Nspire is a poet, mother, friend and so much more. I met her on the Los Angeles poetry scene years ago and now know her as a friend. I use that word in the realist of ways. We talk often. Our sons hang. We encourage each other. Last night we went to see Fruitvale Station with my son, her son and his friend. Tears. You already know. Side bar here, she almost had to issue some backhands to a few folks in the back who, somehow, found something funny during the hardest part of the movie. Poor souls back there didn't even know they were in danger. I don't know, maybe watching Oscar's mother walk the longest walk any mother can walk, that walk to view her son's body on a cold hard table, is too confronting and heartbreaking. Maybe giggles come to mask the tears. Again, I don't know. But she spared them the mama tongue whip they were due for interrupting the movie.
When I saw her this morning I had the good sense to bring my notepad and she agreed to this printed conversation.
J- Why poetry?
N- Why poetry? For me, it's not just poetry. Poetry is just a form of what I do. I wrote short stories before poetry. I didn't land on poetry. Poetry landed on me. I've been writing poetry. I didn't slam though. I'm too scared to slam. I never slammed. My shit is real. I mean, I do this piece from my heart and somebody give me a 4.7... no... Don't be judgin' me.
J- What do you remember first?
N- 'Bout what?
J- I don't know, your first memory.
N- Just being free, rolling around. Being a child and rolling in the grass. Being sensitive to other people's needs. If that makes sense.
You mind talking about last night?
N- No, I don't mind.
J- Obviously it was touching but...
N- Why was it so touching to me?
N- Um, it was touching not only because I'm a humanitarian, but more because I've been in that space before. Being in a hospital room praying for change and it doesn't happen. Death is so permanent. It doesn't just affect the person killed. It hurts the family, friends...
To just kill him like that, I mean, yeah, there are bad people out there, but not all of us are bad people. It gave me a visual of what my godson looked like when he died.
J- He was killed by the police?
N- Yeah, shot in the back of the head.
J- How old was he?
J- What happened?
N- He and his friend were walking home and Kazi decided he didn't want to be harassed by the police.
J- He was usually harassed by police?
N- Yeah. He had gone the up and down path. He went from playing basketball, then feeling the peer pressure of being affiliated with his hood, had a baby. Baby was only eighteen months old. He now plays basketball. He's eleven years old. Kazi had gotten his forklift license and just got a new job.
So many similarities to Oscar Grant. He got back with his baby's mom. Moved her into his place. Decided to make a change.
J- What time was it when he was walking home?
N- 2:15am. He was coming home from a friend's house. He was right around the corner from his house.
J- Then the police stopped him.
N- Yeah. They saw him and made a u turn. (Pause) Honestly, I don't know if it was due to my stroke or all the stress, but I can't remember exactly what year that was right now.
I have experienced so much death around me. From '98 to 2008 I experienced death every year. That's ten years! The last one was in June. I was with my ex husband closing his grandmother's eyes. Then the very next year, it was my grandmother.
I lost a guy I was dating January '03, my godson... (Pause)
J- What happened that night with Kazi?
N- They flashed the lights on him. This is the account of his friend. He told his friend, 'Man, I'm not about to be harassed tonight.' He was like 'I'm about to shoot left.'
J- To head to his house?
N- But he didn't make it. When the officer noticed he was taking off he hopped out of the car and said "Stop or I'll shoot!" Then he immediately just shot. Then his friend just dropped to his knees and screamed, "Wait! Wait! Why are you shooting him?" Both of the officers shot at him because he was shot multiple times. In the head and the back.
I don't know how long it took for them to call the family. By the time I got over there, daylight was breaking. It was over on 125th and Vermont, by Helen Keller park. Right in the intersection.
When I got there, they had removed his body, but his hat, brain matter and clots were still in the street. I never liked chittlins but I really don't now because that's what brain matter looks like.
J- What did you do then?
N- His brother and sister were in the crowd and I went to hug them. Wow, I used to babysit them. Then I realized what was in the street and I asked the neighbors for Clorox and water because cars were driving through the crime scene and I didn't want him left there like nothing.
I rinsed off the ground and just watched what seemed like forever a red river flow into the drainage. It felt like my tears were flowing through the water. His friend picked up his hat, then the others started up all the hood garb.
J- Hood garb like what?
N- "Aw cuz, nigga fuck this!" A lot of menacing. But that to me felt like part of the problem. Because they don't just bang on the police. They bang on each other! They bang on folks from other sets who they don't even know. I mean, you can't just do shit and nothing happens. They were as much of a reason why he was dead as the police.
J- So what did you do?
N- I sprayed at them with the water hose. Not disrespectful but just to get their attention. I spritzed they ass. I told them they were a part of the problem like the police. I told them they should do better. I told them that the hood would forget about him but his family will never forget. His son will never forget.
J- Did you get help for yourself? All those deaths?
N- (Laughs) Well, how can I phrase this poetically?
J- It ain't gotta be poetic.
N- Well...um...I... Let's say...turned to medicinal assistance.
That, and I had the support of friends and family who I probably drained the hell out of. I went into a deep depression. I felt like I didn't want to be here. And if it wasn't gonna happen naturally, then I was gonna help it out.
I had some really solid family and friends who prayed for me until I could pray for myself. I got in touch with my spirituality. And the meaning. I had a hard time with the why. Then I just got into what happens after it happens. If I can't ask why it happens then I go into what the purpose is and what I'm supposed to do.
You know what's interesting? After all the deaths, I didn't want any new people in my life. I didn't want to get close and then lose another person. You know? I lost different kinds of people. I lost my father, a boyfriend, a brother, godson, best friends, cousins, children of friends...
(Throughout our conversation her dog, Buddy, kept trying to come into the room.)
J- Did you name your dog, Buddy?
N- No (she laughs). Buddy is a gift from the kid's father when he was making graces to get back in. Buddy was disowned from his family because he impregnated his mom. We all wanted to change his name! All of us put two names in a hat and the name Buddy was in the hat twice also. We shook up the hat and my oldest son pulled out the name Buddy. My youngest then was like "No, that's not fair" so I let him pull. So we shook the hat again and he pulled out Buddy too. After that I was like, "Come on, Buddy, let's go."
J- I love it! I love the name Buddy too. Plus you needed a buddy at that time.
N- I know! (Pause) I learned about physical death and spiritual death in this whole process.
When we first got Buddy, he only took to me. Not my ex, not the kids, just me. And he is so needy. He needs all this attention and sometimes I do too, you know? But he was my buddy. When I lost all the weight, 115 pounds, Buddy was my walking buddy.
N- When I lost my brother in law, and I only say in law for the record, but he was a brother to me. It was an earthquake. He was the tenth death. I'm just now finding my way in the pieces of this rumble.
J- How did he die?
N- A stray bullet went through the window of his house as he was putting on his shirt to go shopping for our Father's Day barbecue. It was the day before Father's Day. His two youngest children and wife were there.
J- Wow. What are you doing to take care of yourself? (Again)
N- Well, besides the medicinal assistance (smiles), I died. I. Died. And now I'm in my Lazarus stage re recognizing myself. What was that movie...The Terminator... when they kept beating him up and he kept getting back up. I feel like the Nspironator. Right now I feel like there's not much more that can hurt me, as far as death is concerned. I feel like you have to learn to live with it and take all the positives out of that.
You know I was just thinking. Thinking about marrying my names. Marrying being an inspiration. Like that's my God given last name. I'll be Dietra Walker Nspire.
I always try to have a good heart. People like calling me Nspire because they say my message shows that name.
I was walking down Venice Beach and I saw a picture of Bob Marley. I love Bob Marley and I really connected with this picture. I hung it in the boy's room.
The picture says:
Stand up for your rights
Don't give up the fight
You have a right to life
I know people are like "Why would you hang that in their room? He smoked weed!" But he was more than weed. He was a philosopher. Get up. Stand up. You have a right to life. At the end of the day, that's my message.