If Gentrification Was a Broom Then… by Crystal Valentine New York City Youth Poet Laureate

Yall don’t know nothin ‘bout a scorned burnt body,
All this witchcraft waiting to be used
You think we won’t curse you?
You gonna try to hang a ghost? You think that still works?
We won’t forget your name in the afterlife, just how this concrete won’t forget whose blood built it

Gentrification ain’t nothing but some no named heifer trying to still my land
But this dirt ain’t nothing but an accumulation of my people’s footprints
We be something the rain can’t wash out

What’s a bulldozer to my Grandmother’s memory?

We built the hands you’re trying to tear us down with
You think I need a key to get into my own home?
These doors know my face better than your whips ever did
You think just cuz you like “black music” the floorboards won’t swallow you?

These streets will ever forget my name
These streets are drunk off my blood
What your blood taste like?
Do you even know how to bleed?

Why you want something you ain’t bleed for?
Even Jesus can tell you that ain’t right

Whose hood you rep
What you know about the Bronx?
What you know about 161, Pelham Parkway, GunHill road?
Why you think the street got a weapon in its name?

What you gonna do when bullets start flying?
We ain’t got no gates or picket white fences,
Just bodies to hide behind
What you gonna do when your son gets shot,
Or jumped in the back of the BX42 bus?
What you gonna do when your daughter gets catcalled into a rape-kit?

Whose bones will you offer
When the police start knocking at your door?
Are you gonna ask your maids to sweep their bodies under the rug too?

You can’t renovate a borough without burying the people already living there
This be more than your vacation home
This be more than your white-guilt getaway,
More than your Walgreens across the street from the courthouse

Say you wanna clean up our streets
Say you wanna save our children,
They know what to do when the bullets start flying

But what about you?
What you gonna do when the ghost start knocking?
Don’t you know you’re sharing a bed with someone’s tombstone?

You’ll wake up one night to my grandmother’s spirit praise dancing on all your waxed hardwood floors
and you can’t do shit about
We’ll haunt you out of house and home
We’ll bring the maggots feast on your daughter’s freshly tanned skin
We’re sacrifice your wife and bath our bones in her blood

Gentrification be the priest that failed at the exorcism

What will the maids do?
All this sweeping and no rug to put the bodies under
Who’s next?
Whose bones are willing to be dusted?
What Skelton is ready to be exterminated?
You can’t renovate a borough without burying the people already living there

Sofia Snow