Mama Can’t Save You

As we watched the movie, And Still I Rise, I was struck by the issue of the fear of black excellence. The idea that if black people were given the same opportunities, they would prove to perform better causing white people to have no basis for keeping their privilege. I think this is one of the main reasons so many people of color are being shoveled into the prison industrial complex at such staggering rates. This is how the larger institutions are trying to maintain the white rooms that Bernice Johnson Reagon is talking about in Coalition Politics: Turning the Century. They want to keep the white rooms filled with white people, and they invite a selected few people of color who are close enough. She writes, “’If we can find Black folk like that we’ll let them in the room.’ You don’t really want Black folks, you are just looking for yourself with a little color to it.” People of color are being barred from those rooms, by keeping them on the new plantation, the department of corrections. So while some of us seem to gaining access, they are still making it harder to get there.

In class, we also talked about police brutality against black men in particular. Each instance more disheartening than the last. I thought about my brothers and how my mother has tried to shelter them from those situations. She would try to keep them inside the house. She would instruct them not to argue with the police, not to raise their voice, to keep calm, and not allow them to stay out at all times of night, for fear that they would not make it home. She feared receiving a call telling her that she would have to make a trip to see her sons in the precinct. I also thought about my future children, and how I am going to have to instill in them these same messages. But no matter what I say, I cannot protect them from a world that is trying to eradicate them. I wrote this half inspired by my mom and the other half from a conversation I will dread having with my future child.


Don’t you know I’ve been trying to save you boy?

I have gone through hell and back to get you

My arms becoming iron, strong

Delve deep to search among the smoke, flames, and ash for you

I didn’t bring you into this world to have it thrown all away

You don’t have to go out there acting like a fool for them to take your life

Take you from my arms

Or better yet, bring you back into my arms, lifeless

And then what?

I know the anger bubbling up inside of you

Do I have to knock some sense in you before they do?

They gonna keep knocking on you til

You just a nigga bent out of shape

This is what they’ve been waiting for

The chance for me to come off my watch long enough to provoke you into irrational behavior

But I am your mama and I’ll be damned if I witness you being taken off in handcuffs

You can’t just be another nigga

I need you to be something more

Because when I birthed you there was a promise

A promise for greatness

I am not going to lose my son over some misused anger

Don’t make me come outside myself

You think you the only one who mad?

You the only one griping?

I need you to open your eyes

Because mama not going to be here always

And I know I don’t want to burry my son

I pray at night

Eyes closed, heart hallow

With the prayer that God lets me beat you to the grave.


One thought on “Mama Can’t Save You

  1. This is so powerful, Ashley! I like that is written to your “future child” because as we saw with the 15-year-old girl in McKinney, TX in June, police brutality affects Black girls and women too.


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