August 4, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

The Pride Poets’ Corner “Death Sentence” By: Victor Yates

In honor of Black History Month The Pride’s featured poem this month is by poet Victor Yates. 

Yates is a writer, storyteller, and digital media artist. His Black Lives Matter spoken word performance, Death Sentence, received a grant from the city of West Hollywood in 2020. He was also awarded a grant from West Hollywood to shoot a documentary recording narratives of older gay men to preserve for younger generations. 

Yates is the winner of the 2020 George Floyd Honorarium for Poetry from the Los Angeles Press and was awarded a grant from the city of Glendale for a new spoken word performance in 2021. He won the 2017 Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging LGBTQ Writers and the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Debut Fiction for his book, A Love Like Blood.

DEATH SENTENCE By: Victor Yates 

1.

AAA

To exhibit skill, English archers shot arrows through the eye socket of a bull’s skull.

The first Target store opened in the suburbs of Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1962.

It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

AAA

In 2016, Philando Castile was murdered for being Black and suspicious. I wasn’t reaching for it, was all they heard before there were no sounds. The cop, holding a gun, felt threatened.

AAA

Horns, unlike antlers, are an extension of the skull and usually found on both males and females.

AAA

To live in a Black body means balancing the burden of hundreds of skulls on your head to allow in other burdens.

AAA

A cop locked his knee cap into George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds killing him in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

AAA

Across the country, riots broke out following attacks at the hands of the police In 1967. It was called the long, hot summer. 

AAA

It’s kind-of Alice in Wonderland with the same moving picture re-shown over and over again.

So, when the bulls eye burned during protests no one had to tell me. My skull itched from the shock of bone when smoke filled my home.

2.

The first time someone called me the n-word was in West Hollywood.

When I was 16, my mother told me, smile while my photo was taken at the DMV. If I was stopped, the police wouldn’t think I was threatening.

To be young, gifted, and black means nothing at 12am and a cop pulls you over.

At a nightclub on Santa Monica Blvd., a white man kicked me in the back and called security to kick me out. He owned the club.

In 1969, if you were Black you had to show 3 picture ID’s to gain entrance into clubs in West Hollywood.

I’m not young anymore and I haven’t had anything to smile about in months.

We’re taught from the moment we leave the house to remember we are black. Blackness is reason enough to be stopped.

Some Nights at 3am I wake up to a wingtip stuck in my back.

AAA

3.

AAA

Now I lay me down to sleep, 

I pray the Lord 

cops arent called to keep

The peace with spray of bullets

Angels 

watch me through the night, 

And wake me with the morning light.

Under morning light and flashlight

AAA

eric garner said

“I can’t breathe!”

Died in a prohibited chokehold. 

AAA

Sgt. James Brown said

“Please take the mask off! I cannot breathe. Please.”

died after injected twice with sedatives and an anti-spit mask placed on his face.

AAA

Willie Ray Banks said

“I can’t breathe!”

died. After Shocked with a taser multiple times.

AAA

Byron Lee Williams said

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” 17 times.

died. He looked suspicious on a bicycle. 

AAA

elijah mcclain said 

“I can’t breathe correctly!”

Died August 30, 2019 

Three days after 

placed in a chokehold and 

sedated. 

AAA

Breonna Taylor

Last words unknown

Shot 5 times

But she was alive

For at least five minutes, as she struggled to breathe

AAA

Be a voice for Breonna

And speak up for Black women

AAA

Be hands for Elijah

And hold on to each other.

AAA

Be legs for Bryon

Willie

James

Eric

And those whose names are unknown stand up for somebody else.

AAA

4.

AAA

Tishuan Said

AAA

Here in this land,

turned by African hands,

Into a nation advanced 

by free work

We lie.

AAA

Here in this land

blood seeped into Earth–

dripped from lash,

fear and whip crack.

“Freedom,” We cried.

AAA

Here in this land,

We cried out

A litany in pews,

Down in the deep New South,

swung from trees

burned by gasoline.

“Equality,” We pleaded.

AAA

Here in this land,

Gunshots rang out,

water blasted 

canines ripped flesh

Of those supposed as less–

“Justice” We screamed.  

AAA

Here in this land,

Played out on TV screens,

History repeats.

And the caption reads

AAA

Unarmed Black Man Shot Dead By Police

AAA

Here

In this land

turned by great hands

Into a nation advanced 

by free work

AAA

Yet vilified as We are,

Rise up Black people, rise.

So we all can breathe

AAA

You can find a video of Victor Yates reading the complete poem at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZH_QCztmsQ

And a Q & A about the poem with Victor Yates and fellow poet Brian Sonia-Wallace at https://youtu.be/d6QtotBjhro

Related Posts

Inclusive Pregnant Man Emoji May Be Coming To Software Updates

July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

More inclusive emojis may be coming to future software updates, including one of a pregnant man. A “pregnant man” and...

$3 Million To Train California Teachers On LGBTQ Issues

July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a final state budget that includes $3 million for LGBTQ cultural competency training for public...

Strut BAR & CLUB Presents Mimosa Girls Drag Brunch

July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

Strut BAR & CLUB has announced its weekly drag brunch featuring the Mimosa Girls.  Costa Mesa’s ALL inclusive location for...

WeHo Asking For Community Input On Naming Request to Rename the West Hollywood Library

July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

The City of West Hollywood is conducting a community survey to solicit public input about a naming request to rename...

Lil Nas X Releases New Music Video “Industry Baby”

July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

Lil Nas X has shared the music video for his new song “Industry Baby”. Directed by Christian Breslauer the video...

GLAAD Responds To Historic Emmy Noms

July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

GLAAD has responded to the historic Emmy nominations after it was announced that out trans actress MJ Rodriguez and out...

MJ Rodriguez Makes History As First Out Trans Woman Emmy Nominee

July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

Actress Michaela Jaé, formerly known as  MJ Rodriguez, became the first out trans woman performer to be nominated in a...

PReP, The HiV Prevention Pill, Free

July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

Insurers have been advised that they shouldn’t be charging for Truvada and Descovy as HIV prevention and that associated clinic...

WeHo Heat Alert For Pets

July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

The City of West Hollywood reminds human caregivers of canine companions and feline friends that high-heat days can be extremely...

Disneyland Drops ‘Boys and Girls’ Reference

July 19, 2021

July 19, 2021

Disneyland will be changing the introduction to its nightly fireworks show from “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,...

Trans Incident At Wi Spa May Have Been Staged

July 19, 2021

July 19, 2021

On June 24th an Instagram user “cubaangel” posted a video of herself angrily confronting a staff member at the Wi...

Podcast Host Mat George Killed In Hit-And-Run

July 19, 2021

July 19, 2021

Mathew George, gay co-host of the podcast “She Rates Dogs”, has died at the age of 26 after a hit-and-run...

Los Angeles LGBT Center Vaccinates Trans and Non-Binary Community Members

July 14, 2021

July 14, 2021

The Los Angeles LGBT Center has made it its mission to vaccinate the  trans and non-binary  community in a safe...

Gaywatch: Back To The Beach

July 14, 2021

July 14, 2021

On Saturday July 10th Venice Pride hosted Gaywatch: Back To The Beach, a queer dance party at the only gay-owned...

City of West Hollywood Launches ‘Dockless Mobility’ Pilot Program

July 14, 2021

July 14, 2021

City of West Hollywood Launches ‘Dockless Mobility’ Pilot Program with E-Scooters and E-Bikes from Bird, Lime, and Wheels. Starting July...