Railroad Underground by Hakim Bellamy
This track was written in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and all other indigenous nations acting as water protectors on behalf of myself, my son and our ancestral affiliation to the Shoshone tribe.
Prologue: There are over 2.5 Million miles of oil pipeline underneath our country, and you don’t own any of it. Pipelines were developed in the late 19th century to compete with railroads as a transport mechanism for crude oil. Not because pipelines were safer, “environmentalism” was never part of the profit motive of oil & gas, but because of one John D. Rockefeller. His Standard Oil empire was built on bulk delivery rates for oil that he could “deliver” based on his other hustle, the Railroad monopoly. Pipeline’s offered the most sacrosanct of American Values, competition, to rival oil prospectors. Pipeline pioneers’ chief motive then (and now) was cost. Small spills were both accepted and expected, as long as those spills did not measurably impact the ability to maintain competitive production rates … they were simply a casualty of profit.
On May 28th, 1879, in western Pennsylvania … the first pipe dream became a reality. Back then oil producers were spilling an estimated 5,000 to 12,000 barrels of oil every day. This equates to roughly one Exxon Valdez (1986) disaster per month being spilled into the environment. As recent as 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that a pipeline spill occurs at least once a day. Likely a low ball estimate since oil companies self-report those numbers, and are only required to report leaks and spills over a certain volume threshold. A new conversation has begun in recent years to revert back to railroad oil shipments. Though accidents are historically more common on railroads than pipelines, the average quantity of oil lost is much higher in pipeline incidents than on railroads…and since we can actually see those inevitable incidents…they do not go undetected for long periods of time … only to be discovered when our children turn up sick or dead.
As Christopher F. Jones from Zocalo Public Square says, simply put “the fact remains that there exists no such thing as a spill-proof pipeline.”
Railroad Underground (for #NoDAPL) – Hakim Bellamy
I already knew
that you had no respect
for my Gods. But what you did not know is
that I had none
That the things I worship
like balance, nature and peace.
While the things you worship
like empire, war, and oil.
The sound of the word “pray”
is the difference between
something very profane
in our language…
and very profound
is a contested word,
is as broken a promise
as the term “treaty.”
Even when you put “civil”
in front, you are a contradiction
in sheep’s clothing,
and we are dying
to comprehend your compulsion
to shove your pipe
into things that don’t belong to you.
Making it incredibly difficult
to swallow this Cannon Ball in the back of my heart,
Who gave you the right!?…
to remove burial grounds by the bucket,
to exhume the sacred for personal gain,
to pretend that there are not people in these plots of dirt,
that this oil that swells your dick so hard
is nothing more than the extracted remains
of my great great ancestor’s fossils.
You cannot own
what wasn’t yours in the first place,
but that’s never stopped you from trying.
Never stopped you
on the 66th day
of this fast,
this fast from oppression
our late grandparents woke the Bison.
and “Our Mother” marched them
clear through our camp
to the shores of our resistance
to remind us
of the righteousness of our cause.
Of the endurance of our resolve,
of the truth.
the best way to preserve a lie
is to eliminate everyone who knows the truth,
who remembers your secrets
and reminds you of your sins.
We already knew
that we would be the retribution
for you not getting your Keystone XL.
That if you find something
that will make you rich
underneath our homeland
you will displace us…
march us single file,
to a state you do not care about
until we are inevitably
in the way again.
That that tank…
just beyond the perimeter of our camp
you know, the one with the bone crushing speakers,
only gets 3.5 miles per gallon.
That the United States Military is the single largest consumer of oil
in the world.
That WE. KNOW. WHY
you go to war. There
You are desperate
pointing firearms at us
but will not shoot…
Afraid even the blackout of news cameras
will capture the oil sands dripping from your fangs
Afraid this trench won’t be big enough
for the both of us…
Because you and I both know
that our conviction
and disdain for this pipeline
is the only thing standing between you,
and your desire to use this equipment
to get a head start
on digging your own grave.
But it is not your insistence on violence
against this planet
and those of us who have inherited her,
we have been hurting now for quite some time
and you are nothing new.
It is not the offensive,
shade of sunglass that the empire wears
to hide the vacancy of compassion behind their eyes.
It is not the obvious differences,
the white wallpaper of power
homogenized all the way down to the chisel of chin
that cowers beneath riot gear polycarbon.
Nothing like the diasporic complexion of
reds, and blacks, and browns
that lock arms on this side of your
But what is really insulting,
is your curious display of gratitude.
having saved what little bit ecosystem you have left
for you, despite yourself.
You, still unaware…
of your own worst enemy,
though your intention was only
to ever be ours.
You are welcome,
for these prayers
of renewable humanity.
A world in which we do not act
as though humans are made up of 60% petroleum
as opposed to water.
Where we seek sobriety
and stop flooding
our mother’s pipes
Where the gas stations close their doors
and her veins
Her train track marks
All the blood money runs dry
And from now on
spill a thing.
Epilogue: On April 2nd 2016,TransCanada’s Keystone 1 pipeline leaked 16,800 gallons of oil on a football field-sized plot (300 square foot) of farmland near Freeman, South Dakota. The spill would have likely been larger had the neighbor of farm owner Loren Schultz, not called to report a strange looking substance on Schultz’s property. Even with the “state of the art” leak-detection systems that taxpayers generally subsidize as an incentive to attract pipeline jobs to their state, 22% of spills nationwide are ultimately reported by the general public.
© Hakim Bellamy, October 30, 2016
Community Publishing has published Hakim Bellamy’s Samuel’s Story, a multimedia children’s story featuring the music of DJ Flo Fader and the illustrations of Melvin Mayes available in Print and Digital editions.
Hakim Bellamy is Albuquerque’s Inaugural Poet Laureate. He is also a scholar, educator, musician, and poet. Community Publishing has published Hakim Bellamy’s Samuel’s Story, a multimedia children’s story featuring the music of DJ Flo Fader and the illustrations of Melvin Mayes available in Print and Digital editions.
Community Publishing brings local artists of all mediums together in creative collaborations for distribution as Multimedia Books while promoting literacy in our communities. We are proud to be a community partner and digital marketer at the Rail Yards Market and the Monte Vista Fire Station. Need help with your web presence and social media marketing? Click here to find out how we can help you!
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