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When a man refuses to go gentle

Into “that good night”
What does his first walk
Freed of the body
Look like?

Not the spasmodic dance of resistance
Nor the gliding step of angels.
Yet, the shadow of the black man
Does walk the Earth tonight
Not a deadman walking-
That would not be his style.

Wrapped in a mantle of light.
Unshackled now he sets off,
After a hasty dispatch
By a slithery Governor
Slinking his way to the crown.

Unfettered, finally now
In this season
When the night does not wed the day
In peerdom,
When a solsticed triumphant sun shrinks
The night into a corner
With the piercing light
Of an overextended, never-ending day
He, cocky young robber of liquor stores,
By a decrepit
Robber of lives
Crouched on a high throne
With feet of clay.

The shadow of the black man
Haunts the corridors of power tonight
Taunts them with the noose
Wrapped around the neck
Of a strange fruit of memory.

Or maybe his gait
Resembles that of
A fly on the wall
Dirty laundry
Blanched to pure white
By the Word of politicians
Spoken, inked or etherized

Justice, licking its wounds
In a fourth class motel
Nature fleeing the arachno-goat
Just to stare in the face
Of the defiant scapegoat
The black goat.

Maybe he struts now, light-gaited
On the familiar path
Of a Chicago high security tenement
That tames black cubs
Into subservient adulthood.

Lighter than air now
He ascends the four mile
Of low income high rises
Separated by a freeway,
Separated by chain-link
Fencing off magnolias
From plantations.

Nineteen years of confinement
By single stroke of a needle.
You learn, in a single night,
What they kept from you
From birth.

Don’t let that weight
Plunge you down, ungentle walker,
Lend us the cockiness in your step
Turn us from mere witnesses
Into walkers of the talk.

(By Pina Piccolo – 2000)

for Shaka Sankofa, on June 22, 2000, the night of his execution

Shaka Sankofa was the Swahili name chosen by Gary Graham, the 36 year old African American man who was executed on December 22 2000, in the state of Texas, after spending 19 years on death row. The name Shaka refers to the famous warrior Shaka Zulu and Sankofa means “go back to past and bring to the present”. His execution order was signed by George W. Bush, then Governor of Texas, one month prior to becoming president of the USA. Shaka, maintained his innocence to the very end and fiercely resisted being taken into the execution chamber. He had been active for nearly two decade in the movements opposing the death penalty an to secure better opportunities for black youth.

Simone Venturini


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