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 New York City
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.