“I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this.
I had confessed to myself all along, tracer of life, poetry trends,
That awareness, consciousness,
poems that screamed of pain and the origins of pain and death had blanketed my tablets. But brother Torres, common ancient blood-line brother Torres is dead!
Gil Scott-Heron – Jose Campos Torres
While I grappled with the kidnapping and execution of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, my mind sped toward the words of Gil Scott-Heron. Heron’s 1978 album, “The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron,” featured the iconic and symphonic soliloquy, “Jose Campos Torres.”
Let me refresh the Boomers’ memories while enlightening the spirits of Generations X, Y, and Z! Here’s the short version of it.
In 1977, Jose Campos Torres, a 23-year-old Vietnam veteran, was beaten to death by White Houston police officers. After the guilty verdict was rendered, the officers were sentenced to a one-year probation and a $1 fine. The public outcry was deafening, and Gil summarized it in a poem/song. But the story was so much more profound.
Check out a fuller version from Wikipedia.
“Jose Campos Torres returned home to Houston after completing three tours in Viet Nam with an elite combat unit. Like many of his Chicano peers, he came to detest the way Houston police authorities treated “Mexicans.”
On May 5, 1977, when Alberto Vela, the owner of the 21 Club, called the police to remove Torres from their bar, six different officers arrived to subdue and detain him. After he demonstrated some resistance to this order, the six officers decided to bring him to jail; the jail authorities refused to accept him, given the extensive injuries Torres suffered from the police and demanded he be brought to a hospital.
The senior officers decided–instead of taking him to a hospital–that Mr. Torres needed to be taught a lesson and disciplined. Senior officer Stephen Orlando arranged to have the officers meet them at the Commerce Street bridge, two blocks from the Houston City Jail. There, the police beat Jose Campos Torres and pushed him into the Buffalo Bayou.
Campos Torres survived Viet Nam and died at the hands of the Houston police.
Two days later, the Torres family filed a missing person report. A few days later, the police found his body floating in the bayou, catalyzing a series of protests and petitions from Mexican American organizations across the political spectrum.”
I had said I wasn’t going to write down no more articles like this. I said it after Tamir Rice and George Floyd, and Botham Jean, and I will say it again.
However, Brother Tyre Nichols has been beaten down by Blacks wearing the same Blue that killed all the others. I said I wasn’t going to write about this sh!t no mo’!
But Tyre Nichols is dead y’all. He died after he got a bad case of the Blues. And you know the Blues are always harder on Blacks than anyone else. But the Blues don’t ‘scriminate,’ and that’s why all of America should stand up against this genre of the Blues.
Gil Scott-Heron makes it plain and plural at the end of Jose Campos Torres.
“I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this, but the battlefield has oozed away from the stilted debates of semantics. Beyond the questionable flexibility of primal screaming. The reality of our city, jungle streets and their Gestapos
Has become an attack on home, life, family and philosophy, total. It is beyond the question of the advantages of didactic niggerisms.
The (Maryland Farmer expletive) dogs are in the street.
“In Houston maybe someone said Mexicans were the new niggers
In LA maybe someone said Chicanos were the new niggers In Frisco maybe someone said Orientals were the new niggers
Maybe in Philadelphia and North Carolina they decided they didn’t need no new niggers.
I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this!”
I had said that I wasn’t going to write no more articles like this because the crux of what needs to be said has been said. Nobody listens. We suffer a temporary reaction, put salve on our wounds and wait for the next taxpayer-sponsored atrocity!
So, excuse me if I don’t care to see that inhumane video or wax eloquently on the whole farce we know as “policing.”
Some of us have reached our threshold on needless pain and endless political posturing. It’s past time for a revolution, and according to the sophist Gil Scott-Heron, that Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
And like I said, I won’t be writing no articles about the Revolution, ‘cause I ain’t no snitch!
Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.