The Talk: A Poem by Samnae Brown
While BMORE's Black Lives Matter Week of Action EVENTS got the most attention, what was most exciting to me as a teacher was the work that happened inside of classrooms across the city that week. In my 6th grade English classes, students had already been studying the poem If by Rudyard Kipling as part of the regular curriculum. We transferred the same skills used to analyze If for Maya Angelou's Still I Rise and Langston Hughes Mother to Son. After determining the meaning of unknown words, and the literal meaning of the figurative language in these poems, we spent time lifting up the various techniques used to conjure imagery and emotion.
Students then picked one of these high quality poems as a model to inspire their own writing. Samnae Brown took Mother to Son and made it her own by considering the conversations her mother has had with her about how she presents in the world, and how to interact with police given the way she may be perceived. Without further ado, (and with permission from Samnae and her mother), here's the poem:
My daughter, My son.
The day you were born I was terrified,
Not of you, but of the people who would be around you.
Those who would judge you for how you look and what you are.
Not African American.
You are black.
Rich in melanin, you are pure.
There are people who won't take care of you like I do.
Eventually you gon' get a car and be able to drive
"Momma I'm a good driver all my instructors say so."
This ain't about you bein' a "good driver" this about you not coming home one day.
"Fine ma' what should I do then?"
Speak in a calm tone so the officer knows you're not in an irate state.
When they ask for your license and registration, you say where you're getting' it from.
"You goin' off on a tangent ma'."
No. I'm tellin' you how to be safe cause' of the way you look.
"The way I look?"
Some white officer might say you had a weapon or you was bein' aggressive.
You won't get justice baby, that’s just how it is.
I wish it wasn't this way.
I wish that everyone was treated with humanity.