The purpose of our Days of Art series isn’t meant to be self-aggrandizement, and I rarely do “selfies” except in a mocking manner, but it disturbed me to realize that the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination passed yesterday without my noticing. I’m not going to weep for the man here, and in fact I only learned of him because of his murder, sitting as I was in a silenced Santa Fe railroad car headed to Chicago, when news of his death sent a pall through the coach. The poem below was written years later in response to his death, and it says more about it than I can here.
Santa Fe and Chicago bound
hypnotized into quiescence
by our distant embarkation.
A hundred miles traveled leaves
a thousand miles to come.
Often slowed by the barricades
carefully chosen for our path
we made our way cheerfully
for it’s illusion that pacifies.
Dimmer lights call forth sleepers
though no dreams were had this night.
Leeward at my mothers side – away
from the storm of their discontent.
“Who was Martin?” I meekly ask…
answered only in scattered sobs
and dreams that bleed at night.
Shots would ring from Memphis skies
waking us up from our innocence.
As his teacher died, and his counterpoint died,
he would die,
dreams deferred to another time.
but incendiary nights.
I made it to Chicago, where we were told in no uncertain terms not to venture out of the train station, and then on to Washington, D.C., and home, which my people had burned the fuck to the ground. Not the good parts, mind you, just where the real niggas lived — H Street, NE, and vicinity. Fifty years later, no one had built a damned thing there until gentrification rebuilt it for other people.
D.C. remained lit up for quite some time, as I recall, safe as I was ensconced in an upper Northwest home pretty much around the corner from Walter Reed Hospital. The brothers weren’t rioting up there, because the good jobs were there, and more importantly, the Army was there to protect its own, via the National Guard who were stationed at strategic points, like outside our local Safeway. One pointed a gun at my head, by accident, I’m certain, since he didn’t shoot and I was armed with a bag of potato chips. I didn’t have a gun either, nor a camera, but I PROMISE YOU, after that, I never made that fucking mistake EVER AGAIN. I’m still shooting back, bitch, and my bullets don’t run out.
Y’all don’t hear me.
i was born in Washington, D.C.
not because I wanted
to be born
or a Negro
but because I didn’t know better.
i was still a Negro
at nine years old
and sporting my first
“natural” haircut (before the ‘fro).
when Dr. King died
though I didn’t know who he was
at the time
i knew somehow
something in me
died with him.
i was reborn
two days later
when a National Guardsman
defending his country
aimed an automatic rifle
at my young brown head.
but the Negro died.
Shit don’t change, but you can make it smell better, if you want to.
I eventually mellowed, as you can tell, since I’m not in prison. My beliefs mellowed too, going from radical Black Nationalism (at age 10) to wherever they are now. I even began to dream for better, a dream deferred by tRump’s cockroach Soviet Presidency, but not killed. Sometimes, you have to let the roaches think they’ve won so they crawl out of the shadows where you can stomp them into paste. The lights are just about to click back on, bitches.
January 2006, Williamsburg, Virginia
Tonight, I dream anew.
I dream of a world where children are safe, a world where there are no laws for crimes against children, because such crimes do not exist. I dream of a world without hunger and with no bloating, empty bellies. I dream of a world without childhood sadness, poverty, ignorance, and death. I dare to dream tonight.
I dream of color-blindness, where white is alabaster and black is brown, and brown is brown, and pink is pink. I dream of a world where it does not matter from whence you come, but still, we are greatly interested in the tales you have to tell. I dream where bi-racial is an unknown concept; where there is but one race, and it is called – us. Tonight I dare to dream.
I dream of women, safe, nurtured, loved, nay, adored! I dream they are our center, our joy, our comfort. I dream that men understand their gifts, and adorn them with praise, and love, and blessings gifted from God. I dream the dream of men – strong, and proud, and gentle and good. Tonight, I dream of marriages of love and not convenience, of partnership and not domination, of faithfulness and not wantonness. Tonight, I dare to dream.
I dream of families, of giggles and little angels, of silly smiles and bestest dads. I dream of societies that are about something, and that something is more than nothing. I dream of something that is more than what is owned, but rather what is given. I dream we are all connected, a weave of us, and at that center is God and Love and Joy. Tonight, I dare to dream.
I dream my favorite dreams tonight. I dream of new beginnings and roads without roadblocks. I dream of a world without oppression, repression, depression. I dream of a world with scary campfire myths of serial killers, and genocide, and child murderers. I dream the dream that no one shivers in this night, for such tales could not be true. Tonight, I dare to dream.
I dream the dream that God has whispered. I dream that we know Him only. Tonight I dream we know his name, and all may come and worship by him. I dream a world without religions. Tonight there are no wars that portend to be holy. There are no jihads, no crusades, no decimation in the name of the Lord. Tonight, I dream that Love has already won its war. Tonight, I dare to dream.
I dream of a world of equity. Ah, how bold to dream of such! I dream a world without borders, for none are needed. A world where we are judged not by what we have done, but by what we can do. A world where there are no refugees, but all may take refuge in the kindness of another. A world where men are brothers, and women are sisters, and children are cherished. I dream of love, my children. And tonight, I dare to dream.
I dream a world where nations do not suffer the oppressing hand of AIDS. I dream where no man nor woman nor child would DREAM to allow there be a country where 2 in 5 adults have a fatal disease. I dream of a world where finding the measurement of a gnat’s eyelash on Mars is less important than people dying in Malaria-ridden sunsets. I dream a world where common sense is not uncommon, and medicine is a right and not a business. Tonight, I dare to dream.
I dream that we Rise Up, and Call His Name, and We Are Answered because We Deserve to be answered. Yes, tonight, I dare to dream.
I dream where you may notice the shade of my daughter’s eyes, or the color of her hair, or the tenor of her voice, but you will not count the melanin in her skin. I dream that men of color, such as I, can walk into a room and the attendees are not shocked because that man is the most talented, or the most educated or the most loving. I dare to dream this night.
I dream that You and I are One. I dream there is no Babylon to chant down, but we chant it down, chant it down, chant it down, anyway. Tonight’s my night to dream, and I dare to dream tonight.
Tonight, I dream that being a good, simple, person is valued and encouraged and rewarded. Tonight, I dream that my dream becomes your dream, and that together, we dare not dream another dream.
I have a dream that one day we will remember, we will sing the glad songs, and when that Chariot Swings Low, we will be singing of joy and not of pain.
God help me, tonight I dare to dream.
Y’all still don’t hear me.
All images mine, © Bill Jones, Jr. If you steal them, I’ll bus’ a cap in your ass.