Pencil and Paper

It is hard to start this story because I am not exactly sure as to where it begins as there are several moving parts. So, let me start at what I think is the beginning. For the next 3 weeks I have the pleasure of having two artists in residents working with my 7th graders twice a week. One day a poet/ actress/ spoken word artists comes in and helps my students express themselves through the written word. On the other day an engineer comes and helps them create their own beats and songs using Garage Band. She comes on Wednesdays. I participated in the first few classes. I did all of the warm ups with the children to make sure that they stayed engaged. But afterwards I sat in the back and caught up on my work.

This past Wednesday I planned on doing the same. But the poet wasn't trying to hear it. She was insisting that I do the writing activity with the kids. She's drawing her inspiration from the civil rights unit that I created and am currently teaching. This week she introduced the children to the songs from the movement. She took three of the songs, Lift Every Voice and Sing, We Shall Overcome and Ain't Gonna Let Nobody and told the children to use the first line of one of the songs to start their own protest poem, rap or song.

Hoping that she would forget about me, I tried to hide in the back and sit this one out. But she found me and yelled toward the back of the room, "You too Mrs. Jones." 


I was not in the headspace or the mood to write. But she wasn't going to take no for an answer.  She ignored my lack of response and turned on the George Duke station on YouTube. The children had never heard of him or these jazz tunes. It took them a little longer to get in the zone. I knew these melodic tunes too well. My father, a child of the 70's was very much a George Duke fan. So as the jazz notes filled the room I could feel myself start to relax. 

I picked up an pencil and started writing on the paper. The only direction she gave us was the think about something that we wanted to overcome, something we would lift our voices and sing or be heard about and what was something that we weren't going to let nobody do to us.

The timer was set.

I watched many of students struggle as some started right away. I took a deep breath and tried to get into a writing zone of my own. Three minutes in I found my groove and I started writing. 

Below is what I produced. I cannot believe that I read this aloud in class. I don't like to write poetry because I don't  think I am any good at it. But I tried. As I read it aloud I realized that it was so raw and unfinished. Then as I heard the other pieces shared in class, I wished I had stayed in my seat. 

Here is my attempt to revise it and actually produce something that makes sense. If I ever find a quiet space in my house, I may record myself reading it. 

Fed Up

Ain't gonna let nobody hold me back
The days of oppression and submission are over-- they were wack.

Ain't gonna let nobody steal my pride
These feelings of freedom have been running loose too long on the outside. 

Ain't gonna let nobody tell me to put that away. 
My people have shed too much blood in the light of day. 

Ain't gonna let nobody tell me to put my head down-- not after I've learned, we wear the crown 
and not just the mask

Not after being so close to the most powerful place in this land.
I'd be a fool not take a stand. 

"Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country" 'cause
"We are the ones we've been waiting for. "
The 2004 election just opened the door. 

Ain't gonna let nobody tell me that the Obama years weren't Camelot
Number 45 and his executive orders can't make that stop.

Ain't nobody gonna tell me that anything isn't  possible in America 
You can keep bullying us 140 characters at a time, that's what cowards do.
I ain't worried, cause ain't nobody scared of you. 


  1. Love the woven aspects of your lines, as the words and phrases (some yours, some from others) hint at the larger message, and I wanted to hear some bass and drums, and the voice of the room emerge from the page.
    Kevin, out in the open

    1. Hmmm, not that is a good idea. Maybe I will see if I can get a student to play me a beat as I recite the poem aloud. Thank you very much for your kinds words.


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