By Tyreike Reid

Hashtag Concrete
The only thing stronger than the bullets hitting the floor
Maybe if my skin was made of concrete
I wouldn’t have to fight
Maybe if my bones were made of concrete
I wouldn’t have to run
Crawl into tiny spaces where I am rejected
Filling rooms that do not want me
Smiling and laughing with those who oppress me
Sharing food and drinking wine with those who wish to hurt me
In these spaces friends and enemies are blurred
In these cities that I try to make my home
Real life transforms itself into virtual reality
I crawl between the spaces
Between the wires
Between the sizzling sounds of computer systems
Trying to find home
Trying to find my concrete
My concrete starts in the east
And ends in the deepest parts of social hierarchies
My concrete starts in the east and turns left on community development
My concrete starts where those choose not to go
Where we struggle to climb the tallest ladders
Where we dream of coming face to face with him
The man
Tall and 6 foot two
Pale skin and wears a shiny suit
Makes the rules and laughs at you
Where we dream of asking him why
Is it because of my hair?
The color of my skin?
Or the way I chant and I sing?
Where we dream of asking him why
Is it because of my road, my hood, my blues?
Or the way I stand up yelling don’t shoot.
My concrete stands in solidarity
But we hide in isolation
Hide from those who do not understand
What it’s like not belonging to this land
Hide from those who wish to tell our story
Without understanding our history
Black, blue and bruised are the ones who came before us
Channeling their hymns, their spoken words
Dancing to the beat of their drums underneath the blazing sun
Holding on to their chains
silver and cold
Grasping at the idea of strength
A word and feeling so bold
Making sure their concrete collides with ours
Making sure that our concrete is written in those stars.
Retelling our story over and over again

The use of social media has been beneficial to many oppressed people. Many groups have used social to their advantage by using hashtags such as Black Lives Matter to effectively sign off on a statement or unify messages and users.

I decided to write a poem in which I, as a Black male, could effectively use my words and carry out a message without holding back any detail, much like one does when they are protesting and fighting for their rights. By incorporating hashtags into the poem, I hoped it would resonate with much of the protests and activism surrounding Black lives this past decade. The use of hashtags within my poem reflects the momentum and efforts that Black individuals, as well as BIPOC individuals, have taken this past decade, using the digital tools to secure their legitimacy both on and offline.

The poem is also meant to highlight instances of class and classism. Throughout the poem, I refer to ‘where I come from’ going on to say that ‘my concrete starts in the east and turns left on community development’. I use this to highlight that race and class have become intertwined; one of the many ways Black individuals face oppression is through economic oppression. This intersectionality defines the Black lived experience for a vast majority of the community. Not only do Black folks have to worry about being subject to ridicule and oppression due to their race, but also because of their other identity traits such as gender and class.

I use this poem as a way to fully embrace who I am and where I come from and to explain what it’s like not being fully accepted by a land which you call home, and although we might not always be accepted by this land, we are always accepted by our community; community that is depicted as being filled with crime, violence, and poverty, but in reality, is filled with leaders, artists, and scholars.

Through the creation of this poem, I am able to share only a piece of what it means to live in Black skin, and to capture what it means living through a system that continuously chooses to neglect its people. The main message through this medium is simple; we exist; people need to hear that there are communities who are struggling to heal, they are struggling because they are still being hurt. These are communities that are forced to find strength within their pain, rather than through the opportunities that should be given to them.

Tyreike is a fourth-year student at Carleton University pursuing a double major in Communications and Political Science. Growing up in Toronto he was able to find a passion for the dramatic arts and creative writing. This passion has led to him using the arts to bring awareness to social injustices and oppression within BIPOC communities, particularly through his love of poetry. No matter the size of the stage and audience, Tyreike will always continue to share his art and activism.