Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Tony Medina and bystander blues
Given my recent discussion of searching for more poets and literary artists who deal with some of the immediate safety struggles in our communities, I'm looking forward to Tony Medina's next book. Over on Facebook, he mentioned a poem "One Guy Shot Another Guy" from his latest manuscript. It reads in part, "One guy shot another guy, and so he went and got a gun. He came back and shot at the guy that shot at him, but hit another guy instead."
The poem carries on about how conflict and gun violence escalates. But for now, the point about a guy shooting at one guy and yet hitting someone else instead is one too many of us in cities (St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee Baltimore, etc.) know all too well. In fact, just yesterday, I was mentioning an article from The Times about a shooting in Cincinnati. What happened? A couple of guys got into a fight, then went and got their guns, and bystanders got killed.
Someone like Jaci Washington, whose brother was one of the innocent bystanders murdered at that Cincinnati gathering, will read the opening of Medina's poem and feel it. So will nearly all my students from Chicago. We'll note Medina touching on that gun violence bystander blues, and everyone will chime in with their own stories.
Remember that girl who was just sitting on her porch minding her own business? What about that older man who was working in his garden? What about that dude that just shot up into the crowd? That's the kind of talking that'll take place.
The bystander blues that Medina touches on would resonate with members of "Mothers of Murdered Children" and "Parents of Murdered Children," two groups whose chapters are active in Miami because of the large numbers of children who are killed there by stray bullets.
When it comes to the people's concerns and the poetry, Tony Medina, you gotta know, is always on the case. He's been based at Howard University in D.C. for years now. He's written extensively about police brutality, long before the Black Lives Movement. At the same time, he's also writing about the dangers and harm that takes place as tensions arise when, for instance, one guy "shot at the guy that shot at him, but hit another guy instead."
This bystander blues, as I'm calling it, is one subset of the larger topic of gun violence in various cities and communities. It took some poets more than a decade to catch up with Medina on police brutality. Let's hope it doesn't take that long for them to catch up with him addressing various other pressing issues as well.
• A notebook on gun violence
• Tony Medina