“Race in the Heartland”

A poem inspired by discussion during a great conference on race and culture in Dubuque, IA.

Loud voices
Laughing
Walking on my street at night
Wearing bright colors so I can see them.
I wave
Or say, “What’s up?”
With a nod.
Let them know I’m not afraid,
And I hope they’re not either.
These are NEIGHBORS –
These are FRIENDS –
These are PEOPLE I turn to
Laughing
Walking up and down my porch steps
Carrying boxes inside my new home,
Downtown,
Where I guess people like me say,
“It’s dangerous.”
It isn’t.
I like that people come and go.
I like that all I have to do is smile first,
And they say, “How you doin?”
“Ight. Nice evening. You?”
“Yes ma’am, you have a good one.”
Your fear is a lie in your head
You heard over and over
In our white towns, where Black fokes keep their heads down.
Just say hello. Make a friend. Greet a neighbor.
Or ain’t you ever been to Kindergarten?


by Kailey Ann

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