West of the Park - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

West of the Park

West of the Park

I grew up in DC
on the other side of 16th Street
in Rock Creek Park.

I was lucky to be born
on the ‘right side’ of 16th Street.
That was the claim of
Midwest-born white reporters
on the evening news.

I did not have to cook meals
for my younger siblings,
or fight off drug dealers and pimps,
or work after school
for my clothes and shoes.

My light skin
and proper manners
were cute in the eyes of
the blue haired ladies
in the consignment shops
and the soccer moms in the mall.

My backpacked
Catholic school body
was never bruised by
a PR-24 control police baton
or handcuff clamped
or shoved into a squad unit.

When crack flooded the city,
I rode down Georgia Avenue
in my parents’ town car
and saw dark-skinned men
pinned over automobiles,
their nostrils on fire.

When my voice deepened
and my limbs lengthen…

Suddenly,
their urge to touch my cheek
and pat my shoulder stopped.

Suddenly,
16th Street blended both sides into a cage
where I was lumped in with the boys
on the other side of the divide on Cops.

Suddenly,
I heard sounds of locking doors
and clenched purses
and whispers to cross the street.

Now,
nothing guarantees my safe passage,
not a Ferrari, not a Mumbai mansion,
not a top-level security clearance.

There are those in the white community
who tell me to get over it,
but they do not try to walk in my shoes.

They only tell me,
that my goal should be to position myself,
to land once again on the right side of 16th Street
and serve hors d’oeuvres.

From the book: Black Freak Mosh Heaven (2016 ~ Brother From Another Planet Press). Black Freak Mosh Heaven is available in Baltimore at Red Emma’s and online at Amazon.


About the author

Ron Kipling Williams

Ron Kipling Williams uses art, media, performance, and education to break down walls, facilitate open and honest conversations, and build community. He has generated a reputation for being real and authentic in tackling issues of race, class, and identity, and has influenced a generation of Baltimore-based artists. Ron’s awards include a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award, a Baltimore City African-American Male Unsung Hero Award, and a United Workers Human Rights Champion award. In 2016, Ron was selected as an alternate for the Fulbright Scholarship. Ron holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore, and serves as adjunct professor. He is the author of an autobiographical book of poetry and memoir entitled Black Freak Mosh Heaven, and is the creator, writer, and performer of Dreadlocks, Rock & Roll and Human Rights. To learn more about Ron, visit his website at www.ronkiplingwilliams.com. (Author photo credit: David Sebastiao) Contact the author.
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