Riot Act by Ai Ogawa

Written April 29, 1992 by Ai Ogawa

I’m going out and get something.
I don’t know what.
I don’t care.
Whatever’s out there, I’m going to get it.
Look in those shop windows at boxes
and boxes of Reeboks and Nikes
to make me fly through the air
like Michael Jordan
like Magic.
While I’m up there, I see Spike Lee.
Looks like he’s flying too
straight through the glass
that separates me
from the virtual reality
I watch everyday on TV.
I know the difference between
what it is and what it isn’t.
Just because I can’t touch it
doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
All I have to do is smash the screen,
reach in and take what I want.
Break out of prison.
South Central homey’s newly risen
from the night of living dead,
but this time he lives,
he gets to give the zombies
a taste of their own medicine.
Open wide and let me in,
or else I’ll set your world on fire,
but you pretend that you don’t hear.
You haven’t heard the word is coming down
like the hammer of the gun
of this black son, locked out of this big house,
while massa looks out the window and sees only smoke.
Massa doesn’t see anything else,
not because he can’t,
but because he won’t.
He’d rather hear me talking about mo’ money,
mo’ honeys and gold chains
and see me carrying my favorite things
from looted stores
than admit that underneath my Raider’s cap,
the aftermath is staring back
unblinking through the camera’s lens,
courtesy of CNN,
my arms loaded with boxes of shoes
that I will sell at the swap meet
to make a few cents on the declining dollar.
And if I destroy myself
and my neighborhood
"ain’t nobody’s business, if I do,"
but the police are knocking hard
at my door
and before I can open it,
they break it down
and drag me in the yard.
They take me in to be processed and charged,
to await trial,
while Americans forget
the day the wealth finally trickled down
to the rest of us.
Ai Ogawa

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