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Like so many African Americans, I’ve had my run-ins with the police. I’ve been stopped at gunpoint for running out of stores after making a purchase. I’ve been stopped for being short (and black!). Even just because I looked suspicious.

At an early age, I learned from my mom “how to be stopped by police”. There was a period of years in my life when I’d been stopped at least once a month. Fortunately, I lived through my experiences. So many others, such as Freddie Gray of Baltimore, weren’t so blessed.

Freddie Gray was stopped in the Charm City for “running from police”. He ended up with a severed spine. Another victim of police brutality. The investigation is still underway and I’ll patiently wait to hear the results before I rush to judgment. But here is what we do know: he was denied medical attention by the police officers on the scene and he died in their custody.

Last night, I watched that city burn as riotous criminals used his death as an excuse to loot and destroy their own community. I was so angry, I began unconsciously to write a poem. Protesting the injustices is one thing, but rioting and committing acts of violence lowers us to the cheap stereotypes others still believe as truth. It does no one any good.

And now, the city has been declared in a “State of Emergency”. Soon, the National Guard will be patrolling the streets to add to this ugly mess.

Here you will find the text of my poem, as well as the audio of me reading it. I am sorry for the death Freddie Gray and the angry destruction and riots that will only hurt those most hurt by the injustices Black Americans still face in this country. You will hear anger in my voice as I read my poem. For that, I’m not sorry.

And now my poem for Freddie Gray and Baltimore…

Lost in the Smoke-Filled Mist

Ugly is the scene as vandals and thieves run.
They loot, they burn, having obscene fun.

The Charm City burns in counterfeit protest.
Selfish is their motive, as their actions confess.

The innocents try to make them see the light.
Understanding the reason for the original fight.

A Valentine in the night takes a brave stand.
Not black nor white, an American, a real man.

Haters only want to quench their own greed.
A seniors center’s burned, another cruel deed?

Up in smoke is a family’s never-ending pain.
For a brother, a son, they’ll never see again.

Freddie Gray’s family deserves better than this.
But their sacrifice is lost in the smoke-filled mist.

Listen as I read my poem “Lost in the Smoke-Filled Mist”