© 2019 Bronx Native

Tell me about yourself, Darriel

 

I witnessed my first act of violence at the age of five. It left me traumatized and searching for an escape, but in a place like the South Bronx, there was no such thing. I began writing short stories in the sixth grade as a way to process everything around me. During my senior year of high school, I fell into a depression and found poetry as a form of expression and healing. Even when I felt like I had no one to turn to, the writing was always there to catch me. It saved my life countless times. 
Many of my poems, especially Ghetto Youth and Who Am I, have been inspired by conversations I’ve had while traveling abroad. Unlike most people in my community, I have had the privilege of traveling to a total of ten countries on four different continents before the age of twenty-three. Each person that I have met overseas holds an obscure and misinformed perception of the Bronx in their mind. Most of what people know about the Bronx are through the stereotypes they consume from the media or word of mouth. I have met people from all over the world who, upon discovering where I am from, respond by saying, “Are your friends criminals?” or “I was told to never visit the Bronx if I go to New York” When I write, I choose to focus primarily on subjects such as trauma, violence, corruption, stereotyping, and resilience. When I write, my intention is to not only to deconstruct stereotypes about my community but to also provide more context behind our stories.

 

 

 

 

Ghetto Youth

By Darriel McBride

 

They tell us to hold on.

Keep praying

and change will come.

But ghetto youth don't pray.

We fight.

Violence is a language of its own.

The ghetto is its own world

stitched into its own grimy tapestry.

A playground and battlefield

dressed in needles, blunts,

pissy elevators,

broken dreams and dead bodies.

 

Our bodies

Still currency

Our bodies

Still in bondage

Cages

Coffins

Pavements

Backyards,

Classrooms,

Subway platforms,

And bodegas..

We are not as promising

as the stock market

But still overstocked like cattle

in prison cells.

 

The American dream?

Or The American Nightmare?

 

My eyes were made in the Bronx,

but they don't limit my perception.

I'm the rose that grew from the concrete.

I'm from ground zero

where black and brown bodies

still get auctioned like fine jewelry.

The streets are our runway

and our prison yard.

Ghetto youth will break your heart and your face.

Unapologetic with every poisonous word

we spit.

Swag on 100.

 

A liquor store on every block

We spit and drink words of poison,

like our water--

toxic.

I'm from summers cooled off by the fire hydrant.

I'm from broken down kitchens

with leaking roofs and TV dinners.

 

This that Bronx state of mind.

That New York nationality.

The miseducation of a dope baby.

Daughter of a junkie.

But the perfect matrimony

of woke and classy.

So that makes me dope

in every sense of the word.

Ghetto girl.

 

I'm from different street corners

with ethnicities, salons, and bodegas.

Fast food, but no farmers markets.

I'm from sugar cane, cotton

and cold shackles.

 

You see,

I may have been planted in the dirt

but I'm a seed of royalty.

I've been casted into a community

that knows pain, anger and loss

like children should know laughter.

 

Most of the time it's always raining

because the system has turned many of my bredrin

into natural disasters.

A caged neighborhood

ushered by government policies.

Killing fields we call the Trenches

But who built these streets?

Who cooked the crack cocaine?

Who sold and brought in the pellets of death

that find their way into the bodies

of innocent young dreamers

when we don't have passports?

When the idea of leaving the hood is foreign language.

 

If I showed you the portrait of my life

What would you make of it?

Would you deem it as equally beautiful

as the abstract lines of blues and reds

that sell for half a million dollars

at the Museum of Modern Art?

 

Some of us make it out of here,

but the game is always played with faded dice.

So forgetting is what we do best.

and even in our victories

we are made to feel smaller than the rest.

 

My eyes were made in the hood,

but they don't limit my perception.

The ghetto is its own colorful world

stitched into a recycled tapestry.

That’s art.

 

They tell us to hold on.

Keep praying

and change will come.

But ghetto youth don't pray.

They fight.

They tell us we should smile more

but roses don't smile they die.

 

Every kid

from the ghetto

has some gangsta in them.

Especially me.

But even being tough

is not enough

for a one way ticket

out of the struggle.

No matter where I go
home is still the concrete jungle.

 

 

 

 

Who Am I

 

I am life.

I am the moon.

I am divine feminine energy.

I am a peaceful melody

I am the beauty of the sunset and the glory of the sunrise.

I am the world's greatest prize.

I am cotton candy skies.

I am hope.

I am the light that shines through the leaves of trees.

I am love.

I am the wind and the seas.

Deep and everlasting.

I am determined.

I am bold.

I am the greatest story ever told.

A warrior Princess covered in gold

I am the blood and tears of my ancestors. Planted in the dirt.

But I am the seed of royalty.

I am not what I seem.

I am the American dream.

Sugar and cream.

Black coffee.

Black tea.

Black unapologetically.