‘If these streets could talk’

Breyanna Dabney, 18, first worked with UHMP in 2020 and reported on the impact of the COVID pandemic on communities of color and created a photo-essay about how the early pandemic allowed opportunities for quiet reflection. She is now in her first year at CCBC Essex in Baltimore and aims to go to pharmacy school.
All photos and text by Breyanna Dabney

"If These Streets Could Talk"

By Breyanna Dabney 

This poem is from the perspective of lower class youth who endure many hardships outside of school and who are mostly impacted by the school to prison pipeline.

If these streets could talk,

Maybe there would be an understanding.

 

Maybe you and I wouldn’t be so estranged, 

Maybe then there could be some change.

 

As a society we’ve grown so much,

Yet are still so divided.

If only I saw like you and you saw like me.

 

If these streets could talk,

They’d tell you about the place I call home,

Where some foul uninvited guests may roam.

 

Is it really even a home if I can’t possess it and call it my own?

 

If these streets could talk they’d say something about the long walks 

From bus to places that I’m forced to take.

The unreliable public transportation that doesn’t care if I’m on time or late.

 

If these streets could talk,

They'd tell you I wore this uniform for a whole week straight.

But I bet they couldn’t tell you anything that I ate. 

My brother and sister needed it more than me, they just 5 and 8. 

As long as they good I think I'll be ok. 

 

Maybe I can get something at school if I’m actually on time.

The everyday detectors and pat downs should really be a crime. 

When I walk in it’s like I've already disobeyed.

Treated like a prisoner that needs to be contained. 

 

Next is down the hall to the class, 

where the teacher barely wants us to pass.

This may not be entirely true, but it’s the way she makes it seem

Expecting spectacular work when I’m still learning how to read.

 

She says keep it up and see if you graduate. 

I start to think maybe failing is just a part of my fate. 

All I really need is someone to believe and help me get straight.

But they don’t care, Only thing they worried about is getting their pay.

 

If these streets could talk, 

They’d tell you about the basketball courts. 

They say to make it out you either got to rap or play sports.

Some say education is the key 

The only other option is to start running the streets.

 

In need of desperate change I take the bait.

Like many others before me who just needed a way.

A way to feed themselves, pay bills, and try to stay straight.

A way to just survive the hard day to day. 

 

If these streets could talk, 

They’d show you the lives lost in this dangerous game

Either dead or in jail, or never the same 

Very few people can make it out unscathed

A constant cycle of trauma and pain 

 

To me, jail over death seems like a fair trade 

There’s not much difference from that and school anyways

This flawed system masks a big trap

Pushing kids to confinement, just to make a quick stack. 

 

But these streets don’t talk so you’d never even know

How I’m affected by the system that doesn’t care if I stay or go.