Borders, Bombs, or Bridges

Borders, Bombs, or Bridges

Part of the series: In the Racist Killing Fields

Unity Day, Miami University

Date: March 3, 2016


Peace and hope siblings! The name of this talk is called Borders, Bombs, Bridges. It is adapted from a larger project I have been working on called “In the Racist Killing Fields.”

Borders. Recently, I am sure many of you have heard about the insidious, sexist, racist, xenophobic, and inhumane comments from the leading Republican candidate Donald Trump. Just last week students your age, of your genius, and of your social status were escorted out of a Valdosta state auditorium for being black, and some say in silent protest. Their president, in a Facebook post argued that he was proud of the student body for the overall success of the event. Mr. Trump has promised to build a wall to keep our Mexican brothers and sisters out. These are borders, not bridges in our future in America. America is becoming ever more brown and beautiful. Trump’s feelings about black people, Mexicans, Muslims, and women are held on our campus. On Yik Yak any day we can see disparaging comments about people of color and other marginalized groups. In the Miami student periodical, we see faculty equate our international student body, specifically Chinese students to dead weight. Our campus has multiple intricate borders ready to abolished. Thus, my questions to you about the borders you and I have helped either build, sustain, or just turned a blind eye to are these: Can you and I build a campus, an America, and a world where love, joy, and justice are at the center of our democracy and humanity? Can we build a world where men don’t feel entitled to a women’s body? Is there a part of our human DNA ready to abolish the prison industrial complex, a unique, racist, sexist, and genocidal project built on neoliberal capitalism?


Bombs. Daily we can pick up an international paper and read about the terror of IsIs abroad, the land removal of Palestinans in gaza, a bomb threat launched at south korea by north korea, big company oil spills in indigenous lands, or a black girl or boy being maimed or shot by police officers. These points of state violence or I say bombs here are break downs in the human capacity to center love and justice for our neighbor. I am reminded here about Alan Kurdi, the Syrian three year old boy that washed up a Turkish beach fleeing from Syria because of state sanctioned violence. Many of our politicians both Democrat and Republican came out in opposition of resettling any Syrian refugees for fears of terrorism. These rhetorical bombs, laced in xenophobic anti Muslim speech need truth bombs, love bombs, and justice bombs. If America is to be as great as we tout at home and abroad, can we do that without our bombs, without a police state, without the murder of trans people? In 2016, we are prime for a revolution. Classrooms over cages. Ballots over bullets and bombs. And love and respect, over hate and racism. Our time is now, ready to be marked love, joy, and justice.


Bridges. There is hope in the value, voice, and vivaciousness of diversity. I am reminded of the beautiful symphony of Asian, African, Latino, and European faces and ancestries in this room. Buddhists, Christians, Athetists, Hindu, Muslims, and other faiths that make up the very tapestry of America. As a practicing Black Buddhist, I am daily engaged in tinkering with how we go about acknowledging suffering. My poetry, my meditations, and my communities keep me on the bridge to justice. I call you today to overshadow the borders and bombs with bridges.


A bridge built to our destiny, and hopes for an America that loves everyone no matter their religion, their sexual disposition, race, social class, or citizenship status is a thing of pure beauty. Imagine for a second an America where poverty is eliminated, racism is eliminated, sexism is eliminated, and homophobia is eliminated. A place where access to clean water, access to high quality education, access to clean food, and access to your rights are centered. In many historical and current white and bourgeois neighborhoods in America this is a reality. Thus maybe our imagination is courageous enough to chart and map a world where our service to others is just as important as lining our pockets.

I end in a short story:

Superheroes for children of color needing to be taught they are dope as fuck:

I am trying to create a hood ass superhero film for youth of color that rubs their knees in butterscotch creams when the world kills their day dreams and night dreams. One that instead of living the urban school daymare they can fly into the night dream.


It is not one that bruce wayne is a white rich privileged male, saving our days.


He is uncle larry that just got out the pen and decided to get off crack and start a vegetable emporium by day then by night he turns it into a Korean bbq and African American vegan restaurant and twerk spot.


The black girl in this film is not a stripper, not a maid, not a queen, and not a video vixen.


The black girl has a natural, a mean ass back hand like serena, rides an alligator to her job where she came up with the cure for zika, aids, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, capitalism, white supremacy, and donald trump.


Spike lee cannot direct this film because our black girl superhero can’t be Chiraq’d.


Lee Daniels cannot direct this film because our black girl superhero cannot be Precious’d.


I need to create a film for L.M.J, Native American girl tased by police officers in south Dakota. In the film she of course is dope as fuck. By day she redoes mt rushmore to four native American women, and by night she takes all the indigenous land back from white settler colonial aliens. And, get this, she built bridges for them to walk back to Europe, not walls.


Hollywood cannot direct this film for L.M.J.


No white women or men will play her dad or mom. Both her mom and dad will be played by guess who? A fly ass Mongolian couple that just finished saving the nomadic herders from one of the worse natural disasters looming. They decided to redirect water from Singapore to Mongolia.


They even asked Govenor Snyder of Michigan if he needed a lesson on redirecting clean water to people. They dropped off fresh water in Flint, Compton, Toledo, and sebring, ohio


Ava Duvernay and Ryan Coogler will direct this film. It’ll have a muslim American girl named Linda. Her parents are both astronauts, and her little brother is a figure skating queer that loves jumping rope, speaking Spanish, and reading Malcolm X.


Thank you. Seek love, joy, and justice. Peace and hope.


Race Testament to a Black Mother in America

Dear Etesta,

What’s up ma? What a life you have put together. I am always in complete awe of how a Black girl from Hollandale, Mississippi has influenced the world through her words, actions, and dangerous womb knowledge. What a life. A Black woman who has endured brain aneurysms and a stint in prison can still mother, love, and live. What a life. A Black girl lives under the racist Jim Crow South moves North with her family only to understand another American racist caste system. What a plight. Bringing into this world five beautiful children who are all fully functioning adults (kinda, I know my brothers and sisters are going to kiss my ass for that remark). But, with all of this, I have always wondering what does freedom really mean to you? What did it mean to be incarcerated under the rule of the Jim Crow South? What did it mean to be incarcerated during the initial height of mass incarceration? What does it mean to be a Black mother to Black chil’ren in a racist nation such as America? Who are you outside of being a mother? What does it mean for you to be America? Afro American?

I pose all these questions to set up this letter that I have been writing you for almost two weeks. In a previous letter I wrote to my dad about how he must find his Mecca, I was quite frank about how his incarceration has contributed to my perspective on his fatherhood, his black manhood, and the carceral state. For this particular piece, I want to dive into what your incarceration has contributed to my life. I also want to place you into the context of being a Black woman in America as well. What follows is a letter, a love note, and a conversation starter between black sons and their black mothers. Hardly do we have a chance to talk with each other in the public space.

In the first paragraph, I asked you what does freedom mean to you because we always have this conversation. Never one to back down from your racial analysis of white supremacy in America, you taught me from an early age that “when you white you are right, and when you are black step back.” I often chalked this up to some type of crazy Southern backwards thinking. Similar to when my white friends would come to our apartment and you would give them the race talk and put on your favorite movie. Yes, I still remember all the times you terrorized my white friends (and black ones too) making them watch Mississippi Burning in our living room while giving them a nice diatribe about whites thinking they were better than blacks.

Some years later, I finally get what you were saying. And, I get what you were not saying as well. You were articulating the cost of freedom that black people have paid for the pseudo democracy we live in under the American legal system. All of the lynchings endured by Black men who dare look at white women, all of the ravishes black girls endured at the hands of white men, all of the psychological trauma of growing up with whites that warred against your very existence, and all of the new racism you faced in Ohio as a Black girl and Black women, became a pedagogical tool to teach about the struggle for freedom. I could not see this as a high school student.

Freedom for you Etesta has always been an historical process. Making my friends and I reenter the South’s racist caste system gave us a perspective on how far we had come as a nation. Even more, your racial realist approach to turning the living room into the classroom gave me a stinging critique of the white power structure. Still, I had my own battles to fight because the racism and

I can still remember when Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in 2012. I called you on the phone and said “Ma they are killing us. Did you hear about Trayvon?” You replied a sweet “Yes.” Then, you allowed me the phone space to process what was happening to us black males in America. Not once did you stifle my anger, not once did you tell me to fight back my tears, and not once did you say it will be okay. All you told me was that we had to give it to God and we had to fight. It felt like I was swallowing some type bitter pills with razors in them. Each tear that came down my cheek you did not wipe away because I think you knew how you had to prepare me for the world. For America is a racist killing field to Black people. As once stolen property from Africa, we have endured state inflicted violence throughout America’s history. By you allowing me to go through all the stages of grieving for Trayvon, you were also reminding me that my Trayvon Martin was your Emmett Till. Put in a different way, Mamie Till (mother of Emmett Till) and Sabrina Fulton (mother of Trayvon Martin) could have been you, a Black mother notified that their Black son had been murdered by the State.

Muses for Racial Realism: A Soundtrack on Critical Race

Currently, I am in a Critical Race Study Group aimed at discussing how race, racism, and power intersect the educational system in America (also throughout the world). Under the teachings of Dr. Denise Taliaferro Baszile, we will are exploring the permanence of racism this week. I was reimagining a concert of folks I would want to sing, rap, and bare witness to how real racism is in America today and how it is embedded in the the social structures. Thus, what follows are four artist with four tracks that provide us critical race musical tunes to understand how permanent racism is in America.

I have named these artist Muses for Racial Realism. Racial realism is part of the argument marshaled by Derrick Bell, key member in the Critical Race Movement. He argues throughout many of his writings including Face at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, , Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform, and And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice that racism is a permanent fixture wedded to American systems and it cannot be expunged.

Jadakiss- Young, Gifted, & Black (Freestyle)

Hottest Lines in the track that highlight racial realism:

“60/40, the white man is still winning”

“I’m Young, Gifted, and Black.”

Lauryn Hill- Black Rage

Hottest Lines in the track that highlight racial realism:

“Black Rage is founded on wounds in the soul”

“Black rage is founded on denial of self”

Jasiri X- New Nat Turners

Hottest Lines in the track that highlight racial realism:

“I am tired of black murders, if they the new slaves, we the new Nat Turners.”

“My shero has a $2 million bounty on her future.”

“I ain’t Django either, I ain’t waiting for no white man to come give me my freedom.”

“If the choice is freedom or death, then what’s the option?”

“I heard it takes 2 Chainz to make a slave, one on your physical frame and one on your brain.

Kendrick Lamar- King Kunta

Hottest Lines in the track that highlight racial realism:

“Ah yeah fuck the judge I made it passed 25 and there I was, a little nappy head nigga with the world behind em.”

“From a peasant, to a prince, to a muthafucking king.”

Two local teens making national waves with their musical Vines

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Malcolm White is a freshman at Cleveland Heights High School and Brycen Hunt is a junior.

Together, these two talented young men are getting national attention for the music they make in the school cafeteria during lunch.

Fox 8’s Wayne Dawson talked to the social media savvy teens and got to hear a few of their creations.

Click here to follow Malupnext on Instagram and click here to follow Brycen Hunt on Instagram.

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black dove

i flew back to the white doves to talk about life and love

from below, being a black bird, the wind took all birds no matter their color to the same destination

i was surprised by my love with the white dove that we could glide together but the wind would hit us so differently having us understand the twoness of the nation

the white dove never could feel how the wind hit me

it isn’t her fault at all the wind so powerful can control how the bodies of black birds move through the sky

unfortunately, to the naked eye the black birds wings look so full, but the promise of the wind clips the imagination and experience

oh white dove, oh white dove, please know, my black bird soul loves yours, but the wind will help you never know

me, the black bird, i am out of the love for the white dove, but my heart, eye, wings, and flesh wish her well

forty years from now, i hope the wind forms a different spell

Outlawing Hoodies

Should states be allowed to outlaw hoodies? Read this article then address the reasonings why states should or should not be able to outlaw hoodies.


Protect Me

Dear Dad,

Open up your mind and you will find the mastery of God’s unwary love so define. A Black Man with so much spirit the chains and shackles can’t contain the love and wisdom locked away in you/r brain. Search for me like you would a missing babe, and you find a black man grown to an age Trayvon, Michael, Renisha, and Jordan couldn’t attain. Protect me with your prayers, love me with your heart, Americans thoughts of me while growing better are still so dark.

Your son,

Johnnie Jackson