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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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

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 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.

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

A Look at Selma and Black Liberation in the New Year and Beyond

We are fortunate in the United States that Selma is being released nationwide in theaters across the country. It’s been a long time coming, and a deeper look into the lives of Corretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was passed due. This film comes at a time, just like the Selma marches, when African Americans are questioning our citizenship and worth in this country.

I have been anticipating the movie’s release – knowing that it could come on the heals of the #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe movements. It’s ironic and much needed that such a film would come at a time when these movements are still picking up steam, and when young African-Americans are seeking the kind of respect and dignity from law enforcement and politicians like the people in Selma, Birmingham, and many other places fought and died for. Selma comes at a time when race relations need to be re-examined and re-addressed.

I am disappointed about the critique of the movie – how the director Ava DuVernay has been challenged about the historical content of the film. It’s not surprising, but why can’t we just sit back and enjoy her efforts and revisit an ugly part of this country’s history to continue to dialog about how far we have come, and how far we have to go, in regards to race relations and racial equality in the United States?

She is defending herself well in recent interviews I have seen, however.

Regardless, she brings forth a piece of our history that I have learned some new things from. Such as when the marchers were attempting to get to Birmingham, they were chased all the way back to their churches. This history is important and I hope that our young people are learning this history through this new film. I hope they are taking their newly acquired knowledge back to their schools and classrooms.

Black Liberation is important after such a hard year. 2014 found us right back in the thick of racism, police brutality, and an increased military presence in our cities and states. That military presence existed on that bridge in Selma as marchers were heading to Birmingham for voter rights years ago. The present meets the past and past meets the present. We are still dealing with some of the same issues our ancestors dealt with in their pursuit of freedom and liberation.

What will be different as we enter 2015? What can we use from what we are learning from the past to help us get even further to achieve real liberation in the United States?

These are big questions. Dr. King wanted equality right now back in the 60s. If we asked for that now, what would our equality look like? Ending poverty, inadequate education, mass incarceration, and police brutality in our communities, would be achieving equality and liberation for African Americans.

This country is changing. It is getting browner. I believe that the more we make strides in our collective communities and continue to fight together with our allies, we may see some of that liberation and equality sooner, rather than later.

Copyright Christopher D. Sims
January 8, 2015