The Lynching

His spirit is smoke ascended to high heaven.
His father, by the cruelest way of pain,
Had bidden him to his bosom once again;
The awful sin remained still unforgiven.
All night a bright and solitary star
(Perchance the one that ever guided him,
Yet gave him up at last to Fate’s wild whim)
Hung pitifully o’er the swinging char.
Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view
The ghastly body swaying in the sun:
The women thronged to look, but never a one
Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue;
And little lads, lynchers that were to be,
Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.

–Claude McKay

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and
skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Mendel Rivers to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mays
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
on reports from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the right occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so god damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally screwed
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb or
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash or Englebert Humperdink.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

–Gil Scott Heron

Mighty Pawns

If I told you Earl, the toughest kid
on my block in North Philadelphia,
bow-legged and ominous, could beat
any man or woman in ten moves playing white,
or that he traveled to Yugoslavia to frustrate the bearded
masters at the Belgrade Chess Association,
you’d think I was given to hyperbole,
and if, at dinnertime, I took you
into the faint light of his Section 8 home
reeking of onions, liver, and gravy,
his six little brothers fighting on a broken love-seat
for room in front of a cracked flat-screen,
one whose diaper sags it’s a wonder
it hasn’t fallen to his ankles,
the walls behind doors exposing sheetrock
the perfect O of a handle, and the slats
of stairs missing where Baby-boy gets stuck
trying to ascend to a dominion foreign to you and me
with its loud timbales and drums blasting down
from the closed room of his cousin whose mother
stands on a corner on the other side of town
all times of day and night, except when her relief
check arrives at the beginning of the month,
you’d get a better picture of Earl’s ferocity
after-school on the board in Mr. Sherman’s class,
but not necessarily when he stands near you
at a downtown bus-stop in a jacket a size too
small, hunching his shoulders around his ears,
as you imagine the checkered squares of his poverty
and anger, and pray he does not turn his precise gaze
too long in your direction for fear he blames
you and proceeds to take your Queen.
–Major Jackson


When Something Happens

Sometimes, when you’re called a bastard
over a period, say,
of several centuries;
sometimes, when you’ve opened your brain
to a window in the sky,
become almost a bird for want of flying;
sometimes, when a child walking
in your eyes is shot,
feeling, somehow, what you wish to forget,
through all cities your stark sorrow moving
where the sun leaks hideously
its garbage and the garbage
rots in your own stuffed room
and no one
in all the world gives a damn,
are firing rockets, are
ramming the roof of Heaven, are
crowning glory with glory…
Sometimes something happens

and happens and happens
when your breathing shape is tired to death
of being told
how well it lives,
how decent stinking ghetto,
the milk skimmed off to show, to demonstrate
this vegetable darkness.
when you are cheated, when
even netted fish find more freedom
and the eyes of stuffed beasts,
the eyes that never shut, seem
to mock you with their stuffed look–
you lead your blind family
from darkness to darkness,
on C street on 5th Ave look for work,
move your beast where
the white god’s spit
and the El’s grey slug sparks along tracks
and cattle are butchered far from farms
and farm boys wonder
who you are how so many millions
stand, shaded, different.

Let one word be spoken; let
the sky jump under your fists, let
the sun go out, drenched in your tears,
no leaf be still,
but the generations of trees transmuted
by your found anger; let
pushcarts lose their geometric rims, the circles fall apart.
O God! Something
happenns in this new world prison,
when prisoners rise up!

–James A. Randall Jr.

My Sadness Sits Around Me

My sadness sits around me

not on haunches not in any

placement near a move

and the tired roll-on

of a boredom without grief

If there were war

I would watch the hunting

I would chase the dogs

and blow the horn

because blood is commonplace

As I walk in peace

unencountered unmolested

unimpinging unbelieving unrevealing

undesired under every O

My sadness sits around me

–June Jordan