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Mama, I really did try my best

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Update: This poem has now been made into an audio anthology, courtesy of @swoopoetry and Scottish BAME Writer's Network. This is one of my favourite pieces of poetry to date and I honestly cannot believe it has taken me to where it has now. If you'd like to listen to this, read by yours truly, click here, and if you like it, share it far and wide!

Mama, I really did try my best.

He did nothing wrong.

He went to the park; he was wearing a mask.

Stopped and searched because his skin was suspicion enough.

His mother is my mother, but my blue eyes and golden hair shield me from the crime of my negro blood.

His skin, dark, like hers, is reason enough, punishment enough, to lock him away, hide him from society.

And still we fight violence with silence and somehow expect it to stop.

“Mama, I really did try my best,” I said in my one phone call I only got after begging, pleading.

Down on my knees in tears, crying for my mother.

Born of a black woman, born of a black woman, born of a black woman,

whose blood runs through these very streets,

whose breasts nursed babes who would grow to hang her own children from trees for sport.

They see it in the shape of my nose.

An African man in a white man’s skin.

And my eyes are as blue as my tears are wet,

tears for my brother whose only crime was having a black woman for a mother.

Punishment before judgement.

Walking while black,

and that one drop of negro blood was enough to alter the value of his life.

Should I, then, consider myself lucky?

Had my skin been dark like my brother’s,

My eyes darker,

My hair curlier,

Would I even get to call my mother?

Would I even have the chance to hear her voice one last time before my soul was so cruelly snatched from this earth by those who consider my hue a threat to their own existence?

Mama, I really did try my best.

But maybe my children can do better.


Between March 2020 and May 2020, the Metropolitan Police carried out 22,000 searches on young black men in London alone. This equates to 30% of all black 15- to 24-year-olds in the capital.

In May 2020, 43,000 stops took place, up from 21,000 in 2019. Yet Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, denies that the police force are institutionally racist.

I wrote this poem from the point of view of my son, who looks more like his white father than he does his black mother, and in a racially corrupt society, his lighter skin may be the difference between life and death. His younger brother, on the other hand, with features as dark as mine, will be treated differently. Stopped in the street simply because of his dark skin.

Dick's statement came days before an officer knelt on the neck of a handcuffed black man, with potential to murder him, as was George Floyd, who screamed for his mother before he drew his last breath.

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