Anthropology Magazine
Poem / Human Rights

Siege

A Black anthropologist's poem speaks to anti-Blackness, white supremacy, police brutality and murder, and trans/queer hate and violence.
anti-black racism poetry - Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, who Minneapolis police brutally killed on May 25, testifies at a hearing on police accountability held by the House Judiciary Committee.

Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, who Minneapolis police brutally killed on May 25, testifies at a hearing on police accountability held by the House Judiciary Committee.

Erin Schaff/Getty Images

Many Black people are, and have been, utterly exhausted.

To be “exhausted” means to be in a state of extreme physical or mental fatigue. It indicates an encapsulating tiredness, a weariness, a lack of energy, an enervation, an overwhelming debilitation, a debility, a faintness, a prostration, an enfeeblement, a lassitude.

To be “exhausted” signifies the processual state of being used up, utterly.

“Siege” is my attempt to capture a sense of our collective Black exhaustion. It is my attempt to process our Grief. It is my attempt to honor all who we have lost and all who we are losing, and as such, is perpetually incomplete.

To read and appreciate this work in its entirety means to fully read and recognize each name encircling the poem. Nothing less.

Siege - Listen
5:44

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Justin D. Wright is a sociocultural anthropologist, performance studies scholar, theater artist, and performance poet. In both their scholarly and artistic pursuits, Wright is concerned with notions of national and cultural memories, transgenerational traumas, Black grief, and Black and Black-queer identity-making. Their work seeks to understand how Black people might craft from that pain, grief, and trauma something breathtakingly beautiful—and from that beauty, freedom and liberation. Wright holds an M.A. in theater and performance studies from Washington University in St. Louis. Wright is a Ph.D. student in anthropology at American University and was the 2020–2021 poet-in-residence at SAPIENS. Their poem “The Cookout (and All Other Manners of Heavenly Black Things)” was a finalist for the Best of the Net Anthology 2022. Follow them on Twitter @jd_thewright.

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