Photo by AV Benford

Sestina for the Looting of the Black Body

Poem and photo essay by AV Benford

AGAIN the police killed a Black man. And again Sharpton dressed sharply is making sharp points in a eulogy. Think of it as an act of self-immolation— the dragging of the politic of this Black body— to the town square of the street corner and strip mall. The burning of flesh. The looting of her clothing, and shoes, the ransacking of her adornments, and conveniences. Placate her with leaders whose faces are black, but who mistakenly believe that this time “rage” will be selective in its outburst— that rage will be responsible— that rage will act with respectability. Pelt her flesh with rubber bullets. Bash her head on the sidewalk. Use a no-knock warrant. In service of that Black respectability call her a suspect so that she is executed in her sleep and denied burial. Give statements in solidarity’s eulogy. Drag her by the hair. Call her cause righteous and give lip service to protest. Tell her— her rage must be beneficial. Watch her as she smiles back at you through broken teeth and lip, this body. Tell her to be peaceful when you really mean quiet. With boisterous speeches placate and kneel as the hearse of her contract with this society passes by. And with looting and arson— when she rattles this cage, with baseball bats— mob up against the rage— throw bricks through windows And drag Black folks from cars, accuse them of looting and pin her kindred to the ground— because there is no true power— only power over this Black body. Tell her to be non-violent when you really mean act with complicity and with respectability. When the banks to her community lend 12 cents for every dollar they lend to white areas, a eulogy for Black homeownership. A eulogy for small business expansion. With grants placate—

Assure her that corporate chains mean investment and with minor minority programs placate. Put in dollar stores where there were once black-owned grocery stores and watch sledgehammers rage through back doors in business districts. And for 87th and Cottage Grove— a eulogy. When the children of this body— burn and flood and strip to the rafters with looting that which was never truly ours— act surprised at this lack of respectability. And when they turn on Black-owned stores, like sharks following a slave ship, mourn this body. As her children sing her grandparents’ rallying cries, mourn this body. As another is crushed under the blue wall, with indictments placate. Watch as naked in the middle of the street she never breaks gaze. Respectability here is paying homage by kneeling on broken glass. Watch as she lifts her hand, chews the shards in a rage. Watch as she calls Mama with a bloody mouth. Watch this goddess of looting pour the gasoline and light the match. In the fire, she does not scream, she conjures a eulogy. For this Black body, she chants for inextinguishable rage for death to incremental change— that we remain difficult to placate with shiny things like thoughts and prayers. For this Black body, she begs for an end to our continual looting. As the flames consume her visage she pleas for the heavy of this moment to be an undying movement. For Black respectability and the politics it adheres to, she sings a long overdue eulogy.

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Delores Benford and Kendall Simpson watch the “looting” on 87th from their stoop on Calumet.
The aftermath at Family Dollar
The burning of Star Beauty
Let it burn (Star Beauty)
The cleanup at Shoe Time
Proprietor Shawndel Brown on her van in front of her store “Dream Creations”. She had been keeping watch with her firearm over her store, Dream Creations, for over twenty-four hours when this photo was taken.
Realtor/community member Whitney Hampton and her cleanup crew. Pictured in front of Shoe Time on Cottage Grove near 86th.
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AV Benford is a staff writer at the Weekly. Her last article for the Weekly was Krista Franklin is Real AF. 

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