listen up

how folks’ll comment
on animal pics
or pics of food
yet they remain silent
when a post
strikes a BLM mood

they ignore it
they scroll past it
‘n that’s cool
that’s their choice
but for the poster
that silence hurts:
‘s like you don’t wanna hear their voice

right now, black folks
brown folks
need everyone
to show they care
too long they’ve been mistreated
too long they’ve sought
what’s right, what’s fair

your black brothers
your black sisters
need allies
to secure a future bright
workin’ together
that’s how we all survive
search your conscience: do what’s right

copyright © 2020 KPM

work to do

As a young black woman growing up in the States, I often protested against the unequal treatment black people received. A boomer, I protested against many other things as well: the closure of the steel mills in my home town, the unequal pay of women compared to their male counterparts, the decision to admit men to the prestigious all-woman college I was attending.

Then I moved to Scotland. And yes, as some of my new friends have explained to me, I know Scotland is not innocent; I am speaking to my own personal experience. In Scotland I found laid-back, friendly, open and tolerant people. While I did get the odd person who felt free to plunge their hands into my braided hair (never ever touch a black woman’s hair!) I was never followed around in shops. I was never asked “what are you doing in this neighbourhood.” And when a drunk man in a pub used the n-word in my earshot, the patrons in the pub physically lifted him off the barstool and ejected him onto the sidewalk; the pub’s owner barred him from the establishment for a fortnight.

“Dinny think so, mate – off you pop! Ye no gonna say that around oor Kath!”

This was miraculous to me. I had indeed moved to – as I’d been told by one of my new Scottish friends – a “civilised country.” I was able to put the placards and signs away and use my feet for dancing instead of marching. I was able to just be me, unfettered by race.

Still, I diligently kept up with the stateside news; my family and my friends were still in the States. So when news of a certain person’s presidential candidacy was announced, I took to the streets with many of my Scottish friends who – like me – realised that electing this person to office would have disastrous consequences on a global scale.

Then, on the heels of so many other innocent black people, George Floyd was murdered. I wish every day that I had not watched that video, because now I can’t unsee it.

Floyd’s death sparked a movement bigger than any I’d seen since Dr King’s fight to get voting rights for blacks and end segregation. The US. Germany. Brazil. Italy. Mexico. London. Edinburgh. My beloved bonnie Dundee did not shy away, either: BLM Dundee was born, and I picked up my signs again. Braving the pandemic along with my friends and many other outraged Scots, we took to the streets armed with masks and hand sanitizer to make our voices heard.

I thought I was done with protesting. Now at the beginning of those so-called “golden years”, all I really want to do is grow old peacefully with my partner and putter around my garden. That said, puttering peacefully is no longer an option: this is not the kind of world I want to grow old in – this is not the kind of world I want to leave to my nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. This is not the kind of world we should be leaving to young people of any colour.

Below is the speech I gave at the BLM Dundee protest on Sunday, 26th July. Thank you for reading.

* * * * * *

“Here I am again. Wondering why I am here again. Wondering why we – why people not just in Dundee – but throughout the UK, the US and other places in the world – are having the same conversation about the same wrongs.

Maybe you’re here because you have kids. I don’t have kids, but I do have 10 nieces and nephews. I am a great-aunt to 12 incredible young black men and women. I am a godmother. I am here for them. I see many people have brought their kids with them today. I also stand here for your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews. Because those children – all children – are the future: I am deeply concerned about the kind of world they have inherited, and you should be, too.

They face a world where they have to contend with a virus, which disproportionately affects black and brown people. A world where they have to contend with unstable weather and even more unstable leaders who seem happy to remain wilfully blind to the economic inequalities and daily racist slights and micro-aggressions endured by black and brown people. A world where it is potentially dangerous for black or brown people to indulge in something as simple as strolling down the street, entering their own home or enjoying a drink with their white friends in a club.

Cause make no mistake: while I am delighted and heartened that this movement has garnered so many white supporters, the fact that you are willing to stand here with me – with your black and brown brothers and sisters – here today puts a target on your back as well.

We all – everybody here – need to be mindful of that target. And we must work together to eradicate that target. That means turning up at as many of these protests as you can. It means donating whatever you can to organisations dedicated to improving the lives of black and brown people. It means signing the petitions to remove laws which unfairly impact black and brown people, and working to dismantle the “hostile environment” policy enacted by a government that sees all of us as expendable. It means you must be willing to call out racist behaviour whenever and wherever you see it. It means being willing to educate yourself, because we cannot build a better future without acknowledging and understanding the past.

The poet John Donne wrote “no man is an island….any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.” So I say to everyone present today: we are the muscle and sinew and soul of mankind. So we must continue to fight – together – against overt and covert racism whenever it rears its ugly, divisive head. Because at the end of the day, when any blood gets shed, the colour is the same: we all bleed red.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for supporting us. Peace.”

the social compact has been broken

when time ceases to have meaning
it can be hard to feel at ease
shakin’ off the spectre of guilt
at havin’ hours to do as you please

in an effort to live life “normal”
you dress each day as if for work
endin’ up on the sofa with Netflix
troubled by duties you think you’ve shirked

can’t sit still, must do something
upscale a table, mop some floors
work sustained you, gave you meaning
now you spend time inventing chores

all this is new to you
years spent runnin’ that rat race
no guidelines on how to act
when languor stares you in the face

‘n our leaders offer naught
save platitudes ‘n useless blether
Big Brother is runnin’ amok
we’re not all in this together

thus we re-paint our kitchens
spruce up our garden greenery
as we hold our breath ‘n wait
on the political machinery

but we’re expendable to them
they’ve no concept of what is right
we can only depend on us
to build a future both fair ‘n bright

copyright © 2020 KPM

the visitor (for LCL)

when my doorbell rang
my face broke out in a smile
cause I knew it was my friend
whom I’d not seen in awhile

Bryan Ferry was spot on:
love is the drug
so I met her with open arms
Covid be damned – I gave her a hug

into the lounge we went
so she could have a wee rest
there I read her a speech I’d written
for the next BLM protest

then, armed with iced tea
& the usual bottle of wine
we moved into the garden’s
warm afternoon sunshine

the morning rain had vanished
an unexpected treat
joyously we bared our skin
to the early evening heat

together in the garden
we spoke of everything
retaining optimism
for what the future might bring

a girl who’s entered womanhood
a woman near the end of her life
both unmindful of race or class
making plans for a world with no strife

copyright © 2020 KPM

the messenger calls

underground cables compete
with high wires for miles
both carry love & hope
on the wings of childhood smiles

beautiful black women
side by side, they’ve endured much
smart & tactile women
now denied the magic of touch

2-dimensional images
perfect faces on small screens
cyberspace connections
each knows what the other means

“girl, stuff is so fucked up”
“you can’t make me wear this mask”
hey yo, can someone tell me
when our leaders will be called to task?

for the covid-19 numbers?
for racism that remains entrenched?
for the blood of black brothers ‘n sistas
in their blood this world has been drenched

this is a fight we must continue
we must ignore the political games
black, white, asian, polish
we all hafta say their names

‘s time to squash this mess
stand with us, please don’t quit
cause black lives still – they’ll always – matter
gauntlet’s been thrown: will you commit?

copyright © 2020 KPM

the revelation

as a kid, I was OG
raised on cracked concrete
sashayin’ down Harvard
in the bakin’ summer heat
one of many black girls
growin’ up in da hood
in a time when things were safe
‘n people were good

a proud OG
from back in da day
when authority was respected
a parent’s word held sway
we had limits that were clear
we weren’t allowed to run wild
cuz all the grown-ups around agreed:
it takes a village to raise a child

a joyous OG
with sisters ‘n a brother
we knew nothin’ of divorce
we had our father ‘n our mother
with our siblings
we were not allowed to fight
‘n we knew to get our asses home
before the street lamps shone bright

one more OG
for whom life was sometimes hard
blessed with parents who did their best
to provide the home with the big backyard
softball, kickball, hide & seek
grown-ups were stern but nice
block parties, card parties, barbecues
a childhood paradise

I’m older now
this OG has greyin’ hair
falls asleep durin’ movies
gets excited by new hardware
my heart is still youthful
although my knees are goin’ bad
I’m proud to be OG
those were the best days I ever had

copyright © 2020 KPM

a revelation

afternoon chat

one Sunday Jessie told me
“you know, your life’s amazing”
it was uttered seriously
bright Bellini eyes blazing

these words weren’t new to me
I’d heard this sentiment before
today I understood its meaning
I welcomed that opened door

for many years I sought
the kinda life I’m livin’ now
not bein’ the kinda woman
to bow, to scrape or kowtow

mistakes I may have made
but I own them – they’re all mine
guilt? regrets? mostly banished
all things get sorted in time

cause I’m happily livin’ a life
some folk may not understand
a life that gives me all I need
in a country good & grand

copyright © 2020 KPM

not now, hon

convicts on a chain-gang
beat a tattoo inside her head
sharp slivers of pain
turn her left eye a bloody red

up ‘n down the nausea rises
on creaky roller-coaster tracks
spikes sticking out her cranium
inserted front ‘n back

aspirin, ibuprofen
all useless against the throbbing
inside that bony wall

copyright © 2020 KPM

a home in Dundee

everyone needs a sanctuary
mine’s a beige ‘n green dome
a place of love ‘n safety
a carefully created home

thoughtfully chosen
was each room’s colour scheme
to be designed around
an intensely personal theme

happy hours spent in Craft World
to make the wreath for my front door
haunting all the local shops
for the right rug for the lounge floor

with the curtains for each room
I went a little overboard
I wanted what I wanted
so the budget got ignored

lamps, cushions, bookcases
bought ‘n paid for with dispatch
bed linens, bath mats, towels
everything a perfect match

my roots are apparent
about that there’s no mystery
family ‘n friends in frames
honour my unique history

this is my home, my refuge
wherein dwell my fish ‘n me
it’s the place I love the most
my little flat in my bonnie Dundee

copyright © 2020 KPM

a home in Dundee

stupidity runs rampant

I don’t know anyone
who’d choose
to have these rainy day lockdown blues
that’s what I got today
what can I do to make them go away?

when I woke up
this mornin’
the sun was beamin’ bright
‘n as I ate my breakfast
I thanked the Lord
for a safe night

I said thanks
for the clothes in my closet
thanks cause my arthritis didn’t hurt
thanks for clean water
to drink ‘n bathe in
thanks for the flowers sproutin’ in dirt

with food in my fridge
a home
to which I can return
I set out on my daily walk
hat on head
to avoid sunburn

there were masked
‘n unmasked people
busily they milled around
it was almost as if
had returned to my much-loved town

but then I saw somethin’
that caused me great
unmasked & selfish people
actin’ like
they didn’t care

2 folk about to enter Lidls
but neither person
wore a mask
‘n both loudly
when a staff member took ‘em to task

‘n I couldn’t help but think:
“how stupid are they?
are they not aware?
there’s a virus
with no vaccine
currently ragin’ out there?”

it made me sad
it made me angry
yet I kept quiet
I just wanted wine
fresh flowers
not a potential riot

thus I paid
for my small purchases
quickly departin’ the store
wantin’ only
the safety
of bein’ locked behind my red door

so now I’m feelin’
which I never meant to be
felled by rainy day
lockdown blues
home alone in my bonnie Dundee

copyright © 2020 KPM