Hours after authorities announced that the grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., would not indict police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown, The Strivers Row – a performance collective in New York City — began posting poems to its Facebook page.
One was “Sing It As The Spirit Leads,” Joshua Bennett’s forceful ode to black excellence written after George Zimmerman was acquitted in 2013 of killing Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Bennett begins by echoing the last stanza of a Lucille Clifton poem: “Come, celebrate with me. Every day something has tried to kill me and failed.”
Bennett performed the poem a year ago at Kent State University, where he told the audience that he writes to dig at the truth and help listeners and readers shed shame. “Poems should be archeology,” he said. “Write the things that cost you. Every poem has to cost you something if it’s going to be good.”
Here is a snippet of his poem, “Sing It As the Spirit Leads“:
I exist in excess of my anguish.
I am not invisible. I am a beam of light
too brilliant for untrained vision.
I am not target practice. I am not a bullseye with rhythm.
This breath is no illegal substance.
A ballad for the youngest son
How he survives beat cops that
see Caesars and seize up
scream “Freeze! Hands up!”
Watch Joshua Bennett perform “Sing It As The Spirit Leads” in full above.