Cirque De Chênes
some days i don't recognize my city anymorethe new dressed-up oakland i can't affordsome days i become a circus attraction in my own homebecome the diversity factor of a room and everything my oakland is or usedto be becomes display caseand i become relican artifact worth framing but not saving and some days i have to force myselfto break the glass they trapped us inexhibit A:i enter a coffee shop i grew up going to and a chorus of pale mouths gapeso i laughall my teeth sharp and showing, whiter than their audienceand this performance becomes defiance,and defiance becomes first fridaysbecomes dancing through the gunshots, becomes a performance despite,becomes protest,and protest becomes the cookout and the music and the laughter and thelaughter and the laughter,the smell of frying fish drifts out from somewhere nearby and i convincemyself that last night's food trucks are lingering here insteadthe scent of defiance and korean fusion tacos and weed and gasoline andsweat and permanenceexhibit B:the music at first fridays ends sooner nowan 8 o'clock noise ordinance choking the soul out of telegraph nightsa new art gallery sits on the cornera new cafe weaseled itself across from the beauty supplywest oakland morphing into a hipsters dreamexhibit C:today i watch as an old black man gets out of his car and bursts intosonghalf the block staresstartled by such a bold show of presencecaptivated by this spectacletrapeze artist missed the netlion escapedthis was not supposed to happen.and with 13 pairs of eyes on himhe sings a fight song for our citysyncopates his footsteps with the heartbeat of these streets and i seemto be the only one who can hear them bothand in this momentmy oakland is revivedrises up from the grave around mebecomes alive again in an earth-shaking chorus ofWE ARE STILL HERE.
Copyright © 2019 by Samuel Getachew
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Samuel Getachew is a poet and activist from Oakland, California. He is a junior at Oakland Technical High School. He is the 2017 and 2018 Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam Champion, the 2018 Oakland Vice Youth Poet Laureate, and a 2019 YoungArts Winner in Spoken Word. In his spare time, he can be found searching for reasons not to write and listening to music. Black joy to Samuel means reclaiming our rights to black bodies and black lives.
Black Joy: An Anthology of Black Boy Poems is an unapologetic, unrestrained, and defiant celebration of culture, friendship, and community. This compilation of poems by black boys from Oakland is an elaborate and heartwarming guide through the intricacies of what it means to be young, black, and undoubtedly alive in today’s day and age.
"Behold—the work of young Black men who will not be held."
—Boots Riley, rapper, producer, activist, author and director of Sorry to Bother You (2018)
”As a black teacher, I often think about the young black and brown men who will rise in my twilight. I wonder if I’m doing the right thing in equipping them with the tools needed to fight back against those who may want to dim their shine. I wonder who will our future leaders be? Whose actions will manifest the dream of King, and whose audacity will reignite hope in this land after it has been extinguished—and who will inspire us to hold onto that hope in the night? All of the poets included in Black Joy: An Anthology of Black Boy Poems have given me hope, have made me feel that the future of the Black community is going to be placed in the right hands. Hands that know the importance of valuing all iterations of blackness--hands that will tear down walls while building up communities. These poets are our ancestors’ wildest dreams."
—Vernon Keeve III, author of Southern Migrant Mixtape (Nomadic Press, 2018) and author mentor
”Rice and peas cooking on the stove, buttons mashing in the basement with your boys, a trunk rattling the street with song in a city resisting gentrification. This collection is a chorus of answers to the question, what does Black Joy sound like? What a gift to hear Oakland from the perspective of these Black boys at the very beginning of their writer's journey.”
—Gabriel Cortez, author mentor, Lead Poet Mentor at Youth Speaks, co-founder of the Ghostlines Collective and The Root Slam