Shyheim Banks is Keynote Performer at HHYRA Conference

The lines between hip hop and social justice are often blurred, which is a topic of discussion at The Hip Hop Youth Research and Activism (HHYRA) Conference. The HHYRA will bring together youth from diverse communities for a day filled with workshops, dialogues, and interactions that revolve around the ideas of Hip Hop and social justice.  

1Hood Media Teaching Artist Shyheim Banks will perform his Emmy award poem entitled “Don’t Clip Our Tails,’ A Pittsburgh Poet’s Reflection on Racial Justice,” a collaborative effort between Banks, Public Source, and Ryan Loew, Videographer/Editor. 

Check out the complete program here.

Workshops and presentations will be led by high school and college students who submitted proposals that the HHYRA Youth Leadership Council accepted.

Register for the May 20, 2022, event here.

Shyheim Banks

Don’t Clip Our Tails 

I had a conversation 

With a member of a nation 

Who seems to be lacking in patience 

She would like to see black people live 

As much as me 

But couldn’t seem to see 

Where telling a young black boy to put his hoodie down when asked could come off as invasive

I know you’re all wondering,


She was Caucasian 

To which I replied,


Are you not telling them to stop shooting at the stations?” 

See this is too often the occasion,

I asked her to tell me how 

We deserve criminalization

For wearing a fucking hoodie

When they come to us guns blazing

See that’s where I think we’ve been failed 

It’s to a point where 

even our white allies think we’re the problem

So they offer help by clipping our tails 

If you were thrown in a cell

By someone who does NOT wish you well

Would you respond well 

To being advised to “just not go to jail”? 

C’mon bro,

What the hell ? 

If you’re so “not racist”

Then why is your idea of help 

To tell black people 

How to better operate in white spaces ? 

I told her simply,

Don’t clip our tails

To which she replied,

“What does that mean”


I know you mean well,

But it’s counterproductive 

To use your voice to inspire compliance 

Within a system where your voice could be destructive

Martin Luther King said it best 

You become a stumbling block 

In the stride toward freedom 

When you’re more devoted to order 

Than to justice 

Don’t clip our tails 

That means simply,

If you’re going to stand WITH me,

Give me the space to speak out 

Against all odds stacked against me

Don’t clip our tails 

Don’t treat me like my culture is a waste 

Because we take up room

Where you failed to make space 

Let me wear my blackness with grace,

With dreadlocks,


An Unshaved face,

And Tell Fox News 

That’s the beauty in blackness,

Not the disgrace 

Don’t clip our tails,

There should be enough room for me to exist as is,

I shouldn’t have to humble my joy, 

Nor silence my kids,

Nor turn down my music,

Nor straighten my wig

When concerning my freedom,

My life shouldn’t be the first bid 

Don’t clip our tails 

Black people shouldn’t have to shrink 

In fear of what white America will think 

When regarding my place in society,

Your first thought shouldn’t be the clink 

If you see me out for a jog,

Knowing the road I had to take,

You should offer me a drink 

Don’t clip our tails 

I should be able to stand tall

In ALL of my blackness

Baggage and all 

What does Black Pittsburgh need to know?

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