CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A year after the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the pain remains.
Local poet, Monique Dennis, read her poem "Identity" at a local Black Lives Matter march in March of last year.
Dennis's poem has a strong heartfelt message against the racism and mistreatment of minorities by law enforcement and society.
By Monique Dennis
Listen to the poem recited by the poet in March 2020
What are you? They ask without hesitation.
BLACK...I respond. BOLD & LOUD.
With bewildered eyes, I am now an object dehumanized.
Picking my appearance apart stereotype by stereotype.
Their feeble minds cannot grasp why I do not appear to look the part to identify as a black woman.
But your hair is too curly, and your skin is too light.
You don’t act ghetto and you even talk right; you must be mixed with white?
I take a moment to compose my thoughts,
Not wanting my anger to take over,
Because, then here come them cops.
Instead, I formulate the words to say,
Because defending MY IDENTITY will be done today.
So, in a voice strained with my ancestral pain, and my head held high
I released a thunderous response, revealing my truth with expectations of no reply.
I IDENTIFY with my African roots.
You know the same Africans that were stomped on by whites in boots.
I IDENTIFY with the 20 million black men, women, and children that were stacked like cargo in your ancestors’ boats.
Lost in a body of water, is where thousands of black bodies would eventually float
The Middle Passage in the triangular trade transported my Ancestors from the motherland to white America where they would be worked to death and never paid.
I IDENTIFY as the black men that had to watch as their children were murdered.
The black men that were made to breed with their own mothers, sisters, and daughters
The black men that were beaten and humiliated into submission,
For they feared that their strength would break this delusional reality, was their mission.
I cry tears for them as they were never given the chance to grieve
And for the ones who only knew sorrow, and the children who never got to play make-believe.
So, when I IDENTIFY as black - it is because the pain of my ancestors will forever weigh on my back.
My back...my back that feels every lashing their bodies could withstand.
My veins pump the blood of my mutilated mothers.
Who I am is so much bigger than you or me.
Our families were torn apart, and here I stand in the 21st century, mourning another black man’s MURDER, when will we no longer have to grieve.
I CAN'T BREATHE...I CAN'T BREATHE is our new modern-day lynching.
I look to the constitution so that I can know my rights, but all I came to find is that it was written for the whites.
I thought Martin Luther King marched and Malcolm fought for US TO LIVE EQUALLY IN THE Land of the Free, so then why are black people still dealing with a reformed idea of slavery.
I will no longer be your brand ambassador for my peoples' murders.
I didn’t even have to make a new shirt that said I can’t breathe, I just pulled it out the drawer from when you murdered my last brother.
So today I will not shout "I CANT BREATHE" anymore.
I will shout "I CAN BREATHE...Mister officer."
I CAN BREATHE and I WILL NOT stand by and video record you murder another one of my brothers or sisters.
I CAN BREATHE …Mr. officer and if you DO NOT stop using unnecessary force against black people then we will MAKE YOU STOP!!!
So, there will be no more I CANT BREATHE, George Floyd deserves more than a t-shirt with us branding how you murder us. Not only have we swallowed our pride and dignity, but your children now mock us.
I can breathe Mr. officer…What I CANNOT do is be complacent anymore!
What I CANNOT do is watch this nation's injustice go unpunished ANYMORE!
What I CANNOT do is be dismissed while you try and cover up another murder and act like we don’t exist, continually adding dead black bodies to your list.You brought us here to build the foundation for this so-called great nation, so why don’t you let us live equally and free on this soil that’s drenched in our ancestors' blood.