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Place Matters

by Hakim Bellamy / 05.07.2013

As the inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, New Mexico (2012-2014), Hakim Bellamy is a national and regional Poetry Slam Champion and holds three consecutive collegiate poetry slam titles. Bellamy was recognized as an honorable mention for the University of New Mexico Paul Bartlett Re Peace Prize for his work as a community organizer and journalist and was recently bestowed the populist honor of “Best Poet” by Local iQ (“Smart List” 2010, 2011 & 2012) and Alibi (“Best of Burque” 2010, 2011 & 2012). He is the co-creator of the multimedia hip hop theater production Urban Verbs: Hip Hop Conservatory & Theater that has been staged throughout the US.

Hakim is dynamic, articulate and original.

Place Matters

Somewhere between
And El Paso
Is the rest of our country

Where we leap
Small children
In a single bound

With a single
Bound book
We teach them
That this

Is the land of the free
And the home of the brave
For those who come in 1st
Place matters
1st, 2nd and 3rd
Place matters

In classrooms
All about race.

Race to the top
And pretend no child gets left behind,
My behind…

No child left behind?
My ass.

Bringing boot straps
To a track meet
Is useless
We need shoelaces
And sneakers
To pull ourselves up by
Place matters

And unheard
Place matters

Because Superman
Was an immigrant too
It’s just that his eyes were blue

Even if he couldn’t fly
And Metropolis had a fence
On the south side

Clark Kent
Would be safer
Than a Canadian kid
In the Tuscon Unified School District

Place is the difference
Between a Whole Foods
And a whole block
Of Fast food, liquor store, check cashing spots
Like we can live
Off of sodium and saturated fat
Malt liquor, Flaming Hot Funions
And title loans

We can live.
Place matters

Like the difference between
Art class at the prep school
And class warfare at mine

Like time off from work and
Doing time

The difference between
Home schooling
And mom working
Third shift
On job number two
For you…

And being crushed by the news
That yesterday
You decided not to show up at school

And yeah, you hear her
You hear her when she says
What she always says
And says
“Boy, they got a place for people like you”

And they do
Place matters
It’s the difference between
Her being able to afford to ground you

And paying rent

Knowing that
When she goes to work
Yo ass is going to leave the house again

Place is the difference between
Latch-key kid
And homeless

It’s the difference between
Him having health insurance
And her telling herself not to get sick

Not to get sick
Not to get sick

We are out of place
Like a fish
Pretending water doesn’t exist

Because we don’t want to drown
We are out breath
Jumping into boats

Running away from water
Chasing after Cokes

Instead of running for office
We’re running out of votes

Instead of building communities
Foreclosures got us running out our homes

We can’t even workout on our leisure time
Too busy running out the door

Can’t buy no sleep
Tank on “E”
But we thank God
For the little bit of exercise we get’
Even if it is
Running out of hope

Between El Paso, TX
And Metropolis
Superman is waiting for us
To find him

Families are migrating
From the Navajo nation
To get Internet access
Like it’s the New World

Poor colored folk
Are moving Uptown
Into the heights
Far from the flood zone
Like the Jeffersons
Thomas, George and Weezie
Like the Great Migration

We have have no idea where we are going
But it can’t be worse than this
Place matters

Between two large bodies
Of water
We are nomads
Navigating our lot in life
…or our little

By stars
And by chance.
Displaced people
When it matters most.

*For more on Hakim Bellamy and other Pan-African poets please visit Badilisha Poetry X-change, produced by the Africa Centre.

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