Memories of Walter Scott’s death conjured in new Marcus Amaker visual poem

Deep Layers of Dark Blues

Thirteen. That’s how many steps Walter Scott took as he ran from the North Charleston police officer who was firing his gun into his back.

Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s poet laureate and the Gaillard Center artist in residence, recently penned new work titled “Black Numerology,” recounting the final seconds of Scott’s life and the years lost in his death. It’s a somewhat surreal look at the possibilities that awaited Scott, simple minutiae like walking, working, and loving family.

“I wonder
how many
more miles
you would have
holding your
grandchildren –
would they
have been aware
of the
deep layers
of dark blues
you carried
as a black man
living in the South?”

(You can read the whole poem on Amaker’s website.)

Amaker says the poem was inspired by a conversation with Millicent Brown, an academic and civil rights activist who was one of the students who sued Charleston County School District as it resisted integration in the late 1950s. Brown told the poet that she believed people needed to talk more about Walter Scott, “I also believe that,” Amaker says.

“I started thinking about Walter and how many people — including myself — have not fully healed from the fear that occurred after his murder,” he says.

“I also reflected on the fact that the video of his death has been seen so many times on tiny screens, through the internet. 0s and 1s. Binary code. I wanted to make the connection to numbers without ignoring the emotion.”

Walter Scott was killed when he was shot five times by a North Charleston police officer as he fled a traffic stop over a broken tail light on April 4 2015. He was 50 years old. Michael Slager, the officer, was captured on video shooting Scott in the back as he attempted to run. Slager pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations in 2017 and is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

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