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.

Imperfect Letters as Perfect Artform

I recently started working on a typewriter. It’s more than old, more than a pleasure. It is an exercise in deliberation and reading with imperfect aesthetics—a perfect medium.

The way my fingers fatigue from pressing down so hard, the way I don’t know how to use the ancient typeface waters my drought as I have become more restless with summer’s press. I’ll post the prose here.

Free writing into these gorgeous miscalculations of font and working on a machine that doesn’t have a functioning backspace or precise spacebar breaks hard habits of sanitation, of uniformity.(Praise God for typewriters.)

My Interview with Soledad O’Brien

Recently ascended on my calendar, spring reminds me that the sun is returning. And speaking of sun, the digital distribution of my interview with Soledad O’Brien is available!

It was a life dream to sit with her and meet the embodiment of journalism’s genius.

All girls of color deserve to see themselves reflected in the media they consume. Someday, I hope to be as generous and gracious to another writer in their early career as Soledad was with me.

Lost Sleep and 13 Reasons Why

The bedroom was too warm and I had drank a full bottle of tea in the late afternoon, but those weren’t the reasons I couldn’t sleep. The skin covering my heart did little to protect the fast beat, my right arm shook slightly from lying in one position too long, waiting for tiredness to envelope my brain. I wish I hadn’t binge watched it. Inwardly, slight embarrassment peppered my thoughts that I experienced such a strong reaction.

It’s fiction. Get a grip.

I wanted to believe that Hannah Baker, a made-up teen character conjured from the imagination of a male author, was not going to be raped before she decided to end her life. The entire premise of 13 Reasons Why is untangling how and why the events and relationships surrounding a teenager led to a decision that dragging a razor across her skin in a bathtub was better than finishing high school and enduring the shit years of young adulthood.

But rape. Rape is one of the reasons why Hannah Baker commits suicide.

I closed my eyes during the rape scene in the last episode, once I knew the scene was coming.  I didn’t need one more visual of sexual violence embedded in my memory. Not because I was raped, but because both in my work and in my personal life enough people have been raped that I sometimes I had come to believe that

Rape is inevitable.

But it’s not. It just feels that way. Like knowing an entire premise of a popular Netflix show is based on a girl’s suicide and then watching an actress ascend a long driveway toward a party— it feels inevitable how the narrative will go before the razor blades.

There’s no way to look at my 7 year old son and 2 year old daughter and do anything but worry the years away and hold fast to the truth there is nothing I can do except be there every step of the way so whatever shit the world tries to put inside them, I make myself available—an empty sanctuary for them. A place to be loved, for them to confess without judgement, and bathe in compassion.

Is that all I have? Is that enough?

Hannah Baker is not a real person, but the story is as much in the world as my children. The co-existence of those truths kept me up past 3am last night. I laid there thinking of their futures and tried to unsee the moment where I thought the scene was over and opened my eyes prematurely and saw the last seconds of Hannah Baker’s rape: her face turned to the screen, dead eyes, violated.

As I write this, my toddler has awoken from sleep, crying out for someone to hold her.

I go. Practice.