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There were a lot of people who inspired me to become an artist. Nipsey Russell is definitely on that list. His charm, wit, and ability to drop pearls of wisdom in rhyme on network television was incredible. Like my other childhood heroes like Richard Pryor and George Carlin, Nipsey used comedy with the skill of a neurosurgeon.
Here are my Nipsey Russell inspired poems to honor this comedian, poet and dancer on the 102nd anniversary of his birth. This iconic entertainer’s career spanned decades from the Chitlin Circuit to major motion pictures. Many recognize him as the “Tin Man” in the Wiz. Others remember him as the “Poet Laureate” on the 70s game show, Match Game. For those of us who are too young to remember those references, he’s the dude Nipsey Hustle got his name from. RIP (rest in poetry)
1. We live in the strange days of coronavirus when presidential speeches only help to divide us, and words of wisdom come from Miley Cyrus.
2. As America finally reckons with its racist legacy, protests flare up like wildfires from sea to shining sea.
3. If I must stay home and self-quarantine, can I at least shelter in place with nymphomaniac sex fiend?
4. Some say the “breakfast of champions” is Wheaties, others prefer steak and eggs. Well, my favorite meal’s between her legs.
5. The people who question the motives of Black Lives Matter obviously haven’t paid attention to a few centuries of data.
Centuries before Covid-19 hit
A pandemic infected this country.
And since it was a plague, we ignored it.
We whitewashed genocide and slavery.
We wore politically corrected masks
To shield others from verbal aerosol.
Treating the symptoms was a short-term task.
Red, blue and white pride came before this fall.
Historic disparities reared their heads.
Structural biases waged their impacts.
Statistics mattered, after all was said
By white men in power disputing facts.
Racism, the plague we chose to ignore,
Led coronavirus to Black folks’ door.
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— Paul Laurence Dunbar
This poem is a COVID-19 “remix” of “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. I tried to follow Dunbar’s original rhyme scheme and meter. I hope you enjoy it and take it as a “public service announcement” to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). You can listen to the demo on SoundCloud below. Peace, Love & Safe Passage!
We wear masks and save others’ lives. Covered beneath N-95s, Making our own to last a while. While presidential denials Try to downplay casualties. We wash our hands and sanitize To prevent a viral surprise. Bandanas to protect, not style. We wear masks. We smile to strangers with our eyes, And shop for essential supplies. We sing and post to our profiles. God bless the “remote learning” chile! While black men keep dropping like flies We wear masks. Chicago, IL
For more information on COVID-19 updates and prevention, visit the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/index.html