Heavy is the head that wears the kinky, curly, coily crown of blackness in America.
Poet Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib reminds his audience of this in his piece titled "That Crown Ain't Worth Much." Performed at the 2015 National Poetry Slam in Oakland, California, Willis-Abdurraqib talks about the hardships, tragedies and pain that many black people have to endure.
Even though Wills-Abdurragib is still breathing, he said he couldn't help but to "see my reflection in the slick red river spilling from" a late childhood friend who's story is woven throughout the poem.
Death becomes routine, the poet laments.
"I know there's always going to be a dead black body in summer," he says in the video above, connecting the lynchings of years ago to the alarming rate in which young black lives are being taken by police brutality. "In a country that wishes your children buried, you do not wish a child on your children."
Though Wills-Abdurragib is older now and in a different environment than the one in which he was raised, he says in the poem that he still longs for freedom from this encumbering routine:
"Nostalgia is a gift for the living. When I say that I am growing old, I mean that I have lived long enough to fear death. I have seen my name carved into stone pressed in the cold earth. I can see what rests on the edge of my reflection, how I look so much like my mother who now looks like no one still alive. This nomadic face. This blank slate eager to shake itself free. This legacy eager to be given but no one wanting to carry it's burden. "
Unfortunately, his words may feel all too familiar for many.
Watch Willis-Abdurraqib recite the full poem in the video above.