Free Bresha, Free Us

Nina Oteria


who will stand up for black femmes? who will stand up for black women? will you? Protect black girls?

when does a black girl become a woman? as soon as she’s aware she’s black? at the onset of her period? in prison?

who will stand up for the black girls? who will make sure that we are not murdered? are not forgotten? no one but ourselves.

Lucille Clifton
“if we forget our sister
while they have her
let our hair fall
straight on to our backs
like death”

I stand and
Bresha Meadows
we hold you sister

an abuser raises his hand against himself

to think of a black woman defending herself is
dangerous desperate disobedient
to take your life back into your own hands
by any means necessary
so they took her life out of her hands
on suicide watch
in the prison within the prison

I am so proud of her courage
a heart beating with all of the ocean’s pressure and force
tons of pressure
oh, her mother

that crushing love the system knows nothing of
the system knows nothing

but its own exposed eye
the exposed eye of the law
that sees
that keeps
you alive in order to be punished for no wrong
read: there is no escape
read: her way out is
all panic shots
all panic shots
all panic shots into the white abyss that longs to swallow

but we

having always been the people who
make a way out of no way


will bind together
defending the living and the dead

we will survive

the black woman will survive

even as the prison cells know when a body is a black woman
Bresha’s cells know her body is a black woman
that dead man’s scars are not hers
but all the prison cells want to know is that her body is a black woman
that threat of violence
we do it ourselves, every time
out of sight
out of mind
this time this time
only chance prevents it from being me
you, this time
when is self-defense a crime?
when black women are always strong armed and dangerous

do you remember when you were 14?

our hearts tender with helplessness
with the unexpressed
we want to be free
we want our sisters to be free
I want
to be free
from what tries to unmake me
unmake us
unmake our love
our love for Bresha
for ourselves
for black women with capable hands
who old each other
in hospitals, schools, prisons, psych wards
where we can’t see the stars

may this unbroken line
from the middle passage
show us the way home
guide our sister Bresha
speak some wordless salve through her soul
may this unbroken love line show us the way home
through fire (next time)
and rubble soon
this world must end
we make the way
do it ourselves
every time


Nina Oteria is a poet from North Carolina living in Harlem. She is a candidate of the Pratt MFA in Creative Writing and Activism.