Today, I’m thinking about a poem by Jacinta White.
I read it last week. It first caught my attention then. She used a painting by a local cancer survivor as a touchstone to talk about what happened Aug. 9 in a suburb of St. Louis where an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed and our whole country started wringing their hands once again about relationship between the police and people of color.
Jacinta was inspired by a painting from Greensboro artist Alice Davis Bachman.
Alice called it “Standing in Courage.’’ Jacinta called her poem that, too.
She wrote it for the Writers Group of the Triad and their two-weekend event that brought local painters and local writers together to explore creativity together. Writers looked at the work hanging in the Creative Center and put words to what they saw.
A few wrote prose. Many wrote poems. Jacinta, 42, a UNCG grad and a poet from Kernersville, chose verse.
At first, she didn’t know which painting to pick. Then, she saw Alice’s painting.
“I had my phone with me, and I wanted to take pictures of the paintings because I wanted to take my time to write. And ‘Standing in Courage’ was the first one that grabbed my attention, and I think it did because somewhere in my consciousness and in my heart I was thinking about what was going on in Ferguson. I immediately saw the picture, and I saw a young black man.
“ The red figure the circle around the head spoke to me in terms of a target and also in terms of halo, and the fact that the arms and limbs of the body were down and not up. So, immediately – I can’t explain it – but I thought, ‘This is about a young black boy. I need to write this piece.'’'
She went to the gallery in the Creative Center and sat down with her sketchbook. She wrote a poem with a black pen. She wrote it in five minutes.
“It came out like a rush of water. I think part of it was already inside. Again looking at the coverage and the sense of helplessness, I wanted to contribute in some way. So I think maybe the poem was there, and the painting was a way for it to be released.
“The painting was the trigger, the colors, everything about the painting. If I had seen it a month earlier, that moment would not have happened. But because of what happened in Ferguson it just came together.’’
You’ll see Jacinta’s poem in the upper left.
I think about it today because of what I wrote today.
I wrote about Devin Scales, his run-ins with the GPD and his need to carry a video camera wherever he goes. Click here and see for yourself the video and what he explains happened.
Now, what happened to Devin is nothing like what happened Ferguson.
Thank God for that.
It’s an incident that happened earlier this month, five days before Ferguson, and it involves petty charges that started with a citation of walking in the middle of the street and blocking traffic. Devin says that didn't happen.
Whatever happened, for some, the incident shows how local police get unnecessarily aggressive when they encounter people of color and people who are poor.
And like in Ferguson, Mo., the incident in Greensboro involved a young black man.
In Ferguson, Michael Brown was 18. In Greensboro, Devin Scales is 22. He and his brother, Rufus, 27, were arrested Aug. 4 after they were left their grandparents’ house and were walking along the street.
Ferguson became a proverbial powder keg. Brown was unarmed, and he was shot and killed by a white police officer.
Mind you, there is no powder keg in GSO. But for some, particularly for one retired civil rights attorney and four black ministers preaching in the GSO's southeast corner, they see it as a simmering pot of wariness and cynicism that could boil over because of some provocation involving police.
At least that's how they described it during a press conference last week at the Beloved Community Center, GSO's longtime center of grass-roots activism that has questioned local police and police leadership for years.
They see the incident involving Devin and his brother represent a feeling long-held in parts of GSO. And that feeling is this: Police are distrusted because of what they represent and how they act – or how they are perceived to act.
So, Devin carries a video camera with him because he wants to document, he wants proof any time he meets a police officer. The camera helps him feel comfortable in his hometown.
Meanwhile, Jacinta writes.
“I don’t know personally what I can do help. I don’t have money to give, and I feel helpless. And really, I don’t know what a poem could do. But it was my way of giving voice to a part of my community. I don’t have any children, any sons or any nephews. But they are a part of my heart, and as an African-American woman, I wanted to do something to try and articulate some of the pain as well as the hope.’’
Hope. A nice word.
After she wrote her poem and typed it out on her laptop at Caribou Coffee in Friendly Shopping Center, she sent it to her brother in Charlotte. He’s a pastor.
Just like their father.
“You should get this published,’’ Milton told her. “And you should get it published now.’’
So, Jacinta researched. She found a blog for poets and sent it Sunday.
By Monday morning, it was up.