Strange fruit

Written by Baela Tinsley


In the summer of 2014 I saw the grief of a nation. It came out of our body in chants, prayers, and marches. I saw it on the disfigured face of a community that had been driven to self destruction. A community that was looking for acknowledgement, for validation. A community that is continually told that their lives don’t matter, that it isn’t a crime to kill when they are the victim. To willingly take the life of another is the worst evil a man can perpetrate. Nothing upholds a culture of inequality as firmly as the idea that anyone could ever be justified in taking the life of another. The very thought assumes that one person can have a higher value than another person. But value is a construct, no blind goddess watches, no cosmic scale delivers justice. Comforting ideas I know, so I won’t try too hard to convince you of that. Instead I’ll say this: Imagine someone is pointing a gun in your face, imagine that that person could kill you right now and get away with it. That this person could end your life with the twitch of a finger. Less than a second and BANG!…..You’re dead. Imagine living your whole life in that moment.

Can you call that living? If so, then what is life? Tennessee Williams said it is “The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction […] something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that's dynamic and expressive […] Purity of heart is the one success worth having. ‘In the time of your life—live!' That time is short and it doesn't return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, Loss, Loss unless you devote your heart to its opposition."


So this is for you:

That feel the breeze upon your face

That come from anywhere to chase

The next way

Illustration courtesy of Emmy Brown

Illustration courtesy of Emmy Brown

The best way.


That summer is one I’ll n’er forget,

We can learn to live without regret

Cause it aint about what happened in the past

Its how we can make this life, the one life last


Tis a strange and bitter crop

But one thing is borne from loss:

Strange fruit

Take root.

And in dark rooms

Flowers yet bloom.


"Written in reflection on the events in Ferguson, Missouri (2014), concerning the murder of Michael Brown and all those before and after."


Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," recorded in 1939, adapted from Abel Meeropol's poem written in 1937.

*Williams, Tennessee. "On a Streetcar Named Success." The New York Times 30 Nov. 1947, Drama sec.: 1+. Print.


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