The Great Poem Series: Jericho Brown’s “Homeland”

Jericho Brown is an Associate Professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. First published in The New Testament (2014), “Homeland” was also published in the 2015 volume of Best American Poetry. “Homeland” is a testimony for all male African Americans in modern society. He expresses the brutally honest lifestyle of an African American male living in The United States. Brown displays how he feels as an African American, his description is haunting because he feels that it’s his fault that “nobody in th[e] nation feels safe.” Male African Americans have a reputation for being criminals and having violent attributes. Brown relates the feeling to being a vampire, an entire race of people feared by the general public because of stereotypes.

In today’s society African American males have been stereotyped as criminals, which I believe is unacceptable. They have this reputation because of a small percentage of African Americans who are criminals, this portion of people have made society look down upon them. Its extremely unfair for the rest of the African Americans in this country, Brown says that African Americans are placing the blame on the government for this reputation. Currently in our country the “Black Lives Matter” movement is going on, they are fighting for exactly what Brown is explaining. This movement is trying to end this reputation and make our country see that not all African American people are criminals. Our country has had the same problem of unfair treatment to African Americans for centuries now; and everyone is still wondering why there hasn’t been a solution yet. This discrimination has lead to riots, protests, and African Americans feeling that they can’t trust the government.

“Homeland” does an amazing job at explaining how African Americans feel about living in our country. African American males especially are being undermined in society, “all the men thought me a vampire,” which explains the criminal reputation males have. Brown feels that African Americans are viewed as a “vampire,” this description reveals how the American society is afraid of African Americans. Brown believes that “nobody in this nation feels safe, and I’m still a reason why,” saying that society is afraid of male African Americans because of this stereotype.

In Brown’s contributor notes he states “I wrote ‘Homeland’ thinking about Henry Louis Gates and Barack Obama” which would lead to make the reader understand where his feeling of African Americans being undermined in society originated. Henry Louis Gates is the Director of the Hutchins Center for African American Research at Harvard University. His teachings as well as Barack Obama influenced Brown to write “Homeland” about standing up for the rights of all people, not just African Americans. Barack Obama is sort of a role model for male African Americans, he has brought together so many people and he is also the first African American president. President Obama represents for all the good in African American people, this criminal reputation goes against the values and beliefs that we hold so tight in our country. The values that all men are created equally and that all people deserve equality. These attributes influenced Brown even more in creating this poem “Homeland”.

Brown displays small amount of violence in “Homeland”, saying “black people kept dreaming that the president got shot”. I think this shows how Brown is demanding a change, with a change in power, comes a change in lifestyle for many many people nation-wide. Brown says that he asked passengers on his plane “What’s the proper name for a man caught stealing into his own home”? He received many responses but one that stuck out was “jigger”. When I googled “jigger” it came up on www.urbandictionary.com as “a jew who tries to act black” which is another racist, stereotypical, and awful thing to call someone. This is another way how Brown proves his point that African American males have a bad reputation for being criminals.

“Homeland” does a fantastic job of explaining how African American people cannot be stereotyped in our world anymore. We have had the same struggle for centuries and still cannot come out with a solution. It’s unfair to them as a race and unfair to them as human beings, discriminating African Americans goes against the entire Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War and any other event throughout history. They do not deserve to be mistreated and it’s inhumane to keep these acts of hatred alive in today’s world. Brown states he has many things “confiscated” such as “My Atripla. My Celexa. My Cortisone. My Klonopin. My Flexeril” and more. I believe he is saying this as a way to connect to how the things he needs to live are being taken away from him. The African American people are having their rights stripped from them in the modern day. They are being discriminated once again, and this time they are going to do something to fix it instead of relying on someone else to do it. They are sick and tired of being ridiculed and it’s unfair how African Americans are viewed and are treated.

One thing that Jericho Brown really keys in on in his Contributors Notes is that he doesn’t feel welcome in our country. He wrote this poem thinking about “what it means to be a very lonely citizen in a country that doesn’t want your citizenship”. I think this is a very powerful thing to say and it successfully makes me second think everything we are taught in and out of school. If African American people are citizens then they should be treated like everyone else. It’s not acceptable for someone to be treated lesser because of their race. Brown feels that African Americans should try and make a difference themselves, he encourages others to spread the word about change. He wants to see improvement, and after this, so do I.

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