So I’m touring the Texas State Capitol…

My guy Eddie thought this was a computer chip. Hmm… its ancestor maybe…?

On the 2nd anniversary of the debut of my book Sleeper Cell, and with the 1 year anniversary of the takedown of Robert E. Lee only days away (more on that in 3 days), here’s a poem I wrote after visiting the Texas state capitol a year before I co-founded Take Em Down NOLA, the coalition that toppled the four. Funny how life imitates art. The realities we seed with the creation we dream up. Here’s an absolutely true story, the foud poem that helped sprout my activism. If you dig the work, cop the book free of Shipping & Handling for the next 24 hours. For now, here’s the text (video at bottom):

So I’m touring the Texas State Capitol…

…my small brown body cast against the canvas of tall white coliseums
reaching back centuries, I’m dwarfing in the bleached shadows of their history

where brown bodies like mine were but minor details in the portrait of American destiny
manifest only in the margins as footnotes on the pages of recorded history

but right now… right now my thoughts are of Brianna
Brianna, of light Latina hue and American college girl humor

she is a walking library of White Supremacist mythology
trapped in a mausoleum of Mestizo skin, Brianna

knowledgeable tour guide who just walked me & some 30
visitors through the pristine halls of the Capitol

the jokes glint off her tongue with irony
her commentary clashes with her culture

as she speaks of Texas history in the possessive, “We were defeated
by Mexico in the Battle of the Alamo in 1836,” she says

We rallied back 6 weeks later and won the Battle of San Jacinto
thereby founding the great state of Texas,” she continues…

& I keep trying to figure out how she manages
to fit all her light brown me
inside of all that Western White we

how she minces memories of Moccasin shoe mamas
beneath the steel toes & steers of Lone Star boots
walking her across the marble floors of her oppressor’s history

as she speaks, there’s a festival going on in front of the capitol
her voice struggles to be heard above blaring sounds of Reggaeton

rhythms booming from the speakers outside
& I can’t help but wonder if the cognitive dissonance inside
her head doesn’t blare just as loudly

there are women, many of Brianna’s hue, dancing to her people’s music
I think they’re doing Zuumba… or the Macarena… or something that English

words just fail to do justice & I’m wondering how she fails
to see the injustice in the story she’s been paid to propagate

& can she hear her ancestor’s rebuttal
thumping in the drums as they echo
through the halls of the Texas State Capitol

Brianna! …can you hear your ancestors calling?

at the tour’s end, an elderly white women asks Brianna
“What does the word Texas mean?”

She quickly replies, “It’s a Cahto Indian word for friendship.”
& I immediately want to look up the word friendship to see

if there’s anything I missed, perhaps
there are etymological references to blood

splattered chieftains & Trails of Tears
maybe those are key ingredients
to lifelong bonds & i’m the oblivious one

or maybe

maybe Texas… like America… is just a really fucked up friend
the kind that vice grips your bones in its handshake until

your bones are ground to dust & your remains are left
to mix with the blood & sweat of capital gains to form

the watered down colors they use to paint
the monuments to their greatness

they’ll shade you into their shadows
etch your name in the edges
of their borders

as footnote
loser of the battle
vanquished foe turned mascot
misguided tour guide through the halls of their history

never as foundation

as keeper of land before hostile takeover

as blood rites to this ground before oil rape


if you are friendship

…then what do I call my enemies?

Buy Sleeper Cell here

The Ellisonian Basement is a collection of my writings on Blackness & visibility in the post-modern world, OR Duboisian double consciousness under surveillance.

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