And I am you, too

by Deirdre Wilson, former prisoner, survivor
We are proud to publish this original poem read by the author as part of the event Our Voices Within: Out of the Shadows (see story p. 9)
I was free to run, jump, ride and play
    Not a care got in MY way
That don’t mean s**t
    When you’re a number.
I was proud, good in school
    Every advantage available as my tool.
That don’t mean s**t
    When you’re a number.
Captain of my sports teams,
    Full of hope, bright with dreams.
Those things didn’t amount to s**t
    When I was a number.
Went to a university, got letters behind my name.
Walked the red carpet,
    You couldn’t tell me I didn’t know MY game.
THAT?especially?don’t mean s**t
    When you’re nothing but a number.
Got hooked up with a guy
    Beautiful, and I thought “how enlightened! How brave and so wise!”
THAT was the first step…
    On a long, rough and painful road
    To… that number
Black eyed peas, crack’s evil squeeze.
    No, baby… don’t black-eye me again, please…
Ain’t no sympathy, victim or no
    Once you got that damn number.
Gave birth six times. Six miracles… stars that shine!
    I NEVER let anyone take that from me
    While I had that number
Take everything away! Go ahead?strip me bare!
Mock me, insult me, try to kill me
    With that soulless stare.
Your boots, your keys, your bars, your towers!
    I know what it’s like to spend years without flowers.
Titles don’t last
    Letters or numbers.
I am who I am!
And I am you, too.