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  • Writer's pictureRandy Nabors


On the occasion of the front page of the Chattanooga Times Free-Press displaying the photos of 32 Black men arrested in a major drug sweep to break up gangs and the trade in crack cocaine.


It is sorrow

A sadness for the badness

32 Black men and their facing

Front, on the first page

Gathered, swept,

Rounded not up but down.

Facing not merely the camera

Where our eyes see them

As no longer simply a name

But an accompanied face,

Each a story, and the

Imminent possibility of

A great cumulative loss

To us, for themselves,

For our future.

They are men

Responsible for their own


They are accountable.

Yet their collective loss

Hurts and haunts us all.

We lament for their victims;

The dead, the wounded,

The crippled, the intimidated,

The seduced, the addicted,

The impoverished.

We lament the children

They have produced

But whom they will not raise.

We lament the women,

Mothers, lovers, daughters,

Who if they see them

Will see them in places

Far, with spaces separated;

Bars, glass, and wire.

We lament the whole

Sorry story repeated

Once again in fatherless boys.

We lament the communities

Without their talents,

Initiative, leadership, and juice

They gave to crime;

Now stored away doing time.

We lament the schools

They condemn to children

Who know no discipline

And will nothing know.

No one at home to call them

Higher, No aspiration

For family, career, or meaning.

We lament the prisons

Full of others just like them.

We lament the system

That gives them longer years

And fewer tears than white boys.

We lament the system

That chooses one drug worse than another

We lament the profiling

The stops, the frisks.

We lament the

Racism that will

Accept that front page as

Inevitable but not


We lament the politicians

Who will not stand for

Families, who reward

Immorals but not marriage,

The judges who never say

“No” to a divorce.

We lament the churches

Who will not send or stay

But leave the places

Where these men are from,

That could have mentored,

That could have shaped

That might have warned,

That should have loved.

Years in prison may protect us

But it will not heal us,

Nor change those we send away.

Growing old may slow them down,

But we should weep for our collective loss,

And we should wonder if the cycle

Will come around again.

Let us weep for our children

Let us weep for our loss

Let us see empty spaces

Which these mugged faces

Will leave us

As they leave us

And in our weeping

May we find resolve

That our city will stop

Losing what could have been.

Randy Nabors

17 November, 2013

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