Excerpt from Modes of Transportation: Catching the Bus in Different Zip Codes by poet and writer Margie Shaheed.
Note from Editor: This is a gripping tale, a few hundred words paints the American landscape in a way only Black womanist writers can. Kamaria Muntu
9:15 PM Newark, NJ 07103
I’m relieved to find people waiting at the bus stop because this means I haven’t missed the bus. There’s no glass shelter for us to stand under or benches to sit down on so we stand perched in various states of conversation and contemplation. We are a group of city rats under the scope of a street light which is as bright as daylight. A woman with a small girl tied to her waist and a baby asleep in a stroller fans herself with a folded newspaper. In a flash, the police roll up five cars deep with lights flashing and sirens silent right across the street from the bus stop. Our attention is pulled away like a woman’s purse snatched from her shoulders by a thief. The police ambush a small group of young Black men hanging out on the corner, pants sagging. Two of the cops get out of their cars with dogs on leashes. We move closer to the street to stare and rubberneck. The police tell the young men to put their hands on their heads and lock their fingers. They line them up along the front of the Bodega. People coming out of the store avoid the immediate area but still they find places to stand, squawk, and stare. The cops are busy running their hands completely through pockets, socks, and shoes, they ask questions, check IDs and look for contraband. The young men cooperate by answering questions and keeping their cool. The young men are wedged between time and freedom as they stand and wait for the police to run their “government”, their names through the computer trying to get a hit, a warrant, an arrest.
Margie Shaheed’s narrative in its entirety will be in the upcoming anthology Dampen to Bend: Mapping Transport and Transition due out in Summer 2013. Shaheed has been published in numerous anthologies and her unpublished manuscript “The Playground: Poems, Snapshots and Childish Babble” is her first collection of poetry. Her second book, “Code Breakers & Tongue Shakers”, an experimental collection of first person narratives on mother tongue and the politics of language will be published under Coal Publishing in 2013/14.