Poetry and Prose

From the pen of Rashonda Burch, aka Blaq the Broke Poet

Blaq, a.k.a. Rashonda Burch

Rashonda Burch, aka Blaq the Broke Poet, was moved to write these two powerful poems after meeting our members and staff at Witness to Innocence. Please read her amazing description of herself below the poems. You inspire us, Blaq.

You can listen to Blaq recite her WTI-inspired poetry here:

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Guilty Until Otherwise

Silver bracelets chain linked to wrists contradicts the statement of innocence until proven guilty

If you’ve ever been in a predicament where you were treated as convict before any conviction just listen cause you ‘bout to feel me

I’m so sick of this twisted shit they call justice so on this one my mouth might get filthy

Regardless of what they try to portray I know as well as they that when you get locked up your ass is guilty…until otherwise

Or supposedly until proven innocent

But I’m hella bent because evidence is tampered with and truth is irrelevant and judges and lawyers eat lunch together

But if you’re wrongfully accused that shit never makes the news and quite frankly I am far from fed up.

Rather let down as I step up from the ream of the American dream

The illustrated democracy probably ran more like a dictatorship

Sometimes I feel as if Hitler had a say in this

And I try to paint the picture vividly as I’m saying this because as a Americans our only faith is in…statistics

Your ass is guilty if you are dark-skinned, low brim, trousers hanging below your waistline, a quarter past nine, hooded sweatshirts walking through streets that are darkened

The reincarnation of a hate crime is displayed in two words…Trayvon Martin

Your ass is guilty if you fit the description

In justice there is no truth, and there were written guidelines we agreed to as a people but what the hell does the constitution constitute?

Interpretations are made to reverse what we rehearse

Leading to imprisoned innocence, untimely death, a guilt ridden people

Oppressed…depressed…suppressed…guilty until otherwise, until we die or someone takes witness

Witness to Innocence


Bullied into non-existence by justice

Life becoming a distant memory by the sysem we trusted unjustly…truth unsaid

Lives being fought for with raging war

In prison without proper cause for seeming so sure of blood shed upon innocent hands

Cast away without a second thought, an innocent man…I can’t imagine this

But then again I can because it happens right before my eyes so often it no longer comes with surprise

People die without reason

And we allow the changing of seasons it doesn’t embed in our minds or rattle our sleep we just live on continuously until it happens too close to home…I can’t imagine

Children sprouting into adulthood without a father they only know through a glass or a mother they only hear through a phone but here in America this is our song

No justice, impurity, no love, no loyalty, no honor, no security from Homeland Security

But perhaps there’s hope

The exonerated’s exonerations made a statement to this nation

We are still willing to stand for what we believe in

Transparent is the justice system’s treason

We will fight for this death without reason

This I didn’t imagine, I’ve seen it, or rather bared witness

To the release of the innocent…left for dead…fighting within an of life…for life…

Left for dead…but still alive

My name is Rashonda Burch, better known as Blaq the Broke Poet…

I was raised in the streets of North Philadelphia, one of the roughest parts of the city. As a young child, I breezed through the public school system. My peers referred to me as “one of the smart ones.” However, I was more interested in being cool or fitting in. Other kids looked up to me. Instead of using this for positivity, I used it to make fast money. I was your typical product of environment, so to speak. I sold drugs and did just about everything else that comes along with the fast life. People use to say my facial expressions never changed back then, so they began to call me black.

The street life can only take you in two directions. Fortunately, it landed me in prison. I spent 2 and a half years in the county jail and 6 months at Muncy state prison. Some may view me strangely for saying this, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. There I saw the results of my lifestyle…what a painful reflection. I had the chance to meet people who had been inside for 30 years and counting. Some were guilty of a crime, and some were guilty of being the perfect target for the justice system. No matter how you got there, once you were in, your identity was the same as everyone else’s, a number. I had time, time, and more time, so I wrote. I wrote my way to imprisoned freedom. Yes, I was still in jail, but I found freedom in my pen. This was something they could not take away from me. It was unaffected by my condition. It was my tool to get out of prison and I used it.

I wrote a poem for the graduation of a re-entry program I was mentoring for. When I presented it, it caught the attention of Debra D. Rainey, Esq., some brave lawyer who was moved enough to seek freedom for me. I believed in myself, and she believed in me. Now I sit here writing this bio for an organization that is brave enough to take the same leap for what they believe in, and if Witness to Innocence only knew how much that truly means to me. My life isn’t the greatest, but I am staying positive and moving forward. Coming from where I came from, what more could you ask for. Be encouraged….Be free….

*Blaq is co-host with Debra D. Rainey, Esq. for the weekly radio show, “For the People” on G-Town Radio in Philly, which you can listen to live on the internet every Tuesday from 8–9:30pm. It is produced by WTI board member Renee Norris-Jones. www.gtownradio.com


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If you are interested in reprinting any of these pieces, please call 206-713-5685 or email sanderson@witnesstoinnocence.org for permission and terms of use.

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