The prevalence of violence against young Black people has become a constant phenomenon in American life. While Black folx of all genders face unique struggles with anti-Blackness, police surveillance, and state-sanctioned murder, young Black men are often featured in mainstream media most prominently as victims of these systems and processes of oppression. This poem from Akeem Olaj sums up what it means to be a Black boy, specifically in the South, when so much of their humanity is stolen from them by those who would rather see them in casket than thriving.
The poem was presented at the 2016 Southern Fried Poetry Slam in Greensboro, North Carolina. Olaj’s emotional delivery underscores the beauty and pain of what it means to be a Black man in the United States in 2016. He discusses the dehumanization of Black boys and the impacts on their identities.
He says, “Black boys in the south don’t feel no pain. Black boys down here don’t break…To be a black boy at this moment in time is to have all your bones broken and still be expected to stand.”
This sentiment moves throughout the poem as Olaj emphasizes the ways that many whites feel more comfortable when young Black men are murdered than when they are breathing, existing, and moving freely throughout society.
“Even though we are made out of magic,” Olaj says forcefully, “our blood, our blood, our blood, will not make your motherf*cking grass grow.”
Watch the full poem below: