Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: How do you raise a black child? A poem by Cortney Lamar Charleston

A poem by Cortney Lamar Charleston — presented as a film directed by Seyi Peter Thomas of Station Film.

HOW DO YOU RAISE A BLACK CHILD?

From the dead. With pallbearers who are half as young
as their faces suggest and twice the oxen they should be. 
Without a daddy at all, or with a daddy in prison, or at home, 
or in a different home. With a mama. With a grandmama 
if mama ain’t around, maybe even if she is. In a house, or not. 
In the hood. In the suburbs if you’re smart or not afraid of white
fear or even if you are. Taking risks. Scratching lottery tickets. 
Making big bets. On a basketball court. Inside a courtroom. 
Poorly in the ever-pathological court of opinion. On faith. Like 
a prayer from the belly of a whale. In church on Sunday morning, 
on Monday, Tuesday and every other. Before school and after. 
In a school you hope doesn’t fail. In a school of thought named 
for Frederick Douglass. Old school or not at all. With hip-hop or 
without. At least with a little Curtis Mayfield, some Motown, 
sounds by Sam Cooke. Eating that good down-home cooking. 
Putting some wood to their behind. With a switch. With a belt 
to keep their pants high. Not high all the time. On all-time highs
at all times until they learn not to feel and think so lowly of 
their aims. To be six feet tall and not under. With a little elbow 
grease and some duct tape. Sweating bullets. On a short leash. 
Away from the big boys on the block. Away from the boys in blue. 
Without the frill of innocence. From the dead, again. Like a flag.

.

Running time: 4:30

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How do you raise a Black child? (screenshot)

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