Dear Unborn Black Son, Don’t Jaywalk, Don’t Eat Sandwiches…

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Minneapolis Southwest High School student Laye Kwamina reads his poem “Letter To My Unborn Black Child” at the Human Rights Day Rally on December 6, 2014.

His poem, laden with references to violence against blacks such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, held the crowd spellbound. In it, he contrasted the stark realities of life for blacks in America with the unending love parents have for their children.

He read, “Dear unborn black child, Don’t jaywalk. Don’t eat sandwiches. Don’t leave the house to buy Arizona and Skittles. Don’t leave the house to buy anything. Don’t leave the house…they will kill you.”

“Your black life will matter. Your black life will matter. Your black life will matter,” said Kwaming as he read the poem from the screen of his phone.

“Dear unborn black child, I love you,” he concluded.

Kwaming was one of the organizers for the student rally at the downtown Minneapolis library against police brutality and one of dozens who demonstrated for human rights in south Minneapolis.

Text of the full poem as transcribed at the reading:

Dear unborn black son,
Don’t jaywalk.
Don’t eat sandwiches.
Don’t leave the house to go buy Arizona and Skittles.
Don’t leave the house to go buy anything.
Don’t leave the house.

They will kill you.

They will put their dirty shame ridden, melanin-free hands on your radiant bewitchingly brown neck and suffocate you until life is no more.
They will take their black gun and shoot bullets into your black body until your life is no more.
They will kill you.
They will get away with it too.

They’ll shoot you down and then say that it was like a five-year-old wrestling with the hulk.

Dear unborn black son. Dear unborn black daughter. Dear unborn black child.

I love you.

I love you as you are.

I will forever tell you that I love you despite my box of hard black masculinity restraining me from doing so.

When they tell you, when they joke around and call you a nigger, tell them who’s who.
When they touch your curly hair without your permission, tell them who’s who.
When they stop you because of your rap music, tell them who’s who.
When you fit the description, tell them who’s who.
Look that officer in the eye and tell them he fits the description of a klan member riding around with his white male privilege.
Riding around with his white male privilege.
Riding around with his white male privilege.
Riding around with his windows down, looking for the next youth who just happens to be brown.

I can’t breathe.

The system will asphyxiate you.

You will not breathe.
They will go on the news and say that you attacked them.
They will do everything to have the media put your casket behind bars before you’re even buried.

Dear unborn black child,
Don’t be a statistic.
Stay in school and respect your mother.
Pray five times a day.
View all women with utmost respect.

Dear unborn black child,
Tell me your favorite song.
Dear unborn black child,
Tell me your favorite book.

Because if I’ve ever get called that you’ve been slain I will remember you to end my pain.

I will forever play your favorite song until I know every turning syllable and read your favorite book until I can memorize like the Quran
and just to tell you that your black life mattered.
Your black life will matter.
Your black life will matter.
Your black life will matter.
Your black life will not be cut down by jaywalking, by eating a sandwich, by buying an Arizona and Skittles, by leaving the house.

Dear unborn black child,
I love you.

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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