Step into My Black Shoes

By Gary L. Lemons
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Step into My Black Shoes
Poems on Arts and Healing

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As we continue this month’s focus on Arts and Healing, our guest editor Gary Lemons shares two poems he wrote, and several visual artworks.

“Hopefully they will provide a clear context for the thematic connection for all our stories of art as a critical source for healing in this time of trauma, especially related to mass shootings in the US.”
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Artwork by Gary L. Lemons

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Step into My Black Shoes

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Step into my Black shoes.

What did you say? I don’t think I can imagine doing that.
But you don’t have any problem possibly hitting me with a bat.
Man, you really think I’m full of that racist shit.
You know I can’t wear your Black shoes. They don’t fit.
Why does the color and size of my shoes always matter to you?
It always has to be about you thinking through your white view?
Why do you have to ask me one race question after question?
For real? Stepping into my Black shoes was just a suggestion.
I told you that your shoes are not my chose color or size.
Listen, I’m just trying to help you racially realize.
Realize what racially? Now you asking me?
It’s not always about what you think you desire to see?
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Step into my Black shoes.
Is it really about how small, big, wide they are?
Or is about the color of them you don’t like? That’s the bar!
I know what it is—you don’t like their Black label.
Come on, let’s put all the racial cards on the table.
Okay, the truth is I don’t even want to imagine what they feel like.
Then you know what you can do for me, just take a white hike!
I know the real deal. You think my Black shoes stink—
That my shoes are cheap, that I most likely got them from Goodwill.
For you it’s all about using your credit card to pay the high-price shoe bill.
For you it’s all about wearing the brand name with might and power.
You need to put your worn-down dirty Black shoes in the shower.
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Step into my Black shoes.
I went to school just like you did.
But the difference is that my Black self I just hid.
I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want to say I didn’t have enough—
To buy the brand of expensive shoes you wear that are really buff.
Everybody always told you that your white shoes were the ones to look out for.
Anything less than what you wear wouldn’t make the score.
My mother and father told me to never be ashamed of what I wear—
Even if my Black shoes were so old that they were loose because of a tear.
To tell the truth, I wanted to be white like you—and sometimes still do.
Maybe it’s because the tone of my darker skin color hue.
For real, sometimes wearing my Black shoes does hurt,
Because you’re right, they are filled with historic dirt.
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Step into my Black shoes.
Why are you being so honest and open?
I needed to share with you words I have never spoken.
You really that embarrassed about your Black shoes?
Yes, they do in fact cause me to step into the muddy blues.
Your experiences wearing those Black shoes cause you to become depressed?
To be honest, wearing them in this land has always made me feel stressed.
To me wearing these dirty, torn, cheap, ugly Black shoes—I have no choice.
As I told you, in reality, the way they look in your white eyes takes away my voice.
Why don’t you just go out and steal a fine, white expensive pair?
What you think I should do is rooted in a misdirected, racist stereotype.
You base it in a history of oppression that’s caught up in the slave-syndrome hype.
If you ain’t the right color, if you’re poor, you come from a broke-down nation—
Obviously, you have not bought into the “American [white] Dream” dictation.
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Step into my Black shoes.
Now I think you know what the problem is—it really ain’t my Black shoes.
You helping me to figure out how I filled your Black shoes with racist, despicable clues.
You telling me I don’t really want to know about the racist oppressions you have to fight—
Even though I know how I treat you is not humanely right.
Man, all I want to do is laugh and joke about it.
You wear Black shoes that are simply the ones that I don’t think I fit.
My dear white brother, if you were to wear one of my Black shoes for a minute—
You might feel how much pain I experience in it.
In truth, I must admit that there is something good in my Black-shoe pain.
In the midst of my pain-filled shoe-history, my folks kept their heart true.
No matter the experience of white supremacy they experienced, they did make it through.
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Step into my Black shoes.
Putting on my Black shoes, you will comprehend a more humane vision.
That all people deserve to live should be a life-saving collective decision.
I shouldn’t be jealous of your Black shoes because they promote you to a status high.
If anything, I want you to try on my Black shoes so that you might look up to the sky.
There you will see the One that created you and me to be people who love and care—
Not separated just because of the color and price of the shoes we all wear.
Putting on my Black shoes, you would begin to see me for the Black man I am—
Not someone who is a push-over, nor a person to slam.
I am a human being just like you, even though my Black shoes are worn out.
As I have told you, keeping my mouth closed keeps me full of doubt.
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Step into my Black shoes.
I am somebody, regardless of the age, quality, and low price of my Black shoes.
Life ain’t all about my Black shoes or your white ones. But they do represent different views.
The important thing is that we can walk in our shoes across color-lines to bring us closer.
No more systemized oppression and division tied to white shoes over Black ones.
Let’s focus on joining in unity, perhaps singing a hymn about love for our daughters and sons.
Which one? “How I Got Over: My Soul Looks Back and Wonders”—it’s a Black gospel song.
It has to do with spiritual ways historically Black folks struggled to survive and made it along.
Now I think you can imagine what it would be like to wear my Black shoes.
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Artwork by Gary L. Lemons

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In an Out-Standing Black Course to Freedom
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To be out-standing you must come out.
Just open that locked door. You have the key, no doubt.
The key is to simply say: “I am ME!”
You were born with these visionary words that speak: “Free!”
Black Lives Matter is the subject of this course.
It is the life-saving power that is the root of its self-liberating force.
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“Come out, standout wherever you are.”
The door you’ve locked has a key;
You need to find it so you can be free!
Free from the chains of white supremacy.
I will help you discover who you are beyond the door.
In search of who you are means getting’ yo’ butt up off the floor.
It’s going to be a chore, but you can handle it.
No need to regret it; you know you are a white “misfit.”
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“Come out, standout wherever you are.”
I see you even though you don’t often see your Black yourself.
You have chosen to remain blind to what’s on your life shelf.
You are many parts but only in one body,
But you are still trying to please every[white]body.
Fakin’ it ain’t helping you to make it.
The white mask you wear simply don’t fit.
Behind that door is a life that you won’t live.
You are always trying to be somebody who doesn’t want to give.
Living in your white life is all about Black self-sacrifice.
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“Come out, standout wherever you are.”
Hiding your Black self from yourself is your plan,
But before you were born there was an “I can!”
The “it” is not what matters; it’s your Black life that matters,
But you got to come down off those “Ivory Tower” ladders.
The time you have to live is not forever on this land,
Even though you think all you do is grand.
Get on this ship to take a trip to the homeland to be unbound.
Open the door with the key you know you found.
It’s always been right there before you on this ground.
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“Come out, standout wherever you are.”
Time is running out, but the race for Blackness is not over.
You are not first even as you “pass”, but do you really know how to recover?
Don’t play yourself. You know the truth and it’s the proof.
All is not well with you until you climb up on that white roof.
You need to see the liberating vision of Blackness inside of you.
Stand out and see yourself in order to be your real Black self.
Stop looking at what white folks want you to do in service to open their door.
Remember you are the one who possesses the emancipating key.
It will open the door of self-enslavement to whiteness to set you free.
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“Come out, standout wherever you are.”
Open the door, walk in the path of Blackness; it is not restrictive or tight.
You don’t have to argue anymore to justify your being or put up a fight.
There is much more room in yourself for you to explore on the outside;
But you must start to connect to the heart of Blackness on your inside.
That inner examination is not about self-destruction.
Begin rebuilding yourself on solid ground for inner-heart reconstruction.
Bring all people for social justice together to join with you to make a difference!
Building radical alliances to end racism will make a critical change in this land.
But it will definitely mean that you must stop wearing that assimilated, white mask.
Hiding behind your performance of it is the minstrel show that has been your prison.
The colonized performance of whiteness is the death of your soul. It cannot be risen.
Remember you always have a choice. It must be about claiming your Black power voice.
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“Come out, standout wherever you are.”
Stand outside that white door; you have the liberating key.
In this Black course, your voice matters. I teach you how to speak to be free.
Take this key I give you that our ancestors have placed in my hand.
With it, find yourself true Black self in your African Motherland.
There you will find yourself filled with joy and peace.
In that homeplace you will discover your release.
You were created to be Black which makes you outstanding.
All you have to do is answer your calling—take that as the key.
No one can keep you from being yourself to be.
When you have opened that Black door, enter to accept yourself.
Welcome the new you! Your assignment? Read every book on that Black shelf.
Keep reading writings by radical Black authors to succeed in reclaiming the liberated you!
Because the “who” you are searching for is in the book called—The Black You!
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ART Biography for Gary L. Lemons, Ph.D.

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I am an abstract, Africanist painter, writer and spoken-word artist. I aim for my artistry to inspire all individuals to discover their creative giftedness.

My vision of art is a bridge of connection for all people locally, nationally and internationally. Whether it be through our voices, our physical performative movement, and/or our creative writing — I seek to envision in my art that which lies beyond the limits of visual perception. My art challenges everyone to see beyond the material world — opening our hearts up to the soulful place of imaginative realization.

My art allows individuals to be present in these new worlds where we can live creatively, love freely and lavish joyfully in the inspiration of our artistic calling. My artwork acts to bring human beings together — across differences — to comprehend the liberating power of creative self-healing and well-being. In the Spirit of love for creativity, my artistry illustrates a longing to connect with the life-saving legacy of my African cultural ancestry.

For more information about my artwork, you may connect with me via my email address —
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Artwork by Gary L. Lemons

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