Poem: 11 Mile Road

Indigenous identity,
Is much more than a white man,
Trying to be street, 

My Ojibway Father is street,
From the HP,
All the way up to KBIC,
Don’t know these abbreviations,
Too bad,
You’re not street or rez enough to know,

But 40 years for the phone company is keepin’ it real,
For the family,
For his pride,
NDN man not seen in 48067,

1993 brought railroad tracks and pain,
White teachers and class mates misunderstand,
The connection of the heart to Anishinaabe Aki, 

Racist classmates and racist teachers,
The liberal white town is not so kind to mixed race Indian kids,

 Racist Lewis Cass said,
“this is truly a Royal Oak,”
At the time not gentrified,
But becoming yuppified,
White-collar-ified,

We fought against gentrification,
Of the colonial pulse of my land,
My territory,
My street,
My parking lot,
My parking garage,
With the fat white man shouting from the Washington Square building.
My city,

The neighborhood,
Village,
Was like a small town,
In a spiraling Megalopolis,
There was a sense of safety,
In a small radius,

Oooo how I longed for trees!
Trees and trees!
Dirt roads,
Water,
Land of my ancestors,
Anishinaabe Aki,

Instead as a youth,
Making prank calls from payphones on Lafayette and uptown,
My shoes wore out by the end of summer time,
Embracing the Sagittarius fire of rebellion,
Making conservative Catholics nervous,
When I tore down posters in their school,
Because your on our land and in my hood,
I don’t like your chimes,
I don’t like that you were dismissive of my Mom’s heart, 

My energy to infinity,
With an olde school rotary phone in hand,
I make phone calls to friends so we can stand on the sewer caps,
Recite poetry or dance out some Motown on the steel,
My best friend grew up in Crane (AJIJAAK) Avenue,
I grew up near the once dead and dying downtown before,
It’s actual death when the colonization of gentrification occurred,

 With petitions in hand I held my Momma’s hand and fought against,
“this is truly a Royal Oak,” 

I attended my first city commission meeting at 12 years old,
Mayor Dennis Coward said,
“the girl in the orange shirt,”
I rose from my seat,
Spoke against the city,
I learned that day that the city gentry doesn’t care about the proletariat,

The building and closing of real shops,
Baa maa pii Hobby Attic,
Baa maa pii real cheap book store,
Baa maa pii vacuum cleaner store,
Baa maa pii alcohol free working class family diners, 

We no longer could walk downtown,
Because we were no longer welcome,
Mom said numerous times in her Kmart shoes,
“this town is going to hell in a hand basket…”

11 Mile Road,
Where I was more afraid of the White man,
Than the Black man,
As brainwashed by WXYZ Channel 7 Detroit,
They brainwashed White Metro Detroit,
To be afraid of the Black man,

The viaduct,
I wasn’t going to be afraid,
Nor let the Black and White racial binary be carved into my skin,
But the city did do damage,

I am not a white man rapper,
I am a Two-Spirit Ojibway/ Métis matriarch,
I am the little boy who thought bad thoughts,
On the railroad tracks in Maxwell Park,

Or I found places to hide,
Was naturally hidden by the racial binary in the Metro,
Which drew out pain,
Which drew out generational trauma,
To discover the Androgynous Man in Brown Pants,
Who’s ancestry spirals and rolls on the waves of Gitchee Gumee,
Following the migration story to our ancestral homeland,
With Ajijaak dodem migration storied leadership,
Ascending,
Descending,
To rise again and fly,
The silence of Ajijaak could erase the pain of streaky palms on a school desk,
When I was made invisible by colonial school books, 

We stayed south of 11 Mile road,
Although our south side was safer than most south sides,
But was it safe for mixed race Indian kids? 

What does safety mean when you have racist class mates?
Racist teachers,
That dress themselves as do gooder white liberals,
Cosmopolitan city folk who adopt Indigenous children from Peru,

11 mile road,
I run across it,
Running,
I run south,
I run north,
I’m free.