On June 20, seventy-five people came together in Lykes Gaslights Park in Tampa to hold a candlelight vigil for victims of the Charleston terrorist attack. People from all walks of life and faith groups as well as various organizations such as Bay Area Activists Coalition, Tampa Dream Defenders, Fight for 15, Council on American-Islamic Relations and ANSWER Coalition were present.

The vigil was an important chance for the community to share feelings and thoughts in a moment of incredible grief. With tears and anger, people commemorated the nine victims killed in the attack on Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and called for renewed struggle against the ever-present violence of racism in the United States.

Tampa community members also made sure to challenge the media spin around the massacre. Dylann Roof, they explained, was not just mentally ill. He was politically motivated by white supremacy and his actions were a conscious decision to spread terror among Black people. This fact is especially important in Tampa, as Laila Abdelaziz of CAIR explained, since central Florida has more active hate groups than almost anywhere else in the country.

Also at the vigil, Venus Jones, a local activist and performance poet, read a moving poem, “Was He Black?” from her book “Lyrics for Langston.” The poem, which touches on topics such as racism, terrorism and liberation, was a shining example of the political and historical awareness at Saturday’s vigil. With Jones’ permission, Liberation has published the poem below.


(Written on September 11, 2002)

A young man flew his plane into Tampa’s Bank of America.

Was he a terrorist? You ask, “Was he black?”

When a young man put pipe bombs in mailboxes,

Was he a terrorist? You ask, “Was he black?”

When a young man went on a journey

and joined Al Qaeda, spoke a new tongue,

Was he a terrorist? You ask, “Was he black?”

If I said, he was black, would you say, “I figured that?”

If I said, he was brown, would you say,

“He helped bring the twin towers down?”

But if I said, he was white, would you say,

“Hmm, that’s not right?”

“He must have been temporarily insane. Was he on medication?”

“He must have gotten on the wrong track.

Now how can we get that young man back?”

If he were brown or black, would you have said that?

Would his medication been an unknown, or insignificant fact?

Because the war on terrorism, didn’t start with Timothy McVeigh,

Nor did it begin on 9/11, a year ago today.

Some believe, it started

when Columbus stumbled on the red man and broke the pact.

Some say, it started when 110,000 Asians were detained,

during the very first, whites are the only patriots act.

Today over 5,000 Arabs rot in jail cells, guilty by skin color association.

Christianity is the only right faith, in this due process of elimination.

So sit quiet, pray, and have faith in the system, all ye of darker hue.

But please don’t hold your breath, because poetic justice is truly overdue.

When it comes to the war on blacks, I just want to go 39 years back.

That’s when North America, lost all of her taste and tact.

Sunday, September 15, 1963, I hope you’ll never forget.

A tender 11 and 14 died on 9/15, in the 16th Street Baptist.

On 9/15 the building was a progressive and freedom fighting church,

Where four little girls were found


She’s dressed in her Sunday best,

with blood, concrete and glass spilling from her swollen head.

This bombing was different! It’s the spirit of the civil rights fight,

they sought to kill. Even a racist southern belle suggested

that the murder of a female child was ill.

We lost more than one precious and rare pearl.

The rest of the world, mourned the stolen promise

of each bright, brown-skinned and freshly cut


But in the divided states, victims and terrorists lived side by side.

Criminals roamed in circles, with torches, in search of a sturdy tree.

And it’s a proven fact, that J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI and the Klan,

were all working together to some degree, to stop liberation.

To stop liberation!

To stop liberation!

To stop movement! …

To silence the wanna-be:

Voting, well-versed, brief case toting, financially and mentally free.

The penalty was extreme, only if you looked brown or black.

Unfortunately, I have to add a drop of pigmentation, see.

Final convictions may have never been made,

If it wasn’t for Spike Lee, digging up dirt from the grave.

The grieving families buried their own,

and cried alone in a separate community.

The nation didn’t unite against terror;

wave flags or sing songs in unity.

This poem is for:

Cynthia Wesley,

Carole Robertson,

Addie Mae Collins and

Denise McNair.

Some Americans have forgotten, about the day the children died,

with midnight eyes and bushy hair.

Like the 250 million lost in the middle passage,

The countless castrated and raped,

Injected with syphilis, dragged and beat,

The 600 black-owned businesses, bombed from the air,

in Tulsa, on black Wall Street,

The tortured, lynched,

The bred and sold,

Who slaved?

This kind of terrorism, has had a long existence in the home of the brave.

For over 400 years, terrorists led scavengers,

in a variety of systematic packs.

Thanks to Jim Crow’s policy, white sheets just took

what they lacked, like sneaky racing rats.

Today you may find a poor black cat, chasing his own skinny tail.

He’s in prison, probation, parole, or in jail.

There are some strays, that dash across the finish line without fail.

With arms stretched out to the sky,

Giving thanks for the way they got over,

like those black men in white movies who aren’t the first to die.

After a long jump, a million marches and a wall of ebony and ivory grins,

Did you know that in 1995,

not one but over 40 black churches burned Again?

Do the people always have to loot, or stoop

as low as the oppressor, to make amends?

Will all impoverished people of color,

catch up to that Euro dollar trend?

America could repay the descendents of her enslaved with:

Affordable healthcare,

A quality education,

Decent housing and at least

One profitable opportunity.

But until then, just try to pretend O.J. didn’t need

at least 40 acres and one loyal mule to win.

The liberty lady, who weighs these facts,

is actually a blind old bat.

She just learned to sniff, all along that money track.

Will you forget the numbers?

Will you forget how survivors of ethnic profiling and

economic terrorism chose to react?

And the next time they speak of that thug or terrorist,

will you ask, “Was he black?”

To order a copy of “Lyrics for Langston” click here.