If You Really Love Me, You Must Love My People

If you really love me, you must love my people:
dirty, tired feet
stumbling home from the graveyard shift,
weighed down by pockets full of change
and this month’s rent,
living on hopes and dreams
and leftovers
because that’s all we have
at the end of the day
that you can’t take away.

My people are children without college funds
building rockets
with pop bottles and Mentos,
waiting tables
so they can build real rockets someday
and soar out of this place.
Oh, how we told them
they could be anything
and so they dreamed to be anything
but hungry.

My people are poverty line dwellers
and food stamp recipients,
bodies crumbling into the cracks of society.
We take nothing and have nothing,
but give us a chance
and we’d give you everything we have.

My people are brown and black stains
on your white linen tablecloth.
You will hold us under the faucet
suffocate us until the water breaks us,
but still we persist.
Still we remain.

You call me the exception
to your preconceived notions
about people in a ghetto
you’ve never set foot it.
Hatred for my people
dripping from your lips,
you beg for a kiss.
I am your charity case;
love the girl from the ghetto
who is classy enough
that you won’t get too much
scum on your hands
but these are my people
and you’re going to love them
because my God, I do.

I am my people and my people are me.

So if you really love me,
you must love my people.
And if you don’t love my people,
you don’t really love me.