1. The Exchange: To Our Flags
  2. The Exchange: The Negro Speaks of Dryland
  3. The Exchange: blue is darker than Black
  4. The Exchange: Sans Fleur
  5. The Exchange: Blindspot
  6. The Exchange: Her.
  7. The Exchange: Lint
  8. The Exchange: Reality Check
  9. The Exchange: Caution
  10. The Exchange: Rubik’s Cube
  11. The Exchange: The Path
  12. The Exchange: sTREEtS
  13. The Exchange: Butter
  14. The Exchange: The Bright Side
  15. The Exchange: Concrete to Shoreline
  16. This Empty Cage
  17. Paper Machete
  18. The Exchange: Marketplace
  19. The Exchange: One Year Anniversary
  20. The Exchange: Sunscreen Affective Disorder (SAD) 
  21. The Exchange: Immigration & Culture
  22. The Exchange: Love, Street Cleaning, & Other Myths
  23. The Exchange: An Accent Enters a Room and Says Good Morning
  24. The Exchange: An ode to Oceania
  25. The Exchange: Happy New Year
  26. The Exchange: NEW GROOVE/LODESTAR
  27. The Exchange: Wolves, Strides, and Landslides
  28. The Exchange: Honest Haikus
  29. The Exchange: Foreheads, Haikus and More
  30. The Exchange: Softness, Water Bottles, and Movie Theaters
  31. The Exchange: Algae and Understanding
  32. The Exchange: we like it here!
  33. The Exchange: tag & waiting
  34. The Exchange: spare
  35. The Exchange: Marketplace
  36. The Exchange: some coffee
  37. The Exchange: A Scary Story
  38. The Exchange: Consumer Report
  39. The Exchange: Affirmations and Sunflowers
  40. The Exchange: Autopay and A Fast Summer
  41. The Exchange: Squirrels and The White
  42. The Exchange: The Taj Mahal and Rutina de Sueño
  43. The Exchange: The Garden
  44. The Exchange: Jess Taught Me My Body Is Trying Its Best
  45. The Exchange: Jollof Rice and Losing it
  46. The Rotation
  47. The Exchange: Definitely late, but here, and Doubt
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The Negro Speaks of Dryland
by Chima “Naira” Ikoro
After The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

I’ve known vacant lots:
I’ve known vacant lots ancient as gang signs and older than “I’ll bring your bike back, I promise.”

My soul has grown gardens by force
like the vacant lots.

I drank from hoses when my dawgs were young.
I built my friendships near train tracks, the same ones that lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon my homies and imagined Us growing old on this side of Earth.
I heard singing at funerals when some didn’t make it, and I’ve seen
pall bearers without a single gray hair.

I’ve known vacant lots:
Ancient, unpredictable vacant lots.
My soul has grown gardens like the vacant lots.

Chima Ikoro is the community organizing editor for the Weekly. She last wrote about Juneteenth becoming a recognized federal holiday.

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Prompt: “How have the ‘powers that be’ failed the person next to you?”

“What do you know about the grief that growth causes and the growth that grief causes?”

This could be a poem, a stream-of-consciousness piece, or a short story.

Submissions can be sent to bit.ly/ssw-exchange or via email to chima.ikoro@southsideweekly.com.


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Featured below is a reader response to a previous prompt. The last poem and prompt can be found here.

By China Smith

I wonder who coined this term

I think they confused it with force

They wave their hands and make us bow down

I thought power was effortless…

Here we are, confined

And they dangle the keys in front of our faces

I think they confused it with the devil…

White man, you meanie!

Don’t you know that brute force is nothing to real power?

And while we haven’t all United it’s because we’re picking up the pieces

It’s because you set an ongoing booby-trap

So now half of us still can’t read

It’s because we still fighting for benches

And painting white fences Black

And you’re the mad scientist watching it happen

Watching us scramble for the scraps

And you profit off of our backs

I’m not a person, I’m a number

Someone in the IRS’s check

A check off the checklist

Sometimes this feels like some sick game that we were born to play

Now I’m chained to my bed figuring out how to make bread

You breadcrumb us and dumb us down

Now we numb, but you curse your own tongue

That ain’t power! That’s pitiful!

My freedom shouldn’t be political

I think you confused it with propaganda

It’s right when your system doesn’t suffice

But it’s wrong when we stand up?

It’s right that when your officer shines their light

We put our hands up?

And I know you can’t understand us 

But we understand you

Let us pull back the veil and show America’s truth.

China Smith is an artist and activist from Englewood. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter!

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