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Thoughts on Black/Brown unity: A poem

Black Brown Unity Mural, Oakland, detail
Black Brown Unity Mural, detail, in Oakland Photo: Pablo Paredes / AFSC

Note: Ericson Amaya and Pablo Paredes of AFSC's 67 Sueños Program wrote this poem on the occasion of the unveiling of the Black/Brown Unity Mural in Oakland, Califormia. Recently they read it at the AFSC Corporation meeting. The video of that reading is below. You can find their full moving presentation here. I was very inspired by this piece and am pleased to be able to share it here. - Lucy


I’m thinking of how we all know the name of that great big ship

that took the lives of

and yet immortalized 1500 Brits

in a body of water we call the Atlantic

Yes, the Titanic

I’m thinking of how it makes’ me sick!!!

Yes! Sick!

that below the surface

never to be unearthed is

a scathing commentary

on our humanity

See those British bodies landed in a

a crowded cemetery

Black corpses that didn’t go on cruises

they were ripped

from their mother land’s hip

And a hundred and fifty years since

Who among us knows the name of a single slave ship

But we all got emotional when Rose let Jack’s finger tips slip.

Black Brown unity mural, detail


See WHITE life and love matter so much we memorize scripts

and easily access Hollywood clips

so that the words slide so smooth from our lips

that we don’t notice OUR histories.... are eclipsed


I’m trying to forget images of brown people with bongs

of cheach and chong

Of hard Taco shells from Taco Bell disguised as my culture

I’m tired of Gang bangers being the only representation of ME on TV

Black Brown Unity mural on the occasion of its unveiling


I’m wondering why there had to be a Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 AND 3

I’m wondering why Narcos is the only Spanish word some people know

Why Cancun and Acapulco are the only places in Mexico that most people go

I’m thinking of El Chapo Guzman

and Pablo Escobar

And how familiar they are

I’m not just a picky media consumer complaining

I’m talking about my people hunted on National Geographic for pure entertainment

Border Wars took Crocodile Hunter’s place when Steve Irwin passed

And the sad reality is you know his name, but brown people are buried in mass

Mass graves, mass suffering mass PAIN

500 migrantes die each year crossing the Sonora desert and we don’t know a single name?

See, we mourn white death as national tragedies from Columbine, Sandy Hook

But the media silence around every life that La Bestia, el desierto y la migra took

is so loud it drowns out our screams, our dreams

11 million migrants, 90,000 children and all the suffering in between


I’m thinking of how the Media labels my brown brothers


While my darker tone kinfolk get branded


I'm thinking of Sheriff Bull Connor and Joe Arpaio

I think they shared the same bio


I’m thinking of the killing of Ruben Salazar and Brother Martin

I'm thinking of Jose Elena Rodriguez and Trayvon Martin

I’m thinking of Anastacio Rojas and Oscar Grant

I wanna say the things to their daughters that Anstacio and Oscar can’t

The struggle is real, and what we feel

has gone on for centuries

from the plantations to the penetentiaries

from Braceros to Jornaleros

Enslaved and encaged

in the service of gueros


4 block cells designed to maintain us ...Separate

Ching Ching

4 Block cells designed to turn pain ...into profit

Ching Ching


Caught up in brand names that brand us

Bling Bling

This Gouchie, This Louie, this Fendi

And while we keep spending

Ching Ching


Our people are fitted in Ankle Bracelets and Hand cuffs

Bling Bling

Once you locked up, you LEARN who makes all this stuff

Ching ching


I’m thinking of In Lak ‘Ech  - Mayan Precept

I’m feeling Ubuntu -  South African Concept

Tu Eres Mi otro Yo - “I am because we are

You are my other me -  we are because I am.”


Black Brown Community

Let’s Build Unity


Vamos Mi gente Sumense



Black Brown Comunity

Let’s Build Unity

Vamos Mi gente Sumense


I’m thinking of peoples who built pyramids

And developed hieroglyphs

I’m thinking of Capoeira and Bomba Dancers,

I'm thinking of brown berets along side Black Panthers 

I’m thinking of Emory Douglas the minister of culture

And malaquias montoya and the power of a Poster

I'm thinking of the Freedom riders and the Undocu-Bus. 

I’m thinking the system can’t handle us

I’m thinking of how to stop SB 1070 and Stop and frisk

I’m thinking Of 67 Sueños and SNCC

I'm thinking that Harriet Tubman was the first Coyote

I’m thinking of Candied Yams and Camote

Of Blues and Corridos

Break dancing y Quebradita

I’m thinking of Scarab Beatles and Monarchitas


I’m thinking of In Lak ‘Ech  - Mayan Precept

I’m feeling Ubuntu -  South African Concept

Tu wres mi otro yo - “I am because we are

You are my other me -  we are because I am.


Black Brown Community

Let’s Build Unity


Vamos Mi gente Sumense



Black Brown Comunity

Let’s Build Unity

Vamos Mi gente Sumense



In Lak’Ech Ubuntu

About the Author

Pablo Paredes is a Conscientious Objector to war in all forms.  In 2004 Paredes made headlines as US Navy Sailor who refused to board a naval vessel with a mission to ferry 1000+ marines to Iraq.  Paredes was then court-martialed and eventually discharged from the Navy after serving a sentence of 3 months hard labor, 2 months restriction, and reduction in rank to the

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