A Poem for Renisha McBride

Renisha McBride


Hopefully, you have been following the trial of Theodore Wafer, a Michigan man, who killed 19 year old Renisha McBride last fall when she came to his door in the early morning hours after a car accident begging for help. He shot and killed her through a locked door, because he claims he felt afraid. Local residents in Detroit, marched and rallied on Renisha’s behalf and ensured her killer was brought to trial. But there has been no national outrage of the sort we saw last year with Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Wafer’s attorney has attempted to prove that Renisha was “up to no good,” citing alcohol and drug use.  It simply remains unclear to me how drinking, smoking, and then needing help, constitute a crime worthy of being shot in the head and left to die on a random man’s  porch. Renisha’s life meant something, and she deserved so much better than to be shot down on a cold Michigan morning, because she found herself in need of something we all will need eventually: help.

Between Gaza, Boko Haram, mass deportations, and the indiscriminate killing of Black folks by police, these are scary times in which we are living. We hope you are all taking care of yourselves, being gentle with yourselves and each other, seeking out and giving your energy to the things that matter.

In the immortal words of Tupac, Keep Ya Head Up.

Now, I want to share with you this poem, that I received after I did a recent appearance on HuffPost Live with Marc Lamont Hill to discuss Wafer’s trial.


Renisha McBride

by Sheree Renée Thomas 

“We don’t see black women as women, so they don’t get the traditional protections of femininity…”—Dr. Brittney Cooper, aka Professor Crunk


They say Medusa

was once so beautiful

a goddess envied her

drove her from

her sisters’ side

and stole her grace


Was it her dark skin, the color

of sun-ripened flesh?


Was it her locs

that writhed and swung free

with their own breath?


Banished from her throne

to lie beneath another’s heel

time ravaged her birthright

so that her very name

intoned fear

a fear that echoed

through the ages


Medusa, Renisha


What kind of fear

flings open

a closed, locked door

and blasts the head off

a lone black woman?


What kind of fear


in the witching hours

before dawn?


What kind of fear

pulls one from sleep

and blinds both eyes

to the humanity

that lives within

all skin?


What kind of fear

finds it reasonable

and honest to leap

from lending a hand

to triggering the finger

that kills?

and still

Medusa belongs nowhere


Is there a space where she belongs?

Is there a corner of a dark cave

she is free to cling to?

Where may she find

empathy, peace?



one of triple moons

the goddess of renewal

and strength

She is bereft of her sisters

and we her sisters

mourn her loss



10 thoughts on “A Poem for Renisha McBride

  1. “there has been no national outrage of the sort we saw last year with Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis”
    So powerful, Dr. Crunk, and yet so disheartening in the truth behind your words. The legality of the structural and direct violence perpetrated against young people of color in the media every day demands change, but most, I think, understand that this falls on deaf ears; where little is expected from folks in power and more is commanded of everybody else to step up their game to fight for change. From Sakia Gunn to Renisha McBride however a deeper discussion needs to be had in the Black community to address the disturbing difference in outrage and response indicative of who “[deserves] so much better.” Just saying.

    I look to my elders in lived experience to try to make sense of this madness. And I feel blessed to have your words this morning and Crunk Feminists Collective to count among that wisdom; I’m still learning and you all are my teachers. The poem, just beautiful and makes me want to get in a classroom to share it! To educate/sing rather than despair.

    Thank you for all you do!

    T. Wilkins

    1. And there won’t be. If the treatment of black women in this country over the last 400 years has taught us anything, I know it has shown us this: only we will march and demand justice and freedom for ourselves. No one else finds us worthy. And from day one, we have been on the front lines for her and him and all the other black people.

  2. I love this poem! The Medusa metaphor is perfect. She was a young beautiful woman who was cursed and made out to be ugly and dangerous. Renisha didn’t deserve what happened to her. Black women deserve humanity. We are not monsters, no matter how much society, the media, and Wafer’s attorney tries to say we are.

  3. Watched all of 15 seconds of the trial the other day before I was so disgusted I had to change the channel. In those 15 seconds her name was mentioned in the same breath as the word “drunk” and his name was mentioned in the same sentence as “scared.” Sometimes I really wonder if there is any place in this world we can go and be safe from these insane trigger-happy racist people.

  4. You’re right that no one seems to care when black girls or black women are the victims. It’s not just our “birthright” as the poet said, that’s been ravaged, but it’s our whole humanity. It seems like the whole society sees us as less than, not deserving of all that they demand so much from us. Respect, loyalty (especially that, looking at you black men and black boys), all our labor, and anything good we ever make. They want it all but don’t feel we deserve any of this love and humanity in return.

    I like the comment, “I look to my elders in lived experience…” It’s hard to make sense of any of this violence. I’m glad there are other women out here who are willing to keep trying to make sense of all this nonsense, even when it hurts and we want to give up. Our children deserve no less than that. Somebody did that hard work for us. We have to carry on.

    1. The only time you all seem to care about the black victims, is when they are killed by a white person, in other words, FIVE percent of the time. They other 19 of 20 that are killed by other blacks don’t seem to interest you.

      1. “Brian Bark,” where have you been? Clearly not nowhere near an actual black community! Spare us your ignorance. Clearly you have neither stepped foot in a black community or lived in one men, women, and young people from all classes and faiths have been organizing, marching, and sponsoring “Stop the Violence” initiatives for decades.

        Subscribe to an actual historic black newspaper and educate yourself before coming to troll on our spaces where we are discussing systemic, institutionalized racism that is perpetuated and supported by hypocrites like you. Your comment reminds me why reading is fundamental, as are real, life relationships. The next time you draw your information from the talking points of racists who care nothing for black lives, no matter the circumstances, no matter the geographical location, no matter the age or gender or class, make sure you get your facts straight.

        Read an excellent essay that may help keep you from looking like the uninformed interloper that you are:

  5. This horrible, avoidable crime reminds me why I left Michigan 26 years ago, and why I’ve chosen never again to live in the U.S.A. When I was a teenager in the Eighties, Kid Creole (August Darnell) wrote a song called “Animal Cop.” Seems not a lot has changed.

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