In loving memory of Philando Castile, Pollen presents a community portrait of grief, protest, power, and love contributed by 25 artists mostly from Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.
Could we please give the police departments to the grandmothers?
Give them the salaries and the pensions and the city vehicles, but make them a fleet of vintage corvettes, jaguars and cadillacs, with white leather interior. Diamond in the back, sunroof top and digging the scene with the gangsta lean.
Let the cars be badass!
You would hear the old school jams like Patti Labelle, Anita Baker and Al Green. You would hear Sweet Honey in the Rock harmonizing on “We who believe in freedom will not rest” bumping out the speakers.
And they got the booming system.
If you up to mischief, they will pick you up swiftly in their sweet ride and look at you until you catch shame and look down at your lap. She asks you if you are hungry and you say “yes” and of course you are. She got a crown of dreadlocks and on the dashboard you see brown faces like yours, shea buttered and loved up.
And there are no precincts.
Just love temples, that got spaces to meditate and eat delicious food. Mangoes, blueberries, nectarines, cornbread, peas and rice, fried plantain, fufu, yams, greens, okra, pecan pie, salad and lemonade.
Things that make your mouth water and soul arrive…
The day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
The day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
But while my sister ain’t equal & my brother can’t breathe
Hand and hand with my family, we will fill these streets
“HAND-IN-HAND” BY JAYANTHI KYLE
“And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.”
Claudia Rankine, “Stop and Frisk”
She is made of
Diamonds. She is four years old and wears
pink and blue beads, sometimes
barrettes, in her braided hair. Maybe
is her favorite, and possibly she likes the swings
best of all
at the park
Her voice certainly glitters
has always glittered, it
has never needed
your permission, your invitation
Last Wednesday night, she
sat buckled in the car’s backseat
on the way home from the
grocery store. Maybe
she was chewing bubblegum. Her bedtime routine
most likely would have been next in the order
of weeknight things
a nearby police car slowed its suburban patrol
when the car she was riding in passed
One of the officers noticed how
the other car’s driver
had a wide-set nose
He fit the description
In less than two minutes, she
listened as police officers
pull the car she was riding in over and
give orders. She saw the driver and her mother follow
those orders. Might be the officer, now pointing his gun
at the driver, didn’t see her
in the backseat. He therefore never would have
noticed the colorful beads
in her hair. He definitely knew nothing
about the driver, a man who just shopped for groceries,
a man who just had a family dinner and
got his haircut earlier that evening.
In less than two minutes
she, four years old, watched
one of the police officers
shoot the driver again and again, then
begin screaming at her mother. It must have
felt like forever
The driver fit the description
He was following orders
He was not the man
Make no mistake, she still has
a glittering voice. Possibly it won’t shine as bright
for a minute. Certainly it
glittered as clear and big as it could
for her mother
while fear worked a crooked mess
last Wednesday night. Her voice a devotional
from the car’s backseat:
It’s okay Mommy
I’m right here with you
For Philando, Diamond, and Dae’Anna
I don’t want to overstate or downplay the importance of the mural we created together. The power of any piece of art is self evident and not for the creators to decide. But what I think was undeniably good about it, was it created a new point of entry (or departure?) for people who need another way to protest. It’s not an alternative, it widens the scope of the protests. It assists the marches and occupations. It heals, because we know that while marching is important, it depletes people.
The mural turns protesting into an ecosystem instead of an act.
WHAT DO WE TELL OUR CHILDREN WHEN…
EDUCATION DIDN’T MATTER.
COMPLIANCE DIDN’T MATTER.
AGE DIDN’T MATTER.
YOUR GUILT / INNOCENCE DIDN’T MATTER.
OUR OUTRAGE DIDN’T MATTER. STRAIGHT UP HD EVIDENCE DIDN’T MATTER. THE TRUTH IS OUR LIVES DO MATTER.
I can’t sleep.
My jaw hurts.
The eye tic replaced with clenching my teeth—
Even in sleep.
Police in military gear
In formation on I94.
A swelling crowd
Whose anger, pain palpable on screen.
1960’s Civil Rights Movement
Flashback. Flashback. Flashback. Flashback.
This election season
How much more can we take?
All those Facebook posts
Swirling in my head:
I am devastated
I want to DO SOMETHING…but I don’t know how
I don’t know what to say
I don’t know how to help
Someone tell me what I need to do to help make this stop…
I will answer.
I will lay out the steps.
I will follow the example my ancestors laid down with their battered lives
I will echo what has been eloquently written, powerfully spoken, consistently shown
I will say it with a new twist and in less words for our short attention span.
But first I must unclench my jaw,
Acknowledge my rage
on this never-ending journey
a lifetime of trauma
into capsules of resilience
So give the police departments to the grandmas, they are fearless, classy and actualized. Blossomed from love. They wear what they want and say what they please.
There wouldn’t be noise citations when the grandmas ride through our streets, blasting Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Alice Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, KRS-One. All that good music. The kids gonna hula hoop to it and sell her lemonade made from heirloom pink lemons and maple syrup. The car is solar powered and carbon footprint-less, the grandmas designed the technology themselves.
At night they park the cars in a circle so all can sit in them with the sun roofs down, and look at the stars, talk about astrological signs, what to plant tomorrow based on the moons mood and help you memorize Audre Lorde and James Baldwin quotes. She always looks you in the eye and acknowledges the light in you with no hesitation or fear. And grandma loves you fiercely forever.
She sees the pain in our bravado, the confusion in our anger, the depth behind our coldness. Grandma know what oppression has done to our souls and is gonna change it one love temple at a time. She has no fear.
#PhilandoCastile, may you live again…
…by us saying your name even though you belong to the ancestors now.
— Dameun Strange