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A Brother's Plea

A Brother’s Plea

I am sitting here in this cell, afraid and alone,
Can't play my music or talk on my cell phone
I wonder how I got here, my personhood assaulted
Smart in school, now my possibilities halted
My life will never be the same
In some ways it is over because of this prison game
I cry to myself so the fellas won’t hear
Too many years ahead of me in this place without care
My life has not been easy, no crystal stair
When all I ever wanted was a chance to be someone to live anywhere
It was the accident of birth they say
I had no control over my DNA
My mother tried hard and worked every day
My dad paid the bills and with her he stayed
My nightmare happened in school you see
I had a young blond teacher who was afraid of me
I studied hard and turned in my work
But she was afraid of me and when I moved, she jerked
My friends told me to be careful in high school
The cops were always ready and waiting to load you in that van pool
Off to juvey or the business man's prison cell
To a world that was worse than our Northside hell
Being poor isn't a crime
Being a black kid shouldn’t mean jail time
But here I sit, just seventeen years old
In this cell so bitter, so cold
Wore the uniform of the streets to defy their image
Knowing nothing I do would give me a living and a wage
One day, just tired of it all
My friends and I smoked a joint in the bathroom stall
We were arrested and charged as drug lords
Man we thought we were ok in our segregated ward
It was my first offense and first time in court
Only my mother and father there for my support
The lawyer, some young dude in a suit, had never met me
His hands full of folders, not enough time he said, just cop a plea
My life ended at that very moment for coping meant I was never free
Never over paying my debt to society.
One year for every joint they gave
Told me it was for my own good since the law I disobeyed
Never mind my white friend who bought the weed
He had a rich father who fixed his wrongful deed
I am one in three in this War on Drugs
Man, would I give anything for my mother’s hugs
Sitting in this cell, alone and wishing I was free
But knowing even then, no school or job will ever consider me
Dudes here never held a gun or wielded a knife
But because they had a drug problem, are locked away for life
The murderer down the block is already free
His sentence not part of the mandatory three
What am I to hope when it is worse than Jim Crow?
Seems all they want is for us to die, never grow
Worse now then when we marched for the vote
They still hate us and our existence they revoke
Where can we go in this land of the free?
When everywhere I look, they are still scared of me?

I dedicate this to all the sons of son who are perishing in the nation's privatized prisons and juvenile detention centers.  I dedicate this to them, most non-violent first time offenders, younger than my son in college today.  I dedicate this to them there all alone, far away from their cities, in a rural cell now their home.  I dedicate this to them to be their voice for Harry Belafonte said tonight that the artist is the gatekeeper of truth. I am speaking your truth, young brothers, we are hearing you and know you have been waiting for us to take up your cause and change the system.  I dedicate this to you.


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The Burden

This isn't mine anymore



She stretched out her hands
the parcel neatly wrapped
brown paper
with a
red bow

What is this?

Take it, it is your's.


No, it is not mine to carry

What do you mean?

I mean that I am giving it back
it was never mine

I don't understand

You never did.

I don't want it.

Take it.


So she
she stood.

And turned
and walked away.

The package was never her's to hold.
So she let it go.

Tayé Foster Bradshaw is the poet's nom de plumme. She resides in a suburb of St. Louis surrounded by her family, her books, her pens, and her lattes.

This poem is inspired by the lives and burdens of many women, particularly women of color, who are forced to carry the cares, thoughts, and expectations of others without regard to their own wants, needs, and health. This poem is a release.

Black Mama Tears

It rained this afternoon

Loud claps of thunder

Almost couldn't see the rain

For my tears falling down

Black Mama Tears

too many


in their sleep

on a run

at a store

too many


just walking

just working

just breathing

It rained today

And I couldn't see

for all the weeping




Bridges by Tayé Foster Bradshaw

across time
Bringing me to you
you to me
over a way through-
tears and fears
to bring us to
the other side of possibility
hold on
don't look down
look down
walk on over
dance on over
wheels on over
over over over
water and roads and
all the modes that

the great

©2016. Tayé Foster Bradshaw Group, Antona Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Bridges used to scare me as a little girl. In the town where I grew up, in order to get from my neighborhood over to the swimming pool or summer activities, we walked. I was always fine until we reached the crest of the hill and that looming structure that connect roads-to-roads, over cars zooming beneath, promising me opportunity on the other side, if I just trusted the weight of my tiny skinny nine-year-old self against the wind blowing or the sun streaming over this manmade steal structure.  My l…