A Project for Better Journalism chapter
June 23, 2018 Word Of The Day: Perspicacious (adj)- Having a ready insight into and understanding of things  More →

A Collection of Poems about the Stabbing at the University of Maryland

As a lifeguard

I guard lives

My job description is the exact opposite of a cops,

Who get paid to snuff out lives

like candles they suffocate us,

sighing in relief as our fire goes out

knowing all the flames need oxygen to burn

They figure if they treat us like Eric Garners

Stealing our breath away

They’ll be safe from being burnt


At an early age we learn that to exist is to always be in danger

Black is a crime

They tell us “Be calm”

“Be respectful”

“Don’t make sudden moves”

“Yes sir, no sir”

“Don’t be bold”

“Don’t talk back”

“Don’t run”

“Don’t act suspicious”

“Don’t act black”

“Don’t BE black”


Richard Collins III made the fatal mistake of being black

His black skin, normally absorbing sunlight,

Took in a 3-4 inch knife that night

As he waited for an Uber with friends, celebrating his achievements

A soon-to-be-graduate who just wanted to have fun suddenly became a hashtag

And like all the others

I wonder if his life flashed before his eyes

If he saw himself walking across stage receiving his diploma

Hearing his dad cry tears of joy

Instead of hearing his dad cry tears of sorrow

Hearing his dad cry as he plans his funeral

Hearing his dad cry six feet under

Or just not hearing him cry at all

The dead cannot hear

Not because their bodies are so far underground

Or because their coffins are soundproof

But because a white supremacist decided that a black heartbeat was far too loud


I’ve learned a long time ago that my black brothers and sisters are not safe in this world of hate.

Their skin speaking for them before they even learn how to speak

Their hair being a problem because it rebels against gravity

Innocence cannot exist in blackness

To be black and innocent is a paradox

Like how being white and guilty is contradictory

Black babies never exist in white societies

Only potential criminals and thugs

As I lifeguard I think about all of this

My job is to protect their lives

But I can only protect them from drowning in water,

Not this unforgiving society

Nor their own blood from bullets they never deserved

Or their mother’s tears as they cry over lifeless bodies


On duty I watch little black children play Ring Around the Rosy, Marco Polo,

and finally Cops and Robbers.

Ten beautiful little black girls, two of them play the robbers,

A girl in a blue polka-dotted swimsuit aims her water gun at a girl in a black swimsuit,

She yells,


The girl complies, but polka-dots still shoots,

she giggles,

falls down,

and for a second I panic

and almost jump in.