Poetry Challenge Day 30: The New Jim Crow

Today is the last day of my 30 Day Poetry Challenge! I can’t believe I am done. Today I am in Cincinnati, Ohio for the Children’s Defense Fund National Conference
which is convening thousands of child advocates, faith leaders, Social Workers, community organizers and activist to build a movement to protect children in our country. This morning at 6:00am young leaders convened outside the convention center for a time of silent reflection on African-Americans, especially young men in the prison system. What many may not know is that the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world and it is overwhelming inhabited Black men. Author Michelle Alexander calls this phenomena the New Jim ┬ábecause many of these men were led to prison due to economic and racial circumstances. After getting out of prison most ex-offenders lose voting rights and can’t get jobs which means they are basically a separate class. The poem below was inspired by poems I read this morning that were written by young people in prison, their poems touched me and reminded me that I was born and raised in one of the 12 communities in NYC that sends the most people in the state to prison. To read my poetic reflection:

My name is 40892-422.

I am three-fifths of a man.

A post racial society is also a post truth.

Men missing; we are living in wartime.

The war on drugs is a new way

to make slavery last one more day.

Trips Upstate he’ll be gone to

November and November and another

November.

Missing sons, invisible husbands and

absent fathers.

A society that is painfully separate and

striking unequal.

Children born into captivity for captivity.

Schools built by the same hands that

build prisons, a cruel coincidence.

A cheap labor force is needed to

vampire communities, feeding blood to

a system that won’t die but mutates

and multiples.

A Queen sits alone waiting for a King

who won’t come home because he is

locked in a tower that we won’t see.

My name is 40772-422.

My name is 50331-437.

I am a corporate commodity wearing

clockwork/agent orange.

I am a sharecropper on a global

plantation and this reality is the

New Jim Crow.

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