Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Not Enough

Two young boys playing cops and robbers in the summer heat
How do you tell them it is more than just a game?
The dichotomy of good and bad, criminal and innocent are alive and real.

Sweat pouring down a young mother's brow in labor
this moment of joy almost overshadowed by the fear in her heart.
Her future filled with conversations prompted by questions of why...
"Why does Billy's mom not let him come over to play at night?"

It's not enough to say things have changed.
To raise a fist, post a comment, write a poem.
It's not enough.

A father fingers a wad of sweaty cash on the corner
waiting for the next round of fiends to pay him for the
single moment of peace he supplies.
All the while his mind ponders the familiar thought
How to teach his son another way of life.

It's not enough to tell young men the way of their fathers
does not have to be their own.
To speak of education, bootstraps, and potential.
It's not enough.

Brothers working two jobs, hustling on the side
providing money for their babies and baby mamas
hoping their babies remember their faces,
sweat dripping, wrinkles deepening
unlike their own dad's unknown, empty silhouette.

It's not enough to simply hope for men to become fathers.
To theorize about responsibility, parenting style, pride.
It's not enough.

The smile of a baby born with the skin of his father.
The skin of his grandfather; like any other infant.
Now unaware that this same skin that carries the pride of generations
marks this child as different, other.

It's not enough to be colorblind.
To claim the skin color of that child does not matter and in the same breath
dismiss the centuries of hurt, pain and journey experienced in that skin.
It's not enough.

Such skin color reckons back to the generations of survivors.
Men and women born in quicksand with the screams of
"pull yourself up... and quickly."
the only sound echoing through their conscience.
But they remain. But they persevere.

And each generation of young men playing a simple game
of cops and robbers faces the reality.
With each game, they are rehearsing life.
...but instead they never choose their role.

~Mackensey Carter

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Teach a man... he'll conquer the world.
What if this man must conquer such world to be taught?
One child in a classroom
one plus one does not equal two
As his stomach grumbles with only remnants
of last night's frozen dinner.
'something ain't' not 'something isn't' right
As his deep muddy eyes strain to see the scrawls etched
on the not too distant chalkboard.
lincoln was martin luther king jr on that morning in gettysburg
As he tries to remember the winter morning when he last saw his daddy
but can only see those flashing lights.
The classroom bleeds onto the streets.
Teachers become brothers.
Grades are issued with the finality of a bullet.
Yet if only this young man could conquer the world.
Then maybe, just maybe it would teach him.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I haven't been writing much recently but I'm hoping to start back up again during this season of Lent because I have had so much on my mind with everything that has been happening in Chicago.  This morning I jotted down this poem. 

One day.
One day a child. 
One day a child in Chicago...
One day a child in Chicago will not fear the streets that birthed him.
One day a child in Chicago will not hope for his 18th birthday but will dwell in its certainty.
One day a child in Chicago will no longer orchestrate a war zone with spray cans.
One day a child in Chicago will be taught dignity, pride and honor in the classroom or the living room instead of the backroom of a closed down store front.
One day a child in Chicago will be able to call this city his home and not his prison.
One day a child in Chicago will hope to look into the eyes of his father instead of merely grasping his memory through a ripped photograph.
Today is not that day.
Today is not that day in Chicago.
Today a child in Chicago will be shot, beat, humiliated.
Today a child in Chicago will wonder what law he broke placing him within the prison of these city limits.
Today a child in Chicago will cry out to a god that he knows simply forgot about this city just to release the anger of generations built up in his heart.
Today a child in Chicago will be suspended for failing to do homework he was never taught to do in the first place.
Today a child in Chicago will become a man: wielding the tool of his father, carrying the burden of his family, risking his life for his brothers.
Today this child in Chicago shot a child in Chicago.
And today the world keeps turning.
And today the world keeps turning with nothing to say except the whispers of: oh, that's just how some children are meant to play.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Second City: A Response

 This is a guest post by my brilliant boyfriend, AntonioAfter reading my poem he was inspired to write one in agreement but from his own perspective. I hope you enjoy! Maybe we will write a book together about these issues one day...
More than a second city/ it's a second life
One the average American wouldn't imagine. Am I right?/A new rendition of sin city call it shitty city/where your mind frame is me and my circle plus no one else/blame society since it so calls knows the truth/since nowadays it's become the new parents of the youth/oh not true?/I don't sag my pants/no baby mama drama/have a job/career/I don't bang on the corner/don't call women out of name/not scared when I mess up to take the blame/never want handouts always looking to venture out of my lane/just sayin.... Oh and by the way I'm a African American/speaking for those in the second city/yea we survived but it wasn't pretty/don't forget where you come from and become all sidity/always keep it real and be cool/cus we know those dont understand don't have the balls to walk through our shit in our shoes.... (Literally)
This is for any and all people/I'm just one of many reppin the second city

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Second City

The following is some of my unpolished thoughts on the racial and class divisions in Chicago.  While it may be a grand tourist attraction to some, many of the youth in the inner city have a feeling of being trapped without the ability to escape from the poverty that seems inevitable. This poem is just some of my rambling but I think it speaks to the need for more people to be aware of the invisible chains that society places on these youth and their inability to break free.

A tale of two cities except there's just one 
City streets tell a story but only to some
One child marvels at the lights around him
while others get chills as the nights surround them

People come and people go each day, each year
Unaware of the prison walls that lock some in fear
Freedom, not an unfamiliar sight or fable told
But for those in the second city its something uncontrolled

No visible chains, no locks keep these citizens bound
yet their escape a distant dream to never be found
The same city that imparts hope and opportunity
for the forgotten it provides a desperate, hopeless unity

Citizens of the first city preach to these children to leave
To make something of themselves and just believe
but each sermon leaves these youth still enchained at their feet
With commands to run the race, but do not cheat

If cheating means merely hoping for the day
when the invisible chains will finally appear and fall away
Then cheating is the only way that this neglected city 
will see their dead-end wandering as more than just shitty

But, hear this, we won't stop until it is shown
that through a little invisibility and magic of our own
we can strike down the structures and chains that bind
and leave the tale of two cities far away, far behind.
Only then will the black son of God no longer face Abel's fate 
and maybe then the heart of the unaware Cain will choose to relate
Only then will a child's prison of great lakes: despair and self-pity
turn this second city of beauty into my city, his city, our city.

~Mackensey, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Diversity of Strengths

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Difference is something that we often run away from in life.  Most of us are drawn to similarities, find comfort in seeing where two ideas have common ground or love to discover mutual interests or friends when just meeting a new person.  Difference may be uncomfortable for many of us but it is the very thing that Paul claims builds the community of God.  The excerpt above from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians speaks to this idea that God uses differences in each of us to create a unique, spiritual unity between believers.  Our first Amate House In-Service this year explored this idea and what it means to be a faith community filled with thirty-three distinctively different individuals.

The StrengthsFinder, which was the topic of our Fall In-Service day, helps to highlight these differences (and similarities) between individuals as they relate to certain strengths.  Each Amate House volunteer was asked to take the StrengthFinder assessment, which asked us a myriad of questions about ourselves and our personalities, and in the end received a list and explanation of our top five strengths.  While exploring our own strengths was enjoyable, our In-Service allowed us to see how our strengths and the strengths of our housemates complement each other and build our unique community.

While my top strengths included empathy, harmony and connectedness, I was able to discuss and sit next to my housemates that have the strengths of communication, intellection, or responsibility.  The diversity in strengths and thinking patterns within the Amate community, and even my own house community, gave me a renewed insight into the importance of individuals using their strengths to work together in service.  We all have tendencies and ways of thinking and behaving that are unique to our own temperaments and backgrounds but only when we work and serve together are we able to fully complement each other and create a cohesive whole.  Affirming the strengths that I see in myself and in others allowed me to become more aware of where I fit into the community and how I can use my special strengths to benefit and challenge the individuals around me.

Throughout the day I was continually reminded of the continuation of Paul’s letter in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians in which he uses the metaphor of the human body to describe the community of believers.  Paul writes “you are the body of Christ, and each on of you is a part of it” and “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Corinthians 12: 18,27).  Just as the body has many parts that perform many functions, Paul reminds us that in a community each member has a different role to fill, which is not more or less important than the person next to him or her.  God’s work is accomplished when each part of the body or community performs its function with determination and passion.  This idea can help us better understand a cohesive community where we are able to willingly accept our roles, no matter what it may be, because we see them each as equally important and necessary in working together for God’s greater purpose.

If all the roles and strengths of the community were the same, then nothing would be accomplished or changed.  Therefore, just as God has created us with such diversity, we must embrace this difference in community, even when it is frustrating and confusing, so that we can work together to challenge and compliment each other. Discussing my strengths during our In-Service helped me realize that whether I’m the toe or the heart, which perform drastically different functions for the body, I have a central role to play in creating and sustaining the body of Christ in and through my community.

Monday, October 3, 2011

doubt... a self portrait

Everyday is a battle that I fight
that I can't even keep the end in sight
fighting to stay above the water
to swim for my life when the world's weighing down

My God saves me from myself daily
trying to figure my life out but failing
I want so many things but I'm waiting
Stuck in pause, just wanting this battle done

Everyday I choose to stay above it
Living a life that doesn't really fit
Jesus has saved me and freed me
but daily my doubts try to beat me.

I worry I fear but that's no way to live
My God is stronger and strength he gives
But sometimes I feel alone
trapped with my troubles and sorrows

I lie awake hoping for that day
When God, my Savior, takes them away
Suffering is part of life for now
but I rejoice in His love and bow
to the one who save my life
made me new, took my old, gave me you!

We aren't meant to walk this alone
that's why He never abandons us
and gives us partners in the battle
to strengthen us and bring us back
to faith in Him and trust
My mouth is full of words to say
but some are praise and some dismay

I choose joy and praise with hope
that my life has always been in His hands
Ups or downs he has carried me
and sometimes I wish not to see
that the burden I carry that stops me
is me...