Everywhere, Ma’Khia Bryant

This poem was written for Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16 year old girl who was shot and killed by Columbus police. An adaptation of this was read at a vigil and protest on Sunday, April 25, 2021 that took place on the front steps of City Hall in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The vigil was organized by Pint Sized Protestors, a volunteer run organization dedicated to educating and uplifting children as they become the next generation of politically engaged citizens.

Photo credit: Lisa Factora-Borchers


The poem I’m about to read was written in the legacy and practice of using poetry for political action. This poem was collectively written, meaning as I constructed it, I invited others who had words for Ma’Khia to share them so I could integrate their words into this piece. This way, it is a community of people from across this country who are using their voices to uplift Ma’Khia Bryant. Because as the prolific and legendary Black poet June Jordan who also addressed and cared deeply for children said, “the task of a poet of color, a black poet, as a people hated and despised, is to rally the spirit of your folks…I have to get myself together and figure out an angle, a perspective, that is an offering, that other folks can use to pick themselves up, to rally and to continue or, even better, to jump higher, to reach more extensively in solidarity with even more varieties of people to accomplish something. I feel that it’s a spirit task.”

This is our spirit task to uplift the life of Ma’Khia Bryant.

Everywhere, Ma’Khia Bryant

If you walk around this city, if you listen closely

you can hear the voices of true sages, our children

If you pause in your walking and cup the wind

you can hear the youngest seers speak 

to us in question, cries, and laughter

If you walk around this city, if you listen closely

You can hear Ma’Khia Bryant, our child

If you pause in your walking and listen to her voice

You can hear from a baby girl who chose to walk on rainbows

A glow baby with midnight clouds for hair

Shimmery eyes that closed too soon

and you can hear a laugh that sprays

color in sour patch glitter

Ma’Khia, your life was precious and it was ours to protect

and now, baby girl, you are a star and ours to uplift

As we breathe in this city, we exhale you

Our breath is your breath

Your brilliance, our lamplight 

We want you back, but you’re in a new constellation now—

One that shines down on our homes, sky scrapers, and driveways

from the quiet Ohio harvest fields to gritty littered curbs

Your sixteen years of light will burn our transformations 

so we are more than just good little soldiers of excuses 

We will keep the poem of your name on our lips

as we walk this city and look for you

We will find your spirit everywhere and scan the city 

through your eyes so even as you are with your ancestors now, 

you will always be with us.

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