JUNIOR SCHOLARS PROGRAM 

POETRY

By Any Means Necessary

pROJECT

presented by

The Schomburg Center

Junior Scholars

The Junior Scholar Poets began the year with The Autobiography of Malcolm X and his words powerfully resonated with the scholars. Each year, the spoken word group spends an immense amount of time building relationships through games, presentations and conversations. Scholars are prompted to explore topics that are uncomfortable and we challenge one another to share deeply and authentically.  Often this process can be validating, painful and cathartic. Spoken Word requires that we delve into introspection, reflection, observation, and self-expression. 

 

Unbeknownst to us, CoVid 19 was making its way to the United States and would devastate New York City. While the pandemic undoubtedly altered our plans to convene and develop skill in-person as performance poets, it also provoked strong emotions that poured onto our now-virtual pages. So, we went there -- exploring the isolation, the panic, and the loss. We thought about social distancing and its varied enforcement based on race and zip code. We attempted to adjust to the confines of our homes and get reacquainted with our families. Then… we witnessed the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the video of a white woman threatening Christian Cooper in Central Park after he’d asked her to leash her dog. Then Breonna Taylor. Then Tony McDade. Then George Floyd. We no longer had a neatly wrapped project that we were writing and revising. We were sinking and our sessions were buckets with which we feverishly fetched and dumped the water that continued to fill our ark. We survived. Now, in video and written form, you can hear and see our reactions to the catastrophes of 2020. 

- Subha Ahmed, Spoken Word Instructor 

Meet the Poets

"They say just get over it

But they are never ready to challenge it.

You’re tired of our cries against racism,

Just imagine how exhausted you’d feel living it

I can’t breathe

I can’t breathe

I CAN'T BREATHE!

Is that George Floyd or Eric Garner?

‘Cuz no matter how we far we go

We step back even farther."

"You tried to break us

Sun beaming down on Black bodies

Black bodies stained by cracks from the whip of the overseer

overseer

officer

overseer

officer

overseer

officer

officer

Officer, why is your knee on my neck?"

"They say just get over it

But they are never ready to challenge it.

You’re tired of our cries against racism,

Just imagine how exhausted you’d feel living it

I can’t breathe

I can’t breathe

I CAN'T BREATHE!

Is that George Floyd or Eric Garner?

‘Cuz no matter how we far we go

We step back even farther."

“It’s just a color,” “People are colorblind now,” “It’s the only color I wear”

It’s the color that covers my skin

Its reminiscent of the abundance of melanin I was born in

It’s just a color until a life is taken away because of it"

"to america, cause we built this country without pay

my black power fist high in the sky that hopefully reaches the heavens 

so my ancestors know that i’m here 

and a new revolution is starting yet again

and once it’s here i’ll finally be able to live"

"In my reimagined world Black and Brown kids would be able to focus in class

without having trauma for their head like gas

 

Oh and the word minority would be abolished too

What type of sense does that make?
There’s more POC in the world"

"I was trapped in a slow motion car crash but I still had time to read your letters..."

*In loving memory of my grandparents

“Adam, why don’t u ever talk about school shit?”

“You really think you’re some cool kid?”

It’s because my grades say I’m average

My 3.3 ain’t gonna get me to Harvard

And I’m always skipping classes to get nasty

So my choices aren’t always starboard

So what can I be?"

 

"Then I breath 

And mold myself to fit into the innocent little world that I’ve built --

To ward off the self insinuating prose that holds me stiff and is only Corroborated by the shared emptiness that is visible outside of the window

 

Then I move on"

"Story, a tale each one of has to tell something that can’t be discredited and never be stolen

 

Stolen, was my people from the diaspora and with them their culture

 

Culture, though it was stolen, like a Phoenix from the ashes was reborn anew still beautiful 

 

Beautiful, like my momma said to find the beauty in everything and everyone"

"Oh such a futile distortion

Of a city that isn't what it says it is 

basing truths and facts

On social prejudice 

 

Trying to find justifications 

For hypocritical contradictions 

Bloody flag of the free

Immigrants start to flee 

And she began to slowly see and draw conclusions" 

"My generation will spring up again 

You and me 

To the end my friend all to the end to every end 

So, let us raise our voices because we are unique no matter what people say and let’s fight"

 

"I love to write

Never thought I ever speak those words

But I’m tired of it

I put pen to paper

Finger to phone

Marker to wall

But I never seem to be able 

To grasp the words I’d love to shout

Sometimes I’m not even sure what I wanna talk about"

"Inhale 

Exhale

We can't breathe 

You tell us to leave 

The country we built 

This is not about your white guilt

‘Rona is blocking our air pipes

 

We try to shout out ‘bout Black lives

Why is it hard to understand

When you ask us to stand

‘stead of kneel"

"I am capable

 

Capable and more conscious of my own mortality

Tied to my happiness, my safety, my freedom

My reality is setting in

As I transition from Harlem

Transition from my mother

Transition from my youth

Transition from my naivety 

Into a world that must reconcile its disdain for me"

"Why do I see nothing? 

 

A boy who lost his way

Who works hard but doesn’t know

What he’s working towards

 

Who doesn’t know what all these years 

working 

were for?"

"click clack

what's that i see

a black man walking down the street 

let's go see his mindset

let's go see if his minds set 

mine's set on death

THERE ARE"

"I wish that staying home all day 

Was my biggest concern

I wish

That Ahmaud Arbery
Could protest quarantine in a casket

I wish I had the option

Of distancing myself from social issues

I wish

Cops weren’t killing us
Faster than this virus"

"That math test you have next period, that off-white belt, the party that’s this weekend, your crush staying on your mind

Thinking about the white way, sorry the right way of thinking- of walking, talking, dressing, eating, existing

None of it matters"

"To picture a world full of love 

That has been consumed by hate 

by people who want us to think we are mistakes--

An infectious rash on the shell of the earth 

I can’t picture this because I refuse to lie to myself 

It’s hard to stay alive in a world that wants us dead"

"i don’t want any trouble

hands up don’t shoot 

but they’ve already planned my death

never thought today’d be the day that i took my last breath

never wondered how long i had left to live

always thought that i had more to give

that i’d live to see my people move on

when can we stop trying to convince them

“we are strong”

one day we will be equal 

when will you stop killing my people"

"I expected him to be there when I got out 

But he was late and I guess that's fine 

My best friend's dad asked if I needed a ride 

And I replied 

“I'm waiting for daddy”

3:00 pm hits 

Waiting for daddy on the swings 

3:30pm 

The teachers say soon they'll have to call the police 

4 pm they are still trying to reach mommy 

4:30 pm"

"The current state of life differs from the world that I want to come of age in

I don’t want people to be scared of going outside or interacting with the cops

Worried about their safety

We should be able to live in a world 

Where people don’t have to die when they go outside"

"They  compare themselves to our struggles 

400 years in chains... 

There is no comparison

We still can't run

Breathe

Shop

Be angry

Feel sad 

Be peaceful"

EXPLORE THE PROJECT

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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The New York Public Library

515 Malcolm X Boulevard

New York, NY 10037

schomburged@nypl.org

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