The Use of Force Continuum: Police, Power, and Prejudice

by Joe Ponce In Beavercreek, Ohio, under the glaringly white fluorescent lights of a Walmart superstore, John Crawford III walked around idly holding a BB gun he’d picked up from a shelf. He holds the gun limply (sometimes using it to scratch his back, his neck) as he speaks on the phone and wanders around the near-empty aisles. Somewhere else, perhaps in someone’s imagination, John Crawford III is stalking the aisles waving the gun around and pointing it at children. In reality, the police are called. When they arrive, they see the second, imagined John Crawford III instead of the bored shopper, the man on the phone: he is shot in the back from fifteen feet away, no doubt confused, as were we all, why the police opened fire on a man for walking around a store. He was killed on the spot. Often the police officers in this situation seemingly disappear from press and media coverage, whisked away under paid leave.  News outlets defend these absent cops, explaining the split second decision making that is required,(1) the pressures of the job and deadly nature of police work. Often in response, police Public Information Officers (“PIOs”) are told to give...
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How to Not Get Killed by the NYPD

  How to Not Get Killed by the NYPD Metta Sáma   When you see the pitch-perfect black 4-door shaded windows roll up on you, don’t grip your wheel. Casually look over your shoulder as a shaded window slips down. Don’t think drive-by. Don’t remember history. It’s only the police. Keep your hands on the wheel. In plain view. It’s the police. Keep your hands on the wheel. The light will turn in your favor. Don’t drive off. Keep your hands on the wheel. Wait, with your left foot pressed hard on the clutch, right foot pressed lightly on the brake. Hands on the wheel. Raise an eyebrow when the police officer raises a question: what’s the speed limit in New York City? Note: the correct answer is 30, no matter the street, no matter the avenue, no matter the faster moving highway traffic, the answer is 30           30. Don’t ask him to clarify. Don’t smile. You are anxious. You will smile. Don’t explain when asked why you’re smiling. Don’t explain your explanation when asked why you’re explaining. Don’t say: we’re blocking the road. Don’t say: we’re triple-parked. Don’t ask them to clarify the infraction. You are the infraction. Don’t...
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Two Poems to #StandWithFerguson

    CONVERGENCE Nancy Bevilaqua For Gaza, for Ferguson   Back behind the barricades they’re saying what the looting means. Call it full-stop mercenary. Manholes steam. Fortune for the one who finds me opened like a can of combustion, thrown down for the last time at a stoplight where it goes like this; future nixed behind the station, soda cans and broken bats, my heart on ice this time. You’ve seen my necklace; it is mine and just to die for in a yard beside the candy store, my longest finger ticking off the sounds of heat.     *     ELEGY FOR THE WOMEN D.M. Aderibigbe   Let us not pretend the sky Is always plaited with beauty, Even the gods are not too perfect. Like Staten Island, the sky Of Ferguson is clouded With police uniforms; Like Garner, teenage Brown Is swallowed by a cop’s fingers. A schoolboy’s body Empty like a soda can Is found at the doorway Of his grandmother’s house. All the women in his life gather Around what the police’s anger Has left of him; each calling His name, as though death Is a disease noise could cure. Each calling his name, Their hearts driven...
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Introducing Nepantla

The Inaugural Issue of Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color launched this morning. Read the Issue here. And join Apogee Journal and Our Word in celebrating tonight at Columbia University, Dodge Hall 413 from 7-9.

I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against A Sharp White Background: An Elegy

I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against A Sharp White Background: An Elegy Morgan Parker After Glenn Ligon after Zora Neale Hurston   Or, I feel sharp White. Or, Colored Against. Or, I am thrown. Or, I am Opposed. Or, When White. Or, I Sharp. Or, I Color. Make it quiet. Wash me away. Forgetting. I feel most colored when I swear to god. I feel most colored when it is too late. My tongue is elegy. When I am captive. I am the color green because green is the color of power. I am a tree growing two fruits. I feel most colored when I am thrown against the sidewalk. It is the last time I feel colored. Stone is the name of the fruit. I am a man I am a man I am a woman I am a man I am a woman I am protected and served. I pay taxes and I am a child and I grow into a bright fleshy fruit. White bites: I stain the uniform. I am thrown black type- face in a headline with no name. Or, no one hears me. Or, I am thrown a language bone: unarmed....
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  Magpie JD Scott   When I was a teen I stole T- shirts much too small for my body. I klept movies, kept fountain pens deep in my pockets, glossy magazines, pills, cologne, hair gel, lotions, pristinely folded kerchiefs. O the thieving magpie perches in blue and black and white and takes what it wants without the penalties of man. I do my dim mathematics: I am sixteen and caught twice. My feathers are cleaned in this human suit through community service and fees, a nest of bureaucracy cradling. Ten thousand dollars in damage and the white boy pays his fines and continues. He goes on. A trinket does not warrant death. No one should die over the shine of pennies. Snatched packaging is not a reason for slaughter. It’s the same sentence again and again and still it’s not enough. Steal a bag of chips. Make it Skittles. Make it a Popsicle and read me the riddle on the stick: ‘How many Black bodies does it take to _______________?’ O who will be the accountant and sort through the dead that fill this silence? Who will answer? Who will be accountable? I was a bad, brutal teenager, and...
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Notes On Loving A Black Man

  Notes On Loving A Black Man Taylor Steele   1. When he leaves the house, know he may not come back. If he comes back, know he may not be whole. Knowing this will not make you any readier for either. 2. When a bullet is the only thing that grounds him Enough to weather the hands of porcelain, Glass shards full with promise, lily torn from womb, Remember, a bullet has never made a happy hymn Of Black skin. And “grounded” here means dead, The way Black skin means dead, And dead means nothing to porcelain, glass, lily But the inconvenience of a fallen tree limb on the way to the grocery store. 3. It’s World War IV. The President is still our President. He livestreams himself singing nursery rhymes About democracy, so we hum it At work not noticing, so we Tuck our children in night, That they grow up unafraid to bear buds of dusk, Knowing someone will burn the tree they fell from, They are the tree. That song just be so stuck in their heads— 4. Oh, how well-oiled the rig is! Hear that whistle a-blowin’? Better get off the train tracks! It’s not that...
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We Stand With Ferguson

The acts of police brutality against Black people in recent weeks, in particular the shootings of Michael Brown and John Crawford in Missouri and Ohio and the homicide of Eric Garner in New York, bring us to outrage and indignation. The staff of Apogee stand behind the idea that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Missouri, as they seek to make sense of Michael Brown’s pointless death, and raise their voices against the ongoing, systematic oppression of Black and Brown bodies in America. We stand with them as they continue to rightfully protest in Missouri, and we witness with the rest of the world, including Amnesty International, as community members, protestors, and journalists suffer a disproportionate, violent response.  We will raise our voices too in New York on August 23rd to take a stand against the repeated abuse of police power in America, the militarization of the people meant to protect us, and the victim-blaming that is a double injustice against the murdered. We are thankful for the strong activist networks in this country, which mainstream media often leads us to believe do not exist. We encourage you to follow mobilizers The Dream Defenders and the National Action Network, and activists like Anonymous, Feminista Jones and Avis...
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