Poetry: Unheard voices

Systemic Racism/Prison Reform & Japanese conformity

Introduction

The unheard voices of many speak of injustices and oppression. Both issues addressed here involve many complex relationships between the structure of society and cultural identities.

Systemic racism and prison reforms in America include many differing perspectives and factors that contribute to the suffering of minorities. There is a long history and culture of racism which developed and resulted in various forms of continued inequality. Incarceration is an institution which supports a continued form of slavery.

Similarly, Japanese culture includes the suppression in expressing pain and suffering. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” (deru kugi wa utareru) is a saying that is reinforced and reflects society in Japan. Due to this ideology, people with mental health issues suffer greatly from stigmatization. There are also several misconceptions about mental health in Japan, including that these health issues are due to a weak sense of will and personality. This only worsens the mental condition of many people, even when recovery is possible.

Open Letter

by Luis Stauss

Dear Reader,

Please take a second to read through these notable points.

August 2nd, 1776 The Signing of The Declaration of Independence

“What to a slave is the 4th of July” -Frederick Douglas

“Nations are based as much on what the people jointly forget as on what they remember” -Joseph Ernest Renan

With two divergent identities, the United States appears to undergo a period of change. As French Scholar Renan would point towards, what is it America would choose to remember? In a time where so many of our Americans are institutionalized and oppressed, Change for black lives has become a dominant voice and is a movement which is stitched within the narrative of a generation. With old ties fading, both identities are facing off over many of the principles which were signed upon on August 2nd, 1776. Which begs the question, what is it that this new generation will jointly forget?

This is up to the Reader. Contemporary America has chosen to forget it’s dark side throughout its history but this does not have to be lost. Figures such as Fredrick Douglas to James Baldwin have illuminated this suffering brought about by institutions throughout centuries so that they may not be forgotten or lost in the undertow of time. Instead, choose to forget complacency, choose to live up to the renewed values of this era. Spread awareness about fellow Americans who are wrongfully imprisoned.

Thank you

Black, Black Eyes, Black Life Implies

by Luis Stauss

Done in too soon

Black lives shunned, marooned

Black eyes shut at noon

In the summer, during June

Black lives lost too soon

Ankles and wrists, locked tribune

Faces exist, but locked in a cage

Brothers and Family, filled with rage

Pled to their Institutions, but they wouldn’t sway

Pled to their Schools, into masquerade then mislaid

Pled to their Politicians, but they couldn’t get paid

Pled to Allah, hoping they would be saved

An Eternal (Internal) Companion

by Erin Akamine

Yokai (妖怪) are supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore. Yokai can be perceived as both malevolent and benevolent.

I first wore that smiling mask when I was fourteen

As I looked through the eyes of the mask

No one had any faces, only a head on top of the body

A demon! I screamed in horror

No, a voice said, Merely a human

I turned around and found a mass of eyes, a yokai

You called? The yokai asked

No! I cried out, Go away.

It only stared, or did it glare? No matter

Look it pointed to the head of my mother

You wear that smiling mask so now you can’t see her face

I heaved and gagged, I’m taking the mask off

Not so fast–the nail that sticks out get hammered in

Don’t burden her with your weakness anymore it said wisely

Why am I wearing this mask again? Oh the voices, the voices they say

“Pfft him? He’s weak, he’s weird and creepy, he’s ill, he’s not right in the head… he’s… he’s…”

Right. I remember them well.

But what of the other voices the ones that cry out–

“Watch it, spies are everywhere, that girl, she’s suspicious…Watch out…”

Not real? But what truly is real? How do I tell the difference? These voices–

Wear the mask, I’ll be your companion, I’ll be your voice

But where am I in this scheme? Don’t worry, I’ll take over

So I listened and I’ve been hiding since but

What is that?

I see another yokai! It’s following that girl! Can she see it? Is she alright?

The eyes, the eyes are everywhere.

Eye-contact. She made eye contact with the mass of eyes.

Can’t she see it? I see hers. A mass of sharp teeth, it’s telling her something–

Walk away. What? Get away from her and her yokai. But can’t she see me?

No answer.

I walk home alone again. No, not alone. My companion, the mass of eyes.

In the privacy of my room, I take off my mask.

The hammer has done its task, the nail is in

I grab my head in agony, I screech and pull my hair

Where has my face gone?

An image of the masked protagonist from An Eternal (Internal) Companion drawn by Erin Akamine

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