Cris Eli Blak

Cris Eli Blak

Jefferson County


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.

Streetlights on.

Body home.

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

achieve it,

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.

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Cris Eli Blak
About Cris Eli Blak

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.