Poetry as protest at 'Black Poets Speak Out'


Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
1 Sarah Ogutu performs her poem "Hey Lady" during Black Poets Speak Out, July 13, 2016. "If words have the power of life and death then when no one speaks, this must just be death." 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
2 A woman in the audience listens intently. The event was held exactly one week after Castile was shot and killed by a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop in which Castile's girlfriend broadcast the aftermath via Facebook. 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
3 "I'm cut from a different cloth! I'm cut from a different cloth! Dear America, you have locked our bodies but you will never lock our minds. I love all people, but my blackness will never be a crime." Malik Curtis performs his poem "Cut From A Different Cloth." 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
4 Carlos Grant, left, interprets with sign language as Isaac Vincent Washington performs. 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
5 Donte Collins performs his poem "What the Dead Know by Heart." 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
6 Overcome with emotion, poet Ashley Oliver performs her poem "Blank." "And then there's John Crawford, 20 miles up the dusty Ohio roads that I call home...Wrongfully accused of brandishing a gun at customers, the police ran up behind him, he's on the phone, back turned, bullets shot, bullets shot, bullets continued to be shot, as his girlfriend and father are on speaker phone listening. Until the resounding shots stop. The cacophony ceases. And the airwaves went blank." 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
7 Sign language interpreter Tracy Ivy interprets for the audience. 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
8 Keno Evol performs his poem "Most Bibles Are Boring." Each poet that read began by introducing themselves and then saying, "I'm a black poet who refuses to remain silent while this country murders black people. I have a right to be angry." Many poets added to these lines and inserted their own experiences, mentioning their families, or their neighborhoods, or their sexual identity. 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
9 #BlackPoetsSpeakOut organizer Maya Washington performs her poem "If I'm Killed By Police." 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
10 Carlos Grant, left, interprets with sign language as Meah Ismail Curtis reads her poem "Concepts." The last lines of Ismail's poem are, "Like toeing the line, with violent prospects. Like living in fear that anyone's suspect. This is what we live in, fear perpetuating, translucent ends, to our demise, while we're helplessly trying to find paths to the next sunrise. Concepts." 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
11 Michael Kleber-Diggs performs his poem "St. Paul Morning." Kleber-Diggs lives in Como Park and wrote his poem based on an experience he had last year when a white woman crossed the street to avoid him while walking early in the morning in his neighborhood. 
Black Poets Speak Out reading at the Penumbra
12 Poets Meah Ismail and Michael Kleber-Diggs embrace on stage at the end of the performance. "I have always lived with the understanding that being black there's a level of inequality that I'm going to have to endure," Ismail said. "But watching somebody black be murdered on a live feed on the internet in 2016 as I'm about to birth a black child myself is very unnerving for me because I have to understand the reality that that could be my son, that could be my dad, that could be my brother, that could even be myself."