RAVINA

Mama told me ain’t nothing free here,
and if they tell you it is,
they’re gonna take something near,
instill you with fear,
spread false news to ya ears,
I can’t stand all the ignorance, by now it’s just clear,
that this country & people that run it just fear
Those with a voice & those that they think are “lost souls” with no home
stolen land, grown to own,
now there’s drones, surveilling these streets
and these hoods like it’s their own.
I’ll compare,
the way mistreatment affect mines versus yours
You step in a reality with so much more
like fortune and wealth
like safety and health
built off the backs of my fam
and here we go stressin’ about glam?
like Met Galas and censoring those with a voice.
Free speech for those below and those with authority stay quiet
Protests outside of museums- stay quiet
Protests outside on the streets- stay quiet
Fight for our lives on our knees- stay quiet
Speak up against what we see- stay quiet
Stay quiet! stay quiet! stay quiet! -they say.
afraid of the masses
so they choose just to stare.
Now we’re forced to conform,
with agendas and norms
Out of the box means out of your minds!
When we speak up and fight;
we’re displaced by the night
and when morning arises
we fear losing our rights
Our sight of the prize

A birthright to breathe
The fact that we’re a target
like we’re just too bold for them
The real is we know of them,
the ones that were holdin em’
in chokeholds, no indictments
and this fight isn’t over yet
goes til the morning then,
morphs and evolves and then
lives by our breath,
and survived by our children.
When we raise em, we train them to know of these rules
–unspoken
Only thing that we need,
is to rip off this tape & bleed solidarity
Are you hearing me?
Fight for our lives on our knees- stay quiet
Speak up against what we see- stay quiet
Stay quiet! stay quiet! stay quiet!–they say
but we know that we have every right to stay.
May our nights be less weary, our daydreams less scary
our children in safety,
our elders in care.
Don’t just stare.
know that we believe in a cause that is greater
It ain’t about later,
Because they may silence us with their laws,
take us away like outlaws
But we always got God,
and we always got us
So let all of these red flags burn into dust

*   *   *

My Megaphone Blasting Truth and Power

Why I Wrote This Spoken Word Piece for Julian Assange

Julian Assange’s story is one of debate, controversy, scandal and the basis of critical dialogue across the world. As a writer, poet and author, I can relate to being silenced, monitored and surveilled for speaking my truth as a first-generation daughter of South Asian immigrants. I’ve seen too many injustices to count. I’ve seen countless people and groups silenced for speaking their truth.

At times, I’ve grown weary of how others use their rights of free speech to condone racist slurs, discriminatory language, derogatory remarks and just offensive language. All things considered, I’ve often pondered, at what point do we come to an understanding or a middle ground around the topic of free speech? Is there even a middle ground to this constitutional right?

I believe that we have an obligation to uphold the truth, no matter how brutal and ugly it is. Media, whether written, digital or print, is often the passport we have as everyday folks to tap into the happenings of the world. When we tap in, we become informed and have the right to take action after knowing the facts, truth and opinions.

Poetry, for me, is an outlet to bring power to truth and be unfiltered in my speech. I know what it is like to be censored both in writing and speech. My first major grand-scale public speech about the real issues that Black and brown students face was edited by people who ran organizations meant to serve the wellbeing of our children. My words around the murders of Black and brown students were removed “in the best interests of others.” I’ve had folks criticize the poems I’ve written about abortion, Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights and women’s issues.

I wrote “Red Flags” in response to free speech, and more-so, free expression. I wrote it because no matter your stance on Julian Assange, you too may know what it feels like to live in oppression for unveiling the truth behind the attacks of the oppressors. We are silenced and targeted due to our heritage, the color of our skin, our gender and our intersectional identities every day. Assange’s case struck me as another story where
“they” choose to silence “us.” Even when given the right to protest, we are silenced and locked up for speaking against what we see as injustice.

My goal with this spoken word piece is to bring awareness to how free speech, though known to be “free,” is often censored, leaving the voices of those we need to hear, muted. We live in a country where hierarchies in race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and identity exists.

My hope is that this piece is a reclamation of our truths and a megaphone blasting them loudly, with a braveness and the intention of raising awareness to what real truth is. I leave you with this question: Who are we without our ability to speak out on the injustices of the world? I hope that in “Red Flags” we find pieces of each other, ready to be stitched back together after being ripped apart, with the goal of uniting us in truth and power.

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