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

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Black Superman (against Police Brutality) – a poem by Christopher D. Sims

I want to be my people’s Black Superman;
Savior; saint; sophisticated thinker tackling
issues too difficult to solve in just one discussion,
workshop, or social media post.

I want to be Black America’s Superman; a man
with a tan taught by elders who has read all
the right books about our story and pending liberation.

I want to help save this nation from killing itself;
Fight off the racism, classism, sexism, and all other
forms of isms that will be the end of this poisonous
country still stuck in an unpromising past.

Black Superman I can be. Black Superman let that
be me. Black Superman I can be. Black Superman let that
person be me.

I want to show up at every traffic stop of every Black
person who has been pulled over by an angry cop. I’ll
yell “Stop!” My super powers will be reason. And if
she or he continues to harass or threaten persons of color
I’ll be that brother that’ll stop his bullets or baton. I want
to save Black people’s lives because we continue to die,
because we continue to die.

Here I come flying through the sky with my eyes on places
like Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Cleveland,
and New York City with the ability to apprehend the women
and men who are corrupt across the states with hate and
disrespect in their hearts: Black Superman!

I’d posses the power to put out black church fires with
water flowing from my mouth. We still need justice
and protection in the dirty south!

‘Cause it’ll take superpowers to devour what’s taking place
in our communities and cities. It’ll take more than legislation
and demonstrations. It’ll take more than protests and arrests.

I’ll be your Black Superman. I’ll be the brother that has your
back when you are under attack. I’ll be your Black Superman.
I’ll be the brother that has your back when you’re under attack.

The way some of these police act threatens all of our humanity.
All of our humanity! Black Superman: here to bring us some safety
and sanity.

© Christopher D. Sims
July 26th, 2015

BlackSuperman

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.

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.

Selma the Movie – A Review by Christopher D. Sims

I had the honor and the pleasure of seeing the movie Selma today at a local theater in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. As much as I’ve heard about the film, the experience was very much worth my time and attention.

I am a movie buff, I will admit that. As much as I love writing, and reading literature, movies have an effect on me that no other art form has. I am also a big fan of history, and a researcher. Having the opportunity to delve into a movie like Selma served my needs and spirit greatly. Selma has helped re-educate me and keeps me connected to the history of the United States and the fascinating and sad stories of its past.

Ava DuVernay, in the second scene, jumps into a very delicate and heartbreaking moment – the bombing of the Alabama church where four young black girls were killed. I jumped in my seat and could only breathe silently as that scene took everyone in the theater back to a time that was horrifying for anyone who was fighting for justice and equality here in the United States.

I have heard Ava DuVernay speak about the scenes in the movie, but that experience was real and shocking. I have known of that piece of our history for some time now. But to experience it through Ava DuVernay’s eyes and connection made it even more impactful. I can only imagine how the young people in the theater felt when they experienced that scene.

Opening up with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. receiving the Nobel Peace Prize was a great way to capture King in his glory as he represented African Americans across the country in his plight to bring equality and justice to our neighborhoods and communities. David Oyelowo played King very well, bringing present day life to a leader whose spirit still can be felt in this country years after his death. Actress Carmon Ejogo did a fine job playing Coretta Scott King. She looked a lot like her in this film which is refreshing.

This movie takes us on a lifelike stroll of the United States in the 60s when race relations were very touchy, tense, and trying for many. The feeling of the movie had the right kind of vibe. Even the costumes and the cars in the film added to the distinct and unique nature of the events that went down in Selma, and other parts of the country. If it were up to me, the costume design person for Selma would win an award! Fantastic job!

I appreciate DuVernay’s willingness to capture of the major players who were on King’s side in that movement for equal and civil rights. Each colleague of Dr. King was depicted well and given their due spotlight – from Ralph Abernathy to Diane Nash to John Conyers to Andrew Young – each were focused on and their roles in making history with Dr. King was amplified in the right ways.

Even the martyrs of those times were depicted in Ava DuVernay’s Selma. She gave attention to James Reeb, who was a Unitarian Universalist minister who was chased down and brutally beaten in the streets of Selma. He later died after the beating he took.

The scenes on the bridge named after former Ku Kluxx Klan leader Edmund Pettus were riveting and some of the most striking in the film. They will make you tense and put you right into the heated action. DuVernay did an amazing job capturing those moments. They will stick with you even after the film.

As much controversy that has taken place with some of the historical accuracy of this film, it is still a must see! I would not let any of that talk keep you from seeing this much needed film. Your pride in Dr. King in his efforts, as well many other civil rights leaders of those times, will increase and may even lead you into some action in your communities.

Enjoy it! And feel free to come back to this blog and let me know what you thought, and what moved you most about the film.

Christopher D. Sims
January 10th, 2015

The Life of a Bullet Entering Black and Brown Flesh – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

That bullet, that dreadful, heartless bullet
started off in a racist southerner’s rifle
p
ointed at a runaway slave, who was
on the run. Entering his chest cavity, it
had nothing to stop it. That bullet was
dipped in hatred and steeped in envy:
a bullet whose soul was empty, empty.

That bullet, that dreadful, heartless bullet
found its way up north inside the gun of
a police officer patrolling the south side of
Chicago. Still filled with hatred, not a moment
was wasted, before it found itself tearing through
the flesh of a young black male. Sending him
to “hell”, as the cop suggested. He wasn’t
even arrested. The community was restless –
wondering where the bullet would end up next.

That bullet, that dreadful, heartless bullet,
wound up in Oakland, California years later
chasing after brown flesh. Angrily traveling
through barrios searching for more flesh to
puncture. Inside the 45 of a bigot inflamed
by “illegal immigration”, that bullet cut down
a young brown girl, cutting down a nation.

Bullets have no feelings, care about no one’s
name or humanity.

Bullets take orders, are sent to create pain.

The pain that is with us now as we remember
countless faces who are the victims of the
heartlessness behind those bullets that are
finding their way into innocent flesh.

Where will the bullet end up next?

Where will the bullet end up next?

© Christopher D. Sims
2014

Bullets Image 

 

 

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.