, down.

© Christopher D. Sims
April 30th, 2015

This art was used for an article written for The New Orleans Times.

This art was used for an article written for The New Orleans Times.

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!

The Art of Performance Poetry with A Lively Writer’s Group

Performing spoken word poetry.

Performing spoken word poetry.

Yesterday morning, after an early and fairly quiet drive to Winnetka, Illinois, I went to the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop to be featured with a discussion focused on my ” The Seven Elements of Performance Poetry.” The group was very lively, and interested in what I had to share and to say about my techniques as a seasoned spoken word poet.

I put together a defined workshop that spoke to each element – available as a Word document if you’re interested in viewing it. I was concerned about not having enough material to carry me through, but that quickly vanished when the lively group of seasoned writers and literary enthusiasts began asking me questions about my knowledge of performance poetry and/or Slam poetry.

The questions carried us through most of the first half of our electric conversation. I am glad that I have been performing as long as I have, and was prepared with a memory of what it takes to be a performance poet. The questions they asked kept me on my toes!

I learned of the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop through a local poet’s husband during a conversation we had at an event where his visual art was on display, and where her and my poetry was featured in a live reading in downtown Rockford. I remembered the name of the group and went home and found their website. I reached out to them expressing my interest in being a presenter. I shared what I could present and it was accepted.

The Seven Elements of Performance Poetry is my go to workshop for highlighting my tactics as a spoken word poet on stage. It consists of pieces of knowledge and information that I feel will help any poet seeking to become a performance poet – which, as I explained to the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop group, is taking written poetry to the stage.

The group consisted mostly of women who listened intensely and made sure they asked the right questions. Performance poetry is not simple, and I believe only the brave poets want to take their writing to the level of performing and reciting it.

I have been performing since the late 90s as a spoken word artist. My early start was in Memphis, TN at the former Sidewalk University in midtown Memphis. I remember that first experience like it was yesterday. Going to an open mike to share my poetry live was something I had never done. It was a new genre for me. Although I had performed as a budding rapper at my elementary school in the mid 80s, there was something different about reciting poetry to a group of people I didn’t know. Later on, after learning about the weekly open mike at the former Precious Cargo in downtown Memphis, I become hooked and haven’t looked back since.

Years later, here I am in Winnetka, Illinois at the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop sharing what I have learned all of these years. I have come full circle as a spoken word poet. I am glad I had the opportunity to showcase that there with that lively and kindred group of writers and literary enthusiasts!

I hope to get back there some time, even if it is just to listen to them and learn about what they are doing with their writing. Happy National Poetry Month! May the muse be with you!