"Flint," a piece by two young poets from, yes, Flint
At the beginning of our recent special on violence we did something we've never done before.
Usually we begin those shows with music signaling that what you're about to hear is a State of Opportunity production, and then you hear a familiar voice, usually Jennifer White's. That changed when we asked Raise It Up!, an award winning arts organization in Flint, if the young artists they work with would like to contribute a poem for the show.
JaCquell Price and Yazmen Brown wrote a piece we thought was so perfect, we opened the show with it. Price and Brown call this piece "Flint." The words are below but really, there's nothing like hearing it.
Nowadays, we walk these streets like zombies
Wearing dead faces on t-shirts like jerseys
This year 32 teenagers have been killed
And James was number 5.
But these tears are getting old,
They don’t even cry anymore.
Just hope the dead can make it to Heaven alive.
Thought they said you couldn’t die in Hell?
They’ve never been to Flint.
We play tag with shanks.
Double dutch between bullets
Monopolize the streets.
So we hide and seek through hustles.
Freeze at barrels and lose at life.
Another tear drop from the sky
Cause all that seems to cry around here is the Earth
Hurt that we pollute her womb with tombs.
Too bad you can’t recycle souls.
Cause James could’ve used another chance.
Take a trip down the back alleys of memories when the streets
Were paved with fresh brick
Instead of people selling it.
When children’s games were just games,
When tag was just tag,
When we could hop scotch on anyone’s block and not get shot.
When choosing a favorite color wasn’t choosing a lifestyle.
When our biggest worry was catching up to the ice cream man,
Not living through this neighborhood.
It’s killing us,
Hoping the death of our failure revives its success,
But we give birth just in time
For us to kill our mothers,
So the cycle starts again.
And again, and again.
Same game new target, same experience old tears.
See it’s because of the cycle
That I will never hear my brother’s voice again.
Gun aimed and fired,
Gun aimed and fired,
Until the sound of a bullet and a cracked skull rained the night,
Almost as storming as the blood pouring
From the back of his head.
This is Flint.
He was James.
This is how he lived,
This is how he died.
Another sad tweet,
Another empty seat at family functions
The cycle took my brother from me.
Leaving behind abstract memories,
But see we have become immune to these stories.
As if our emotions have developed antibodies
We don’t cry at funerals anymore.
Just hope the dead can make it to Heaven, alive.