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Ekua Omosupe

Ekua Omosupe
Photo credit: Rhee Davila-Omosupe

 
About Ekua:

EKUA OMOSUPE was born on a cotton plantation in Yazoo County, Mississippi in 1951. Her journey from the cotton fields to the college class room provide a cornucopia of memories, experiences, people, feelings, themes, and stories to write about. She moved to Santa Cruz, California in 1985 to attend UCSC Graduate Program in Literature. She earned an M.A. in American Literature in 1989 and her Ph.D. in 1997.  Omosupe is the first African American tenured in the English Division at Cabrillo College; 2012 is her 20th anniversary!

Dr. Omosupe has been honored in Who's Who Among America’s Teachers and she is a recipient of a Calabash Award for Excellence in the Ethnic Arts (2001). She has a collection of poems, Legacy, that was published in 1997 by Talking Circles Press in Santa Cruz, California and her second collection, Snapshots of War,  is waiting in the wings.

The Execution of Bette Lou Beets

Bette Lou Beets
 Died today at 6 P.M.,
February 24, 2000,
Executed by the state of Texas.

At 4 A.M. a prison guard
In his kindest voice awakened her, calling,
“Bette,
Bette Lou,
 Bette;
It’s time to get up now.
It’s time to go.”

“What?” …“Where?”
She wondered.

Natural sleep had just closed her eyes
And she dreamt of her girlhood:
A drunken daddy,
 A mentally ill mother,
And acute longing to be someplace else.

She dreamt of the open fields where she ran,
The vast blue sky she fell into
When she twirled herself silly,
Weightless, disappearing, forgetting.

“Come on Bette Lou, it’s time to go.”

"Go: go where?" She mumbled.

She hoped she would be going home
To her children and grandchildren;
She hoped the Governor would consider
The circumstances:

31 years of domestic abuse on her body,
Raped at 5,
Beaten by her daddy,
No protection,
Run away,
Married too early,
No job,
No shelter,
Hungry children,
A mean husband,
No rescue.
Never loved,
 Never wanted by anybody,
Never.

Yes, she killed Jimmy Don Beets.
One time too many
He held a gun to their daughter’s head;
Never again would he punch Bette’s face,
Bloody her nose,
Make her beg for her life
While her children watched,
Terrorized,
 Screaming.

Bette Lou did not kill Jimmy Don for money;
She did not want 200 thousand dollars insurance.
Money did not tempt her to this crime of passion
To save her life,
 To protect her children,
To be safe.

This once, she wanted herself.
  This once she stood up to him!
Bette Lou hoped
Governor George W. Bush would see her plight,
Stay her execution.

“Bette, it’s time to go.
The voice said again.

Yes.
 She got up off her cot,
 Put on the white prison uniform she was handed
 And walked past the cells of the other women there
Waiting for the hand of mercy,
 Or God,
Or the Governor
 To save them.

She did all she could
 To keep the little bit of life that she hung on to.
She held it tight:
  She did not choose her final meal,
  She did not give up hope.
She did not give up hope.
She did not give up hope.

Bette Lou Beets,
62 years old
Great-grandmother,
Abused child, abused wife
Sentenced to death
 For the murder of Jimmy Don Beets,
 Husband.

Bette Lou Beets
Died today at 6 P.M.,
 February 24, 2000.

Executed by the state of Texas.

 

Timothy Thomas
( The 15th Black male killed by Cincinnati police since 1995)

R.I.P.
April 7, 2001 

What is a terrorist?

Was Timothy Thomas terror-stricken?

Does police murder of Black men qualify as terrorism?

Is Cincinnati a police state?

American Justice makes Black folk tremble.
On the street and in the court room
there is terror
 palpable:
pouring sweat
dried spit
thick tongue
locomotion heartbeat
racing of blood

On the streets
feet run
fast   fast    faster
not swift enough to outrun police bullets
seeking the bull’s eye of
 Black heads,
Black backs,
Black hearts,
Black lives.

Timothy Thomas could not run fast enough
to escape the early death and cold grave of the law.
He did not survive that one deadly bullet
triggered by one white finger,
the finger of one officer of the law.

Did the officer of the law murder that boy?
Did the officer of the law kill that Black boy in cold blood?
Did that peace officer murder that child?

He was a potentially dangerous situation for Officer Roach-
Officer Roach was afraid of
an unarmed boy;
a Black boy running:
running away from the law,
running down a dark Cincinnati alley,
running away from 14 warrants,
traffic charges,
police batons,
rumors of death!

Was Timothy Thomas afraid of the law? 
He had run before,
run from death at the hands of the law,
run into death by the hands of the law.

His Black life drained
 red from his body;
his future congealed  beneath him,
cleaned up with other street waste.

Timothy Thomas
 lay cold,
naked,
exposed
 under the scrutiny of the law.

Judge Winkler said:
He was a potentially dangerous situation for Officer Roach.
“Police Officer Roach’s action was reasonable on his part, based on…”
Duty to protect our peace,
guard our safety,
save our children.

Judge Winkler did not weep
for this life lost,
stolen by the law,
crushed in its budding time.

For 19 years Timothy Thomas survived—
Cincinnati did not protect him:

 

did not love him,
did not hold his life dear,
did not know the worth of his manhood,
could not value it,
could not harness it,
did kill it.

Judge Winkler said, “Officer Roach’s action was reasonable on his part, based on…”
Timothy Thomas
He was a potentially dangerous situation for Officer Roach.

Was Timothy Thomas afraid of the law? 
He had run before,
run from death at the hands of the law,
run into death by the hands of the law.

 

March 13, 1998
Patriot of Freedom

Dear Mumia,

I am writing this letter to you out of respect, gratitude, and to show solidarity with you in your struggles for freedom from death row, the prison house, and your captors.  I recognize it is a matter of urgency that we stand up with you against those who have conspired to take your life in the name of justice.  If we sit by and allow America’s democratic government to destroy you, we are in effect signing our own death certificates.  For it will be only a matter of days, weeks, months, that others of us will face your same fate: framed for murder and facing death at the hands of liars who hate truth.

I cannot begin to know what it is like for you to be shackled, under surveillance,  and humiliated at every turn,  but I do know that what  you suffer is a good metaphor for the lives of us on the outside, especially if we are not white, are poor, female, single parents, not heterosexual, not Christian, and unpatriotic to a government that does all it can to delimit our life chances, to imprison our children, to addict us to drugs, to rob us of our dignity.  No, to that end, I am not patriotic.  I will not honor rape, extortion, liars, embezzlement, murderers, and pimps. I am a patriot of freedom.

Your life shows us that such patriotism requires commitment, and to commit to freedom is a dangerous undertaking.  It could cost one’s life.  So many of us have died already; it is those lives sacrificed that give us courage and brave us to stand assault after assault in the name of freedom, justice, life and love.  I love you, Mumia, Brother.  And it is from the strength of this love that I fight daily for all of us who are captive in the prison house of America. I know the difference between your jail cell and real prison guards surveying your every move, and my warm office and computer, and ability to act on volition; if I choose to go outside, I can; so, I do not collapse the very material differences between our captivities.  I merely wish to acknowledge that the same regime that holds your life in the balance holds mine there also.  I am aware of this truth at a material, emotional and psychic depth.  Daily, uniformed policemen, government, legislation, laws, and initiatives to limit my movements and my speech remind me that tolerance grows thinner and prisons are built larger.  What will be our fate?

Brother Mumia, I send you courage, love, and strength to continue the struggles for freedom, justice, and peace.  We stand on the thresh hold of the millennium and we still have not solved the problem of “the color line.”  The 60s concessions for white brutality and terrorism against African Americans from slavery to now has worn off,  and 90’s legislation sanctions a revisit to overt hostility upon all of us who do not fit easily into our places of subordinate to a ruling elite that holds corporate profit above life: earth, animal, human .  Times don’t look safe for any of us, but we will not leave you alone.  We will not abandon you.  Our commitment to your freedom and to your life is our commitment to our freedom and our lives. 

Thank you for your courage, for your bravery, and for your risk taking.  You are a model warrior. 

Patriot of Freedom,

Ekua Omosupe

 


Ancheta || Atkinson || Crux || Dancing Bear || Freeman || Glick || Ifland || Moody || Omosupe || Robbins || Sirens || Spencer || Sullivan || Sumrall || Tagami || Teutsch || Weisner
  Co-sponsored by Poetry Santa Cruz and phren-Z   A publication of Santa Cruz Writes