Dillard grad, Pulitzer winner Jericho Brown reflects on police violence

“I will not shoot myself in the head and I will not shoot myself in the back,” read Brown, “And I will not hang myself with a trash bag.”

NEW ORLEANS —

A Dillard University graduate, whose poetry with themes of race and police brutality earned him the Pulitzer Prize, is reacting to the death of George Floyd.

 On a Zoom call from his home in Atlanta, Jericho Brown reads WWLTV’s Paul Dudley some of the work that earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2019. The poem he has chosen is titled Bullet Points. It’s about the death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman found hanged in her jail cell in Texas in 2015, three days after being pulled over for a minor traffic stop.

“I will not shoot myself in the head and I will not shoot myself in the back,” read Brown, “And I will not hang myself with a trash bag.” 

The 44-year-old Shreveport native was awarded the Pulitzer for his work titled “The Tradition” about race and racism. Names like Bland’s but also Michael Brown’s and Eric Garner’s are the inspiration for the poems. 

“What is your reaction to hearing the death of George Floyd?,” asked Dudley.

 “It’s heartbreaking. It’s traumatizing,” said Brown, “I was avoiding any video and I still haven’t seen the video. Though I tried not to, I did come across a picture with the officer’s knee on his neck.” 

Brown says the image was more than enough to spark a pain that runs deep.

“People ask me how are you doing. And I have learned that it is better for me  to be honest and say I am heartbroken, I am traumatized, I am hurting right now,” said Brown. 

Though most protests have been peaceful, some have not. Brown doesn’t condone hurting anyone but said he understands the feelings that have led to smashed buildings and business. 

“Killing a person, kneeling on a person’s neck, tear-gassing human beings, shooting rubber bullets into crowds seems much more violent than breaking a window,” said Brown.  

You can watch Paul Dudley’s full interview with Jericho Brown here: 

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