Black or Bruised | Ambo TV

Black or Bruised

To live in a perpetual state of terror

Is to live in a Black body in these United States

So named for their ferocious unity

Not for a common good righteously sought

But for a terrible and ancient consensus

Of death, destruction, and doom

States united in their attempt to obliterate Black bodies

States united yet liberties and rights inequitably divided

Between darker and lighter siblings, a deadly calculus

A racist arithmetic of subtraction unending

Everyday. The same equation.

Life, minus this or that Black body

This or that Black body, minus Life

Again and again and again

Equals a riot, here or there, and––soon––everywhere

Police killed 1099 people in 2019, 24% were Black

Nearly double the percentage of Black bodies in the U.S.

Promises of protection broken

Glaring truths often unspoken

Yet, named, everyday by one Black griot or another:

America does not love us, never has,

And––if we (meaning you) don’t wake up––never will

Langston penned that truth

Echoing ancestors and descendants alike

Martin, Malcolm, James, Audre, Toni, bell––Emmett

I want to believe that Black is beautiful

A symbol of pride and resilience, a sign

Of nature’s mystical relationship with earthen vessels

Of Africa’s enchanting hues, tones, colors

Bodies darkened by the sun’s elegant kiss

A kiss that now feels like betrayal, a ruse

It does not––cannot––tell the whole truth

For it begs the same questions in every century

Is Blackness the color of pain?

Am I so Black that I am also Blue?

Am I Black or am I just well Bruised?

Both. And. One and the same.

Black and Bruised.

By weaponized kneecaps in Minneapolis

By violent chokeholds in Staten Island

By vigilante murderers in Sanford and Glynn County

By a spine-severing van ride in Baltimore

By hanging in a jail cell in Waller County

By bullets riddling a Black body in Louisville

In Oakland

In Cleveland

In New York City

In Charleston

Black bodies bruised

Black bodies lynched

Black bodies crucified

On American soil

Abel’s blood still cries out

Can you hear it?

Do you want to hear it?

Sounds like a mournful melody

Sung by Billie Holiday

Scribed by the Psalmist of old

How long, O Lord?


Jason Craige Harris is an educator, writer, and minister living in NYC. As a facilitator and strategist, he works on issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, conflict transformation, and restorative justice.