Numbers: Poetry & Data on American Blackness

Donney Rose
Jul 4, 2020 - 10:00

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*Statistical data obtained from @blackbythenumbers on Instagram*

Whiteness weaponizes the
long arm of the law
the law draws weapons
at Black bodies
discharges firearms and
before you know it
a Black body is sketched
as a chalk outline
*in an instance*
all a Black family inherits
are memories of a loved one
once a mosaic of
endless possibilities 
now a river of rouge
spilling about the scene
of a crime that became
criminal when the
public servants arrived
to deny a Black body
breathing rights

Whiteness utilizes police
as its personal concierge
& with the speed of 911
will schedule a Black body
to be bullet-filled
& dropped off to
the furthest reaches
of its fears

And for every Black body
that survives the false alarm
of white fragility
a small piece of our
humanity perishes
a slither of freedom
becomes ghost
and we recognize that
this still alive version of death 
is but a slow descend
to a final destination
shoveled by our
stolen liberties.

Blackness be like
heart disease
be like don’t use all that grease
but also we all gotta die someday
be like that doctor don’t know
what he talkin bout
which is code for
that doctor ain’t attuned 
to my agony
because he ain’t a vet
and my biology too animal
for his area of expertise
be like this light bill or this check-up?
be like try to sleep it off and
*fingers crossed* 
the rest won’t 
end up permanent
be like this insurance is killin’ me
but also I can’t feel my feet
be like my mama had that
my grandma had that
my uncle, my cousin, my Tee Tee
had that, I guess it just run
in my blood
be like I can’t get tha Corona
because pre-existing conditions
because environmental racism
because food deserts
because apparently my whole
family told the same lie
every time we informed a 
health care provider what
was disrupting our slumber
because health is wealth
and generationally we have
migrated from paycheck to
the office of collections

So, why bother
we all gotta die someday, right?
right? Right?!

(flatline on monitor ends scene)

I’m tryna do it for
the Gram or
Tik Tok
or YouTube
or for the retweets
I’m tryna go viral
or be memed or
be the GIF that keeps on giving
or make the headlines
I’m tryna break the internet
or break myself open
to be noticed
tryna to prove Ralph Ellison
to be a liar
ain’t nothin invisible here
I’m live and in
living color
I’m live and
a person of color
I’m live and colored
and the Black(s)
and you people
and thug
and the n-word


I’m tryna see myself
somewhere besides the courtroom
tryna see my name plastered
somewhere other than
the obituary section
tryna read a good word
or watch a feel good
hue-man interest news story
about someone who
darkens under the 
summer sun like I do
so I’mma keep on scrolling 
until I find my good side
until the cameraman catches
all angles of who I truly am
until them writers stop
fragmenting my narrative

I got time today & everyday.

The papers say
they bout to capitalize 
the (B)lack
and I say
I have never minimized
the value of this identity
never lived as a lowercase human
always knew this skin
this speech pattern
this worldview & full-throated laughter
& ingenuity & resilience
was something to revel in

Always knew this big B Blackness
was a lighthouse to the world
regardless of how obsidian
it was in appearance
always knew I was
a descendant of the
planet’s moral compass
and that we would chart
the path home for
a lost world.

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