Friday, February 12, 2016

Prison Snow - My First Taste of Non-White Non-Privilege

Long before "White Privilege" was a term, it was a reality.  And it very much still is.  Nearly 20 years ago, while I worked with Levi (see 2/11/16 post) at age 19, a young anglo-American from suburban Detroit, I wrote this poem.

You see, I had already noticed something.  I knew that I could easily get my hands on marijuana or ecstasy, make use of it in suburban basements, and watch other young anglo-kids selling drugs with very little fear of repercussion or criminalization.  But my brown-skinned peers, who often lived in small apartments with no finished basements or spare bedrooms, were getting caught on street corners and incarcerated for far too long.  Winter meant snow sports and fun for me.  Winter means different things for different peoples.
Artist: DeJesus

I would later teach some of those peers' children in New Orleans.  Kids growing up in the reality of a parent, a parent who loves them, serving far too much time.

This poem goes out to my brothers and sisters behind bars in Michigan today.  I pray you find some warmth:


Not the frosted vanilla roofs of
Hansel and Gretel’s Home
sweet Home; not the smooth
iridescent shells of eggs,
the blanket on mountains
beneath swift skis; not the promise
of a day away from school, nor whipped 
cream beneath a cherry; not neighborhoods
powdered with street-light sugar;

no, this snow is
like salt blocks, curing
in the freezer, this snow is 
hardened by the whip of wind
that bolts across the Yard;
the mounds collecting in the corners
of the icebox, a flash like
broken glass; the winding
electrified fence, rods
of Freon.

The inmates sing while they shovel:
the hum of the refrigerator
late at night, lulling a child to sleep.

-Matthew John Schmitt, 1997

Happy Birthday NAACP.  Peace and blessings to you all.
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