MLK Day Poem 2005

I have a confession
I’ve gone back and forth
Forth and back
About this cat called Martin
I’d be lying if I told you if I said,
“His dream was my dream”
You’d be lying to me if you said,
“His dream was your dream”
You’d be lying if you said
you know Martin, you know Malcolm,
you know Shirley, you know Fannie Lou,
because I know,
you know,
what I know
and we know…. What they told to us!!!
See I’m sick of paper cuts
That I developed as I turned thru the pages of history
Trying to solve the eternal mystery of … his dream
I remember being the dream
I remember being the dreamer,
The smart black boy,
the most likely to succeed,
the articulate one,
the one who was making something out of himself while his peers chiefed blunts and swallowed crooked I coolers
congratulated by old black folks,
smiled at by young whites,
a foreigner in my own hood
I was the living set aside program,
so was that his dream???
Probably not, But today I have a dream
That’s right nearly 40 years later, I have a dream
I have a dream that we gathered on that Washington mall
I have a dream that he walked up on that stage
I have a dream that he grabbed that microphone and bellowed out from the bottom of his soul….
Shit, I don’t think ya’ll ain’t even ready for that yet
Let’s just talk about dreams
As a child I dreamed… I dreamed simple dreams, ice cream dreams
You know it, say it with me
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream
But even today’s children’s dreams and screams for ice cream aren’t the same
No more running to the ice cream truck to get bomb pops, cookie sandwiches and sticky fingers
The damage of a dream deferred has already occurred
Because when today’s kids go to the ice cream truck
They get philly blunts or better yet loosey cigarettes
Simply put, life’s simple pleasures are no longer simple
When I marinate on that, I begin to think I didn’t get his dream
Now don’t get me wrong
Martin was a visionary, a giant among dwarfs
But what I realized form my worm’s eye view is that when a man is head and shoulders about his peers
To those of trapped on the ground floor, his vision will never become clear
So I’m gonna ask for your patience,
I believe the only way to deal with a giant is to bring him down to our size
So as I collide with an icon whatever I get right is the will of God
And what ever I get wrong is all my own
With all necessary disclaimers, and words of caution for the weak minded and weak stomachs out of the way, I can ignore the historical revisionists and blamers
So we can talk about Martin and dreams, his dream, your dream, my dream, our dream
At its core, Martin’s dream was simple
He fought against three things: racism, poverty, and violence
A three headed monster that, today, is as pervasive as conservatives talking about self-reliance
It was the fuel to the fire of King’s defiance…
Now that we are getting on the same page about him, let me tell you about my dream
I have a dream that we gathered on that Washington mall
I have a dream that he walked up on that stage
I have a dream that he grabbed that microphone and bellowed out from the bottom of his soul…. You know, you ain’t right!
Yeah, that’s right, because nearly overnight it transformed from a dream to a nightmare
When city streets named for the man are the most violent of all places,
I remember, we didn’t get the dream
When Martin is spoken of without mention of Malcolm,
I realize, we didn’t get the dream
When Martin is spoken of as a religious leader rather than a leader of all,
I realize, we didn’t get the dream
Somewhere between hallmark holidays and black history month,
we created a mountain out of a man who wanted us to get to the mountain top
even if it wasn’t with him
we grabbed our best and brightest and prepared them to get us there
he’d tell us that was error number one
error number two would be changing his words to suit you
so when we hear gay rights aren’t civil rights from the like of Jesse,
Martin would bark from the podium, Damn right, in fact they are human rights
Civil rights went out with boycotts in Montgomery,
When Martin left us he had grown, he was concerned with the acknowledgement of global humanity
He was taught non-violence by a queer black man not Ghandi
See Martin saw beyond the obvious while we seek the obvious
Maybe that is why from the stage to Condoleeza and Colin Powell he would say this
There is no crime in progress for the black race,
But sitting silently and allowing others to control you
Is worse than being in blackface
Face the facts, times have changed
But our struggle has not
After September 11th the US began a conquest-slash-war in Iraq
Nearly the same stuff was happening when Martin got shot
On that hotel balcony we watched our dreams drip, dry and evaporate
Before our own eyes,
Martin would tell us he watched our confusion as we rioted from DC to every inner-city
But in my dream Martin would put us back on track
He’d make sure that we never moved to the suburbs
That we never gave up on unions, never turned our back on the rest of the globe
and continued the fights against racism, poverty, and violence
but now we commemorate his life with moments of silence
silence is the last thing Martin would have called for
In my dream Martin would give us the words of Audre Lorde,
“Your silence will not protect you.”
He’d remind us that violence against women is still violence,
He’d remind us that self hate is still violence
And that waiting for someone else to do it
Is both suicide and homicide in the same violent breath…
Martin from that podium would tell us his truths
So that we would struggle with ours more noblely
He’d tell us about the infidelity, the plagiarism, and his struggles with God
He’d tell us what it feels like to have the world turn their back on you
He’d tell us that we were just like him, just with more opportunity
See I’ve walked the clay hills of Georgia where Martin learned
I’ve walked the Edmond Pettus bridge where Martin marched
The difference between him and me is that I walked and forgot to bring others with me
That’s right, I have a confession, I struggle with Martin
Not because of his ideology, not because of integration, not because of his voice
But because of the work he never stopped doing
The work that we have yet to fully begin
From that podium I know Martin would open his mouth to smile at the appointment of Obama Barack
And remind him that he is still Black, and that whether he’s ready for the history books or not, the world is watching with a target on his back
See Martin saw color, don’t be confused
He advocated for affirmative action, fair housing, peace demonstrations
And all those “liberal” lunancies that happen on the Diag
You know the ones you shuffle by quickly gripping your bookbags
Yeah, Martin saw you and me do it and he would call us out,
Correction, he would call us to task
Martin didn’t indict,
he indicated we need to do more with what we have
see if we are waiting for the next civil rights movement
we’ll be in this same place next year, well dressed, educated
and I guarantee he would shed a tear
at the joy of our progress and the failings of our regress
I’m damn sick of Martin being the Negro lochness
talked about, but never known
larger than life…
not in my dream, not in his dream, and no longer in your dreams
because Martin is here
the time has arrived
there will be no more dress rehearsals
because I heard the end of his speech that they forgot to broadcast
the one that wasn’t mentioned in grade school history class
the one that slipped by historians and black intellectuals
In my dream, this is how he closed the evening
when the alarms of poverty, violence, and racism awake us in 2005
it is time for doing
there will be no more time for dreaming.

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