“When a black man walks, think of it as a masterpiece, a beautiful song that you may only hear once. Cherish it. You may never hear it again.” These are the haunting words of Neiel Israel from her poem “When a Black Man Walks,” that unfortunately ring true.
For National Poetry Month, we’ve curated a selection of gifted contemporary poets who will, without a doubt, send chills down your spine through their passionate and emotionally charged spoken word poems about the immeasurable importance of black lives. From Joseph Capehart to Cortney Lamar Charleston, here are the poets and verses that left us searching for words, resonating to the core.
1. Joseph Capehart – “I Write About the Black Boy”
“I write about the black boy because isn’t he scared? Don’t he know how easy it is to lose his body? Ain’t the proof lying in the streets?”
2. Steven Willis – “How the Hood Loves You Back”
“A boy’s face and childhood nickname will be written in script across an XXL white tee. Ain’t it funny how quickly death becomes fashionable? A testament to how tragic memories don’t fade, even in the washing machine.”
3. Neiel Israel – “When a Black Man Walks”
“When a black man walks, every day he is like Jesus, paranoid of crucifixion.”
4. Cortney Lamar Charleston – “How Do You Raise a Black Child?”
“To be six feet tall, and not under. With a little elbow grease and some duct tape, sweating bullets on a short leash.”
5. Javon Johnson – “cuz he’s black”
“Be smart, be kind, and polite. Know your laws. Be aware of how quickly your hand moves to pocket for wallet or I.D. Be more aware of how quickly an officer’s hand moves to holster for gun.”