“elegy (for extraordinary black boys and girls)” by Jalylah Burrell

by Jessica Dilday on August 5, 2013

It was not natural. And he was not the first. I interpolate the opening lines of June Jordan’s essay “The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry: Something Like a Sonnet for Phillis Wheatley,” to explain this elegy for Trayvon Benjamin Martin. Shot dead on February 26, 2012, I recorded this mixtape live on WYBC Yale Radio on March 27, 2012, six days after marching on New York City’s Union Square in a slim hoodie and tweed motorcycle jacket.

I showed up at the Million Hoodie March because this child’s murder recalled a history of horror: an enmity that won’t quit, that stops and frisks, that underpays, that incarcerates, that appropriates, that berates that is no respecter of black persons. Not without vanity, I posed for a mean and impressive profile pic to register something larger than sadness for the 7-year old Aiyana Jones shot dead by the Detroit Police Department, for the four little girls incinerated in Alabama’s 16th Street Baptist Church, for the Black teen tortured to death aboard the Recovery slave ship in 1791 because she would not dance for her captors. And I decided to hold as much of that in a series of sounds. Black life is a difficult miracle, to sample June Jordan once again, and still we survive. “Some of us did not die.”

Jalylah Burrell is a Seattle-bred, Harlem-based writer, educator, oral historian, arts advocate and deejay. A graduate of Spelman College and New York University, she is currently a Ph.D student at Yale University. She has hosted the radio program There Ought To Be More Dancing since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @jalylah.

“Elegy (Plain Black Boy)” Oscar Brown Jr. (Source poem: “of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery” by Gwendolyn Brooks)
“Born Suspect” Chris Rock
“George Zimmerman 911 Call” George Zimmerman
“Stereotype” Kam
“Shut ‘Em Down” Public Enemy
“Zimmerman 2012” cody chesnuTT
“Pressure (Instrumental)” Black Milk
“I Find It Hard To Say” Lauryn Hill
“Diallo” Wyclef Jean featuring Youssou N’ Dour & MB2
“Mr. N*gga” Mos Def
“Bicentennial Blues” Gil Scott-Heron
“Liberty” Myka 9
“I Wanna Be Free” The Voices Of East Harlem
“President Obama speaks on Trayvon Martin” Barack Obama
“Mother’s Son” Curtis Mayfield
“U Will Know” Black Men United
“The Proud” Talib Kweli
“Survival a.k.a. Black Survivors” Bob Marley
“We Gonna Make It (Instrumental)” Jadakiss

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