South End Stew: Charleena

by Kiana Davis

Years ago

I served Charleena Lyles

in my classroom

a room filled with

resilient dreamers

Students just like her 

that believed the hope I held in my eyes

for them

the promise for a brighter future….

I taught her 

how to study for a test,

how to write an essay,

how to analyze texts,

I taught her what I’d been taught

Respectability and that education would be an equalizer

But I did not teach her

how to stay alive

there is no course for this

I did not teach her

how to bend against inhumanity

to keep her heart beating

inside her black chest.

I did not teach her      

how not to be gunned down in her home

in front of her babies

I didn’t teach her how to practice

eating the fears of others

To stay alive

but to swallow them

I did not teach her that one day

The spirit of hatred

Would steal everything from her

in order to feed its lust for privilege

I did not teach her

To pray for protection

from oppressive systematic practices

of dehumanization through imprisonment and murder

There is no course for this.

And now we must

Add your name Charleena Lyles

To the growing list of

Hashtagged Say her name pleas

How many more will be added

Until we all stand together and see

 who the real puppeteer is?

We are being murdered in a raging storm

silent throughout America

and the truth behind our deaths will break the back of a nation

that proclaims liberty to for all


for all who are not black,

for all who are not brown,

because we fit the description:

The hair on his head was white like wool,

… his arms and feet like burnt brass …

Two years ago, I wrote this poem for Sandra Bland

And now Charlene I will dedicate this poem to you too.

If they kill me,

Because they couldn’t handle the truth

Because my loudness uncovered their insecurities

Because the color of my skin is a reminder

of a debt that has yet to be paid

Because I can find beauty in the bottom

of any hell they force me into

and turn the ugliness into coveted gold

Because my womb will birth a generation of warriors

If they kill me

Spread my ashes inside of the wind

Because I will return and I heal the planet.

Kiana Davis is a South Seattle based poet and an author of two books. Her work can be found at

Featured painting: Women Who Look Ahead by Monica Stewart 


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