“Then V. Now” by Rejjia Camphor

On April 25, Writers in Baltimore Schools held a write-in for its members to respond to the death of Freddie Gray and the Baltimore Uprising five years later. All this week, the Beat is running the poems, essays, and reflections that came out of the write-in…

Then,

There were men trapped in rooms,

inside of buildings

and libraries

because

awaiting outside was

the uprising

If you stepped outside,

your whole body could feel

the force of the flames

burning

injustice to the ground

Your feet could be

transported,

on top of cars,

stomping them

in,

as you think about

all that could’ve been.

Now,

A new day has arisen.

CVS got rebuilt and is still open,

but today,

you have to stand six away from

everyone

to get your medicine

and your groceries.

Now,

There still are

men

trapped inside of rooms

but instead of libraries,

these buildings are

maximum security prisons,

and inside where

innocents stand behind

steel bars

that mock them

for being black

and being wrong,

they are waiting

for the outside,

for the vans not pulling up to give them medical services

for COVID-19,

for their uprising.

Now,

Outside

There is still an uprising

but not over police brutality

but instead over

restrictions

for a virus

that is killing us

like white people have

for years.

Then,

There were schools closing early.

Now,

There are still schools closing early.

Then,

There was

hands

being wiped clean

of accountability

and cleaning up

the scene of the crime

Now,

There is

hands washing

thoroughly

and cleaning

everything

in site.

Then,

There was police.

Now,

There is a virus.

But

it’s still hard

to know

the difference.

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