Amir Locke

The news of Amir Locke’s murder by police hit me like a ton of bricks. I have grown tired and weary of seeing another young Black man taking from us too soon. I have grown tired and weary of debates on if or if not extrajudicial killings by the state are justified. I have grown tired and weary of the character assassinations that have become common for every victim of color. It is hard for people to understand the struggles of people of color trying to survive in places under policed and over-policed at the same time. Places where the lack of investments have left our communities hollowed out and have robbed the dreams of Black and Latino youth. Places where a gun is the only means of survival. These are no places for someone to thrive, yet we have people living in communities like these. I write this because we deserve better and need to demand better. I read a poem I want to share.

Old Lem

By Sterling Brown

I talked to old Lem

and old Lem said:

“They weigh the cotton

They store the corn

We only good enough

To work the rows;

They run the commissary

They keep the books

We gotta be grateful

For being cheated;

Whippersnapper clerks

Call us out of our name

We got to say mister

To spindling boys

They make our figgers

Turn somersets

We buck in the middle

Say, “Thankyuh, sah.”

They don’t come by ones

They don’t come by twos

But they come by tens.

“They got the judges

They got the lawyers

They got the jury-rolls

They got the law

They don’t come by ones

They got the sheriffs

They got the deputies

They don’t come by twos

They got the shotguns

They got the rope

We git the justice

In the end

And they come by tens.

“Their fists stay closed

Their eyes look straight

Our hands stay open

Our eyes must fall

They don’t come by ones

They got the manhood

They got the courage

They don’t come by twos

We got to slink around

Hangtailed hounds.

They burn us when we dogs

They burn us when we men

They come by tens . . .

“I had a buddy

Six foot of man

Muscled up perfect

Game to the heart

They don’t come by ones

Outworked and outfought

Any man or two men

They don’t come by twos

He spoke out of turn

At the commissary

They gave him a day

To git out the county

He didn’t take it.

He said ‘Come and get me.’

They came and got him

And they came by tens.

He stayed in the county —

He lays there dead.

They don’t come by ones

They don’t come by twos

But they come by tens.”

I read that poem earlier as I thought of Amir’s murder the laws, the judges, the sheriffs, the juries they all work for us now, and this must stop. It is no longer enough to focus on policing alone; we have to deal with the root causes we have to reinvest in our communities. That was the point of the Defund movement shifting police budget to schools, jobs/skills training, and other investments in human capital years of protests, have helped forward progress but we seem to be stuck. We must vote out the judges, change the laws, hold the sheriffs accountable. But we also all need to look within ourselves we must do better. We have to take pride in our communities and ourselves we have to build a community where dreams and families can grow. We have to demand the same resources and care in our communities as all other communities by voting, serving on juries, being a part of our communities, become an activist we can not keep letting this happen in our communities to us or anywhere to anyone.

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