Art as an Intentional Interruption: Walking Wounded


Children Soldiers

And the bones sing the pain

of Tutsi children with

parents lost and separated

Some quite literally

head from shoulders

that could not carry the rages of 


There is a church in Nymata where the

skulls on the pews bear witness

to war and children

left alone to run

weary and afraid in

horror they never made.

Mama was a Tutsi and daddy’s

long dead

The mayor of the town ship wants even the

hopes for tomorrow dead.

soldiers black as night

killing all the blacks in sight.

Tutsi civilians in flight

separated, orphaned

Tutsi boys become soldiers, 

at one with 


Never wanted to be a soldier

but will kill before I accept death

Never wanted to be a soldier

but I will kill rather than

accept death,

from Hutus black like me

Rwandan soldiers gave them guns

and now they soldier

make war on Hutus who kill Tutsis

where did innocence and childhood go?

pictures of babies on TV

orphaned to the tune of 20,000

parents dead the war is over

but does this ever end?

Does it ever end?

Does it ever end?

The tears,

the pain,

the futility,

the death,

the waste,

The ink has turned to blood

and the sun won’t set

on so much 


When God gets back

He’s going to be hella pissed. 




Genocide: The act of systemically destroying a racial, political, or cultural group. It is a heavy word.  It is  a word that conjures the worst of human against human atrocity. A word that should cause us all to pause and consider, however once a thing becomes normalized it simply “is”, somehow it becomes bereft of its innate horror. Once a horror has been normalized we find ways to go on. It is the way life works. We push aside the nastiness of existence to be able to continue with the business of living. 


The business of life goes on, it does not stop for birth or death; life goes on. It does not stop when time stops and the air whooshes out of our life and we are caught in the headlights of brutal reality. It grinds on. There are events in life that are clarifying. We learn from them; sometimes the lessons are terrible ones. We are remade or undone in such moments. Sometimes time stands still and we feel all the places in which we are broken, unlucky, too short, ill-fated, too late, paradoxically placed, or not enough– life is almost too heavy to carry sometimes, and yet it moves along. 


A process like genocide could last decades, centuries, cross continents, become the background symphony to which you struggle to make a life. You grow up in its shadows everything is colored by it. Perhaps you are unaware of its pervasive wear on your existence. It does not care, it erodes your possibilities, whispers your pitfalls, sings your troubles as it draws the contours of your life just the same. 


The process of your elimination would be woven into primary and secondary educational spaces, into spaces of justice, in the attitudes of law enforcement and court systems, into the carceral system itself, into the economic system, into the halls of higher learning, into the medical system and influence where and how you live. You would breathe it in and out, walk, sleep, and dream in its presence. You would be shaped by it. It would leak out into how you moved and how you were loved and held in the universe. It would predict your expectations and color your dreams but you might not be aware of it. It might seem like your normal when it is as constant and unfailing as your own breath. It might become a part of your modus operandi if it persisted for generations how could it not become a part of your warped normal?


And so it is for North American African families in North America, the business of our lives grinds on in the face of its often brutal reality. We have continued to build lives after the middle passage and its enduring legacies. We continued in emancipation pregnant with hope. We continued in the backlash of emancipation resisting with constant movement. We moved out of perceived harms way to places that offered opportunities. We moved to build together. We continued when that building was interrupted. We moved to resist being excluded and ground under in our quasi freedom. We continued as resistance was met with force, brutality, and often murder. We continued. We continued to live on the rough side of the mountain, still eating scraps, trying to emulate the contours of the bar set for us. We continued as jobs left and prisons swelled to bursting with our fathers and sons. We continued as schools fell apart, turned into holding pens for the prisons already bursting at the seams. We continued as daughters and mothers became a part of the human pool flowing into profit-making American carceral institutions.  We continued as prices soared while drugs and guns became more accessible than decent food. We continued in disinvested neighborhoods at the hands of slumlords surrounded by churches, liquor stores, festooned with altars that mark the spots where our children fell victim to the mean ways of being targeted for extinction.


We continue traveling on reserves, the means by which we have learned to negotiate the treacherous landscape in which we struggle to make homes and raise healthy families. 


Sometimes for the sake of sanity, decency, and our battered selves, we must pause. We open our eyes and we see. We seek understanding. We make justice our business. We stand still in the storm speaking truth for truth’s sake.


Our children are being murdered. Guns should not be easier to come by than food and rent money. The police often do not protect or serve, rather their approach to us is suspicious, demeaning, and often violent. We fear for the safety of young black men in and out of our melting communities. The message that they are targeted has been internalized so well that police execute them at will and they shoot each other on the slightest provocation. We are squeezed beyond belief by our rage, fear, and the grief that we never have time to express, digest or process because another tragedy is always imminent.


Love Balm for my SpiritChild and its iteration, Our Hallowed Ground is a pause in the storm. We intentionally open ourselves to reality. We will speak truth here, we will face our fears, we will focus rage as we acknowledge we are under siege, we will remember here, bear witness, as we lift up our lives, our struggles, and the souls of our, suns/sons that set before fully rising.


Our suns/sons are not statistics. They lived. They were loved. They were dreamed and hoped upon and they are remembered. Our love for them continues, as will we because the business of life does not stop even for death. So we will speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves and our business will include justice for suns set too soon.  We will not allow them to be forgotten casualties. 


We will resist genocide by calling it by its name. We are awake in the storm. We see. We know what we can’t afford not to know. Our sons live with targets on their backs and we must find a way to move the system that wants to destroy them and by proxy all of us. We must stand firm in our right to life. We must love ourselves. We must change the end of this story.


As an artist I fight with art. Today I hold the term “restorative justice” in my head. I will also take ‘peace’ along as I consider how to be at peace in a state of war where I am left to restore justice to situations already endured. I want my art today to be a machete clearing a way for us to live justly. So this is pro-active justice creation work.  In this pause we see, and we want to inspire others to “see.” In this pause we feel, we want to inspire others to “feel”. Eyes opened, hearts opened, we invite change.


#makechangenow, #lovebalmformyspirtchild, #ourhallowedground



-Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD


…bringing consciousness back.



About Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD

I create; therefore I am.
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