Harmony on the Vine (Spill Paint Not Blood)

The myth of race has supported the horrors of slavery, apartheid, segregation, eugenics, and the Holocaust. It continues to support racism. We simply cannot ignore the harm this myth has caused… The scientific, democratic, and ethical goal should be to eliminate the false idea of race completely. – John L. Hodge

Glenn North is currently the Director of Education and Community Programs at the Black Archives of Mid-America. He is the author of “City of Song” and was recently appointed the inaugural Poet Laureate of the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. photo by Diallo French

In these times of such upheaval
when the only choice
for Commander-in-Chief
is the lesser of two evils,

when men of color in
their various hues
are human targets
for the boys in blue

when a Dakota Pipeline
matters more
than the indigenous people
who were there before,

when immigrant families
are torn apart
and children are ripped
from their mother’s arms

when voter suppression
in the southern sphere
turns the clock back fifty years

when little girls in Flint
can’t brush their teeth
cause the water is filled
with toxic debris

It’s time to step back
and examine our hearts
It’s time for life
to imitate art…

This miraculous mural
has taught us this much
we can learn to spill paint
not blood.

Each delicate brushstroke,
each scene depicted
shows that despite
our various pigments

we truly are just one race –
one human family
in various shades.

No matter how divisive
they try to paint us,
somewhere deep inside
we know that ain’t us.

Even when we reflect
on this town’s history,
and look under the sheets
to a time when Black folks couldn’t live
past 27th Street,

we know even then
there was a place
where jazz music transcended
the notion of race.

where no one cared
if you were white or Black
if you were movin and groovin
to the 12th Street Rag,

where musicians at Milton’s
didn’t discriminate,
all they cared about
was if you could play.

Where Hootie and Bird’s
genius left stereotypes shattered,
showing the world
that Black Music Matters!
Yes, there was a majesty,
a splendor,
going far beyond wealth,

that occupied the space
between 18th and 12th.

If you take time
to notice that glory isn’t gone,
at the American Jazz Museum
the tradition jams on.

Just think of all
the beautiful hands that took part
in creating this incredible
work of art.

This masterpiece is an alarm,
a wake-up call, a cry…
a siren screaming to all
stop believing the lie,
the road is too long
the stakes are too high

so we must paint the way
and help the world find
the harmony we created
here on the Vine.

–Glenn North


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