Arts Poetry Politics

“When I Heard” ~ Poem by Latisha Chantelle from the Black Lives Matter protest.

Published on behalf of Latisha Chantelle. Performed at the Worcester #BlackLivesMatter protest at age 16, which took place on the 13th of June 2020.

“Her face looks like poo”

“Haha Brown Face”

“Why can’t I say the n-word, it’s not fair”

“It’s alright if I say it in a song”

“Why are black people so weird”

~~~~~~

“Her face looks like Poo”

I was eight years old when I first heard

I vaguely understood, I just didn’t know the word

I ran to tell, as I knew it wasn’t right

I promised myself that next time I’d put up a fight

She nodded thoughfully, yet she seemed upset

The other kid was nervous, he broke out into a sweat.

That’s when I got to see how people’s words can hurt me.

~~~~~~

“Haha Brown Face”

I was ten years old the next I heard

The difference is that this time, I definitely knew the word.

Racism. I was sure by now.

I didn’t ask why, I didn’t ask how;

This time I shouted, this time I fought more

Her face showed little care- she decided to ignore

What she said, it was all just a game in her head.

They gave me a pen and paper, I had to write it out,

Then after a forced hug and a handshake, it was all forgotten about.

That’s when I got to see, how easy it is to dismiss me.

~~~~~~

“Why can’t I say the n-word, it’s not fair”

I was twelve years old, another time I heard

By then I had become quite familiar with that word.

Racism. I’d been given an explanation.

I understood words like prejudice and discrimination.

However, another phrase was going around.

It sounded so harsh and a lot more profound.

I always failed to understand why such a big deal was made,

To be able to say a word that was invented to degrade

People. People like me – would that really make them happy?

I thought to myself that maybe they just don’t know,

They’ll think I’m stupid if I argue, should I just go with the flow?

No. They say that it’s not fair, they all stop and stare.

At this time I try to explain, it’s quite simple, there’s nothing to gain.

~~~~~~

“it’s alright if I say it in a song”

I was thirteen years old, multiple times I’d heard,

I was starting to get tired of the word

Racism. A word I’m used to hearing.

A word I’ve begun fearing.

Why did they try so hard to find a way?

Around a word that they can’t say

What was the importance of looking for a loop?

To spit out a word, targeted at a certain group.

Getting tired, I no longer wanted to see,

These words and questions that constantly surround me.

~~~~~~

“Why are Black people so weird?”

I’m 15 years old, and I still hear

This word, it goes straight past my ear.

Racism. It’s old to me now

yet I still ask why, I still wonder how

I’d been separated, I was no longer the same.

They saw me as different, weird and strange.

Although so many accepted me, there were still just a few

That made me feel so different from you.

I didn’t want to see how alone I could be.

~~~~~~

It’s happened to my grandma

Other kids showing off because their skin was lighter

But she wouldn’t let that stop her, she’s a leader; a fighter

My dad also, came to this country

Only to be harassed by the police

When he came here for a new life, freedom and release.

~~~~~~

Martin Luther King could make speeches

Ghandi and Malcolm X could inspire people with their preaches

Rosa Parks could sit on that bus

Mary Seacole could nurse the soldiers for us

They Influenced and impacted people with such strength,

They were so brave, they’d go to any lengths.

But maybe I can also inspire you,

Maybe I can be like them too,

However, without a huge sacrifice to spread the word

Just with my story of when I heard.

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