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Black Poetry Commission: Shaheim Minzie’s ‘black boys’

Read Shaheim’s poem about the nuanced lives of Black men that are often kept from view

black boys

black boys running away from the blues as the evening moon
calls their absent fathers to sit at the dinner table
assume their roles as a patriarch and, like his forefathers and their forefathers,
victims to their masculinity,
eat at a dinner table made for him,
cleaned by the sweep of a black woman’s tear,.

black boys whose unsung melodies of longing die
with the staccato notes of their last breaths at 14,
abdicating their thrones as kings in knife fights in postcode gang wars.,
black boys, a collection, constructions of their fathers, cousins, uncles, of those who they most hate,
a collection of the phone calls from cell walls of black boys who failed to listened to the laws of a policeman’s suppression,

black boys on display, modern Jim Crows,
black boys who are puppets for the white man,
black boys whose cryptolects are appropriated by the masses,
blacks boys who died for your snapchat story,
who died as if an acronym will unravel the fabrics of racism in this country,
as if an acronym will dry their mourning mother’s eyes,

black boys who scare other black boys,
whose reflections are unrecognisable in the mirror.
they monopolise playgrounds like their absent fathers did the table,
black boys whose cornrows are the plantations that the generations of black boys before him picked from,

black boys who look like me,
sound like me,
black boys who watch the destruction of other black boys,
black boys like me who don’t realise they see us as monolithic,
who doesn’t recognise that they see us as a blur of black,
like strange fruits in the mississippi breeze,
black boys who are on the outskirts of our community;
or hospital walls awaiting a diagnosis.

More about the poet

I’m a fifteen-year-old creative, moving onto college and hoping to study social sciences. 

In a series of moves from Easton to Barton Hill, I’ve seen the way that these communal kaleidoscopes of culture move, admired the pride and strength everyone has. It’s also left me questioning the social infrastructure that has led me and so many others living in such relatively poorer quality of life. Activism  has helped me amplify this questioning. 

From being Youth Trustee and Youth Ambassador to youth-led charities Integrate UK and Action For Conservation respectively, from my journalism with newspapers such as Bristol24/7 and The Bristol Cable about race and my experience, I’m constantly working to better myself, the community and the larger community.

My poem is about the complexities of the Black Male Identity and the roles that they’ve played within my life. As white men typically govern Western media representation, we don’t often get to see the nuances within black men and the relationship they have with themselves, each other and the wider black community. The poem is my invitation to change the narrative that black men are one-dimensional, that we all face the same oppression, struggles and upbringing.

Most of my work is in a state of constant change. As I navigate the world and grow, so does what I feel is relevant to talk about. At the moment, much of my work has to do with race issues, intersectionality. Intersectionality is something that isn’t talked about as much, yet it is elemental in understanding how oppression works. Our activism doesn’t work without it. But also, my work also centres around growing pains of adolescence. It’s been completely changed by the virus. 

It’s difficult to plan what’s next for me, considering the unstableness right now. I’m in Year 11, most of time is being dedicated to the reminder of the school year. I hope move on to college and study social sciences. You can follow my freelance work via newspapers, through the work of Integrate UK. I’m excited to progress onto further things. I won’t be going anywhere! Look out for me. 

Poetry commissioned and edited by Malaika Kegode, Asmaa Jama and Aisha Sanyang-Meek

All photography of the poet by Qezz Gill