The Legacy

Black bodies glisten in hot sunshine
Blood lets from open wounds and covers ghettos full of starving children
Hungry for comfort, hungry for justice, hungry for liberation
Cooling libation comes in the formation of a Party
Much needed relief dressed in black leather jackets
black berets set atop fully nappy heads
furrowed brows and focused dark eyes
that seen too much to look the other way or turn the other cheek
A valiant rejection of meek-minded passivity that lulls the people to sleep
Working in concert with their oppressors in return for empty promises of equality somewhere on a distant horizon
The hollow sound of one entering the chamber demands freedom now
And echoes through project houses, social service agencies and government institutions
This was the promise of revolution
Demonized, glorified, feared and rejected
No matter
The work moved forward with a single-minded focus on freedom
The people were thrilled, the politicians terrified, the world afire
with love for Black skin, Black language, Black music, Black power
Sacrifices so big there was not enough room in my mind to overstand
What you gave, what you built, how you wept, what you felt,
How you strategized, what you organized,
how you were attacked and how you fought back
And all of what you lost
Your youth, your families, your friends, your freedom
You ignited the hopes of generations of Black nations,
Inspired millions to stand tall and fearless in the face of an impossible enemy
To push through the sewage of capitalism, the scourge of racism, the lie of the American dream
You taught us to fiend for our freedom
To demand it at any cost, to reject fear of loss
And to build across ideologies to imagine a society where the underdog wins
Little Black girls, little Black boys, saw you in their reflection
inspiring a rejection of Ken and Barbie
in favor of Huey and Elaine
Dreaming of being just like you someday
And I did, too
Nappy headed seventh grade me found you buried deep in a book placed high on a shelf in an empty library on a hot Vegas Sunday afternoon
I had learned about King and Parks in school but there had been no mention of you
As I studied I started to bloom
To question authority to challenge my teachers, to push back the narrative
Became more conscious of my hair and more politically aware
Built the courage to return the stares of racist rednecks on Vegas streets
whose hatred poured down their faces in Vegas heat
I stood brave inside your courage and tall inside your legacy
You carried me through and out of that god forsaken town and landed me here
To your birthplace
Where the heart of the Panther beats on
I see you
I see your pain buried beneath layers of personas that you put on when you walk out the front door
I see wounded warriors speaking at rallies and being honored at dinners
I see strained budgets and bodies that push forward in spite of it all
I see new generations trying to emulate you
And failing
We cannot be you
We can never be you
That was your time and your space
There is no turning back the clock
The way we honor you is to walk forward along the path that you have laid
Praying with moving hands and feet while doing the work in your name


Cat Brooks

Marvin X. Jackmon

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