The Hazards of Being a Teen, While Black...



Like Dr. King, I still dream of a time when we will look beyond the color of someone's skin, and into the 'content of their character.' However, until that day, I remain very much a realist. This poem speaks to our sad and tragic reality. lmr

I can keenly remember being
A teen...
Living on Lays
Potato chips, chili dogs and Wonder
Bread… I remember 
Never wanting to be
Seen without my Afro
Pick, my Swedish knits or
My Air Jordons… with Stevie
Wonder blasting Superstition
In my head.  I remember

Pretending to be hip,
Speaking in clipped sentences,
And scratching my
Nether regions, full of raging
Hormones and adrenaline and
Sometimes even, silent
Fear. I remember how it feels

To live in Black skin: my mama telling me, 
I was “beautiful.” 
Teachers telling me, I was “Gifted...” 
But never once did anyone say, I was
Invincible. I remember this
Surely as I recall a dark night
Walking home from the movies, and

Being stopped by local cops
Because I fit the descript
Of some hot-
Wired black kid who
might just
Was up to some foul,
Criminally-minded shit...
When it was not my behavior,
My nature,
Nor my actions but
My skin color 
Dictating this.

I remember feeling diminished, and
Embittered, enraged,
And endangered for the first time
At age 17... when I should have felt
Young and wild and free
And full of possibilities…
But, 17 is far too young
To die...
We live in precarious times
You and me...
Where too many
Black mothers are left
Upon their lips...
And so many of us
Are left to ask
The reality is this:
There are those
Who'll see my face
Not care to know me... or
The size of my
Heart. There are those
Who will never see
My humanity, never
Read my reams of poetry...
No!  They'll only see my 
They will only register
Fear...  They will only
Intuit danger...
When my questions
Are seen as acts of
When my slow compliance
Is seen as an act of
This deep and resounding
Communal grief,
We grieve
Will begin at the end of
copyright © 2016 by L.M. Ross

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