The Ditch

Combustion, by Marcia Foutch

By Marcia Foutch

I lived in Minneapolis for more than 30 years before I moved to Greensboro five years ago.  Our family home is at 32nd and Columbus which is 6 blocks from where George Floyd was killed. The majority of my family lives in the Minneapolis area (including the now infamous Brooklyn Center). At the beginning of the uprising that started last summer my son, who we call Bubby, asked me,” “Why do white people care about the murder of George Floyd? They’ve been killing us for more than 400 years – so what is so different about this one?”  I struggled trying to figure out an answer to his question. I thought about Grace Lee Boggs and her advice to look at “What time is it on the clock of the world?’.  And I thought of Reverend Nelson Johnson talking about the small streams of justice that flow into a mighty river that cannot be stopped.  And I thought of something that Deacon Bob Foxworth at Faith Community Church told me when I got to Greensboro a few years ago about what it takes to hold a man down in a ditch.  And after months of grappling with this question- this poem is my attempt to answer Bubby’s question.

Sparked this
Uprising? What is it
About the killing of
George Floyd that
Made White America care
About the killing of
This Black Mother’s son?

What is it
About this moment
In time? This particular
What made
Us believe this Black
Life mattered?

On Sept. 8 2018
The Greensboro police
Hogtied Marcus Deon Smith
Face down in the street
Chatted over him
While he breathed his
Last breath
But no one marched in Atlanta
Or Tulsa? Broke windows
Or burned a police station

And so

Are we
Outraged NOW?

We saw Derek
Chauvin dig his
Knee in George
Floyd’s neck with
His hand in his pocket
For 9 minutes and
29 seconds
While he pleaded
For mercy and
For his mother

We saw
The video
We saw
George Floyd close
His eyes and
His Soul leave
His Body

We saw
Our soul sickness
In Derek Chauvin’s
Vacant eyes with
His sunglasses
Perched on
His forehead

We saw
George Floyd
In handcuffs
Face down in the street
Being murdered
By the state

The same state that was
Already Failing us now–
We knew that Fear
The Anxiety of this Time
When we did not know
Who to trust or if anyone
Would really show up
 to help us

A friend once told me
Down here in the South:
“It is impossible
To stand on another
Man’s neck in the ditch
And get out of that
Ditch yourself”

A stream
Began in a ditch
In south Minneapolis
At 38th and Chicago
 It flowed down
Lake Street to the
Third precinct

By the end of the week
it was a river connecting
More than 750 cities
By the end of the next week
It had reached the oceans with
More than 60 tributaries in every
Continent -except Antarctica

Covid and all its effects
Capitalism’s failure to care for us
The No Excuses Racism
That slapped us in the face
As we watched George Floyd
Die facedown in the street
All set in a moment when we had
Space to hit PAUSE

This estuary
Of polluted evidence
Made us look around
And realize
That we were
All down there
In that ditch

The people
Rose up

Marcia Foutch is a retired teacher who is a member of the Greensboro Justice Coalition, the Greensboro Historical Teaching Alliance and Faith Community Church.  She is part of a blended family that is black and white and many shades in between.  She likes to dance, write, paint, and just be around big water.

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