Count them on one hand
times we witnessed an event as a nation
Apollo moon landing in collective awe
Washington Mall, swearing in Barack Obama
Paris. Replays of Princess Diana’s deadly car crash—
George Floyd died under the knee of a policeman
throngs of people and three officers looked on
Americans wrenched in pain, my hand flew to my lips
He took his dying breath,
Americans moaned, Ahhh nooo
People all over the world witnessed Floyd’s death
It changed the dimensions of America
That day George Floyd died,
so did the brittle transparent bubble
that separated me from society. Snap!
American consciousness changed.
Now, we say we need to learn about African Americans.
We don’t know who they are.
Black conjures slavery, church-going folks, poverty, drugs, urban crime.
Dialogue flies across the airways
the words pile up between us
we’re not really closer,
not as close as that intimate moment
George Floyd drew his last breath.
So, we’re all dealing with this
taking the measure of all things in our lives
What? Jacob Blake?! Police shot him in the back.
Plucked his shirt, stretched as Jacob bent to get in his car
his three young sons in the back seat
African Americans: Images of Mammy, plantations, cotton picking
People don’t know the amazing things Africans did.
Mansa Musa, the tenth ruler of the Mali Empire
Was richer than Jeff Bezos
Mansa Musa went to Cairo and spread so much gold around
He broke the economy
Jacob Blake’s family knew their history.
His parents were educated, enlightened people,
Helped people in Evanston, where Jacob grew up.
Americans didn’t know that or about
All those years of slavery, abuse
Forced labor even after slavery was abolished
All those years
Shackled to a stone blocking the American dream
After all those years, all that education, all that enlightenment
Jacob Blake is in a coma in a hospital in Kenosha, Wisconsin
handcuffed to his bed.
After all those years,
and all that history,
Jacob Blake, the black man,
is still in chains.
August 23, 2020
On May 25, the day George Floyd died
at the hands of the Minneapolis police, both CNN and MSNBC
stopped posting the daily coronavirus count. On that day, everything changed.
What does COVID-19 have to do with the anguished cries of a dying man pinned under the knee of a veteran police officer, hands in his pockets, leaning in with determination?
What does 400 years of institutionalized, cultural and systemic racism have to do with a pandemic?
The police stopped and harassed Mama and my father
driving around St. Paul, Minnesota in the ’40s—
a white woman with a black man.
I can see them now, her blonde hair lilting
she snaps her head around, tense,
and my father, cool, a cigarette dangling from his mouth,
asks languidly, what’s the problem, officer?
He was better educated, more articulate than the police,
probably nattily dressed in slacks and sport coat for his lady.
It wasn’t his first time being stopped.
He attended communist party meetings where they discussed
racial prejudice and revolution.
Police abuse is common knowledge in the Twin Cities,
common as wallpaper,
racial tensions have been simmering at a steady burn since forever.
Floyd George was not the only one. There are countless others.
His killing catalyzed demonstrations across the country,
indeed, around the world,
Floyd George was actually the fifth death
at the hands of Minneapolis police since 2018.
A plague and a pestilence.
Sandra is a renegade artist and writer, and the founder of the Genghis Khan Urban Guerrilla Research Society.