Why Being a Black Father in America Today Frightens and Angers Me John Warner Smith

Why Being a Black Father in America
Today Frightens and Angers Me

For it is not light that is needed, but fire;
it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.
We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.

—Frederick Douglass, 1852

I am an American, a descendent of an African boy
who was stolen from his family, brought
to America and sold into slavery.
I am a father and grandfather of black boys
born and living in America,
doing honest work,
not committing crimes,
not hurting people.

We walk and drive down city streets,
get stopped by flashing blue lights, cars
emblazoned with the word POLICE.
White men who stop us step out of their cars,
pull their guns, shoot, and kill us.

Twice this week, when I closed my eyes
to sleep, the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire
and the screaming cries of mothers
rang in my ears. I saw blood
pouring out of a man’s body, two men:

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile,
black, young—shot and killed
by white police officers in two American cities.

In Baton Rouge, Alton Sterling was shot multiple times
at execution range after he was wrestled
to the ground and pinned down on his back
like a man being nailed to a cross.

Too often the purveyors of justice have seen

such horrifying images and viral afterimages,
far too many, but not enough for them

to see the guilt and dishonor
of militarized police officers
who kill innocent African American boys and men.