The first time I watched this piece I had the chills; I’ve had the same effect despite the number of times I’ve watched this video. The raw emotion, personal, and political intention of Johnson’s spoken word is incredibly powerful and reminded me of Marlon Riggs’ piece, Tongues Untied. Like Riggs’, Johnson uses art, poetry, and the “personal” as political.
“Cuz He’s Black” analyzes important present day issues of racism and the criminal justice system. We’ve created a culture of treating “black boys as problems more than we treat them like people,” which is incredibly dehumanizing. What does it say about our society when we teach children the intricacies of dealing with police but not the importance of an education? This is incredibly evident in the work that I do with incarcerated youth at CAMP AP, which is a Pitzer program that involves Pitzer students teaching poetry and writing in a youth prison facility. Many of these students think their interactions with the police and/or having an “in” with the police is more important than education. While it makes sense, it is incredibly disheartening. I think of education as the key to class mobility and a way to avoid the criminal justice system but the boys at CAMP AP do not think education is more beneficial than police relationships, not that I’m invalidating the importance of that skill. This brings up broader concepts of not teaching boys of color to think long term. Lack of access to communities of color is intentional and in place to keep these communities oppressed. This piece is phenomenal in starting dialogue and once again indicates the importance of media in social justice movements.