Artist statement: There is no such thing as an antiracist future. This is a sad truth, but a truth either way. Hate is deep-rooted. Racism is deep-rooted. It is seeped and planted in the foundations of our society and we have long accepted it. With this poem I wanted to remind people of the stains on the system we've allowed to operate for years, decades, centuries. I want to remind people that hate did not begin in 2020. Racism and brutality did not begin in 2020. The death of innocent people did not begin in 2020. It has always been there. These stories have always been there. The best way to head towards a just and sustainable future is to remember these stories, remember these faces, remember these names, and not forget once it stops trending. Stop making moments out of movements. Stop acting like you care when you don't know what it's like to live in my shoes and prefer it to stay that way. We are grieving. We are mourning. Everyday. Don't forget, let that be your contribution. And make sure that the next time something happens, or is about to happen, try to make it to where we do not have to "say their names," but keep them alive so that they can say it themselves.
I come from the city of cardinal crumbs,
where the world turns the same way everyday
and the people generally look the same,
their activities unchanged because the world around
them has been consistent since the day they laid eyes
on the earth.
I come from a woman who weaved her children
in-between her fingers,
trying to design the best lives for them as possible,
occasionally pricking her fingers but never
straying away from making a quilt from her love.
This same woman would warn me to step back inside
by the time the night got to the moment between
dog and wolf,
when I wouldn’t be recognized as nothing but a shadow
in a world of pastel models.
I was not afraid of any man when I was birthed
but now I can’t walk down the street without
the anxiety of facing someone who doesn’t see
me as a gift from up above,
who only sees me as what I am on the surface level,
but since when did we judge the sea because it was a
blue reflection of the sky?
Every February we repeat King’s dream
and yet you still ask for my vision as if
tomorrow will be better if I make pictures
in my head.
I have been doing that my entire life.
My vision is for my
mother not to worry about me as if I were
her own heart losing blood,
to know that my sister and her sisters won’t
be objectified due to myths that shouldn’t still be
seen as gospel.
My vision is for peace,
by which I mean a full night’s sleep
and one less pill to take to try to
it’s not someone sending me a video of
blood on my streets,
educating me on my own history all because
they read a book that I’ve lived.
My vision is for our funerals to stop
being your fun houses,
what makes you feel temporary guilt
over our lifetime of persecution.
It isn’t a question of if we were free
because half of us have been since
Adam met Eve,
if it’s a question of you and me
then you’re already taking advantage of
the question posed in my face.
I need space.
I need to know that my place in this
world is not to be either your hashtag
or your cautionary tale.
We will never be fully free
because we are already too deeply stained
to find a resolution.
But we can be strong
and we can do work
and we can do prayer,
even if we are not always sure there is
someone listening to us.
I come from the city where men like me are killed.
I come from the county where men like me are killed.
I come from the country where men like me are killed.
I come from the planet where men like me are killed.
I have been hurt and therefore
my imagination has been too
but I’m still a young boy and so
my optimism outweighs my ocean of pain,
my openness makes me a vulnerable target
but the only way for me to go on in this world
without being a shell of myself is if I
I need to believe.
Because maybe my vision
is what the world needs
to put on their glasses
and change their own.
Cris Eli Blak is an award winning writer for the page, stage, and screen who has had his work seen and heard around the world, from New York to London to Ireland and Australia. He was the recipient of the 2020 Christopher Hewitt Award in Fiction and received a Pushcart Prize nomination, and continues to strive to tell the stories of those so often left underrepresented or voiceless.