Poem by Harlem West-Hammond

Pre K taught me block parties and BBQ
Taught me Lauryn Hill’s sweet symphonies and India Arie
The nostalgia felt in Dad’s lap wouldn’t exist in plastic chair chalkboard boredom
Kindergarten taught me I am Brown
Taught me primary colors. Brown was not one.
Red was my favorite.
Downtown daytime stares made me want colorblind eyes
Taught me 3 Historic heroes my color.

1st Grade taught me obituaries.
Red was no longer my favorite.
Red meant another wednesday Sunday service.
Everything smelled like Grey Goose and Pinesol
Red was the rose Ma said to toss on brown coffin
I hated brown
Blue was my new favorite.
Music first quarter taught thats how what my insides were feeling like.
1st grade taught me nothing

2nd grade taught me hypocrisy.
Don’t ask too many questions or the corner will mock you
Dad doesn’t come around anymore.
I still watch Disney so i can be his princess when he returns.
2nd grade taught me nothing

3rd grade taught me ISAT and what girls are made for
Taught me in homeland I am able to marry
Taught me flatirons, and how to be pretty
Taught me lunch room roast sessions
Taught me pressure
3rd grade taught me nothing

4th taught me social studies.
Taught me white supremacy
Taught me labels
Mama laughed when i asked were racist colorblind
I had begun to resent my Dad
4th grade taught me nothing

5th grade taught me how to annotate European American novels
Taught me to summarize Bud Not Buddy
Taught me code switching with my white friends.
Substitute teacher taught me ebonics will be the end of brown employment
5th grade taught me nothing

6th grade taught my brown boy cousins hypermasculinity and how to solve for X
Taught me bootleg DVDs and complex compound sentences
Taught me i’m still blue.
Writing taught me freedom, but Channel 7 let me know I wasn’t
6th grade taught me nothing

7th grade taught me the statistics sketched in my melanin
By now i don’t give a crap about my father
7th taught me something.

8th grade taught me this may be my only graduation

Freshman year taught me neglect and grammatical errors
I’m still lost in AP

Sophomore year taught me gentrification and Rahm Emmanuel
I’m still blue.

Junior year taught me catcalling is a culture
Taught me to bubble in “ other “on the race portion of state testing
Taught me my city may reject me because my ACT was a 23
Taught me
Taunts me
I’m still

Its senior year now. High school taught me colors.


Poem by Poetic Taee

by Tiese “Poetic Taee” Austin
12th grade, Truman Middle College

CPS done CPD’d my education. 

Seized every lesson plan planned to educate me about my people and killed my dreams. Remember, African American lit is an elective. Anything not slavery or Jim Crow is neglected. Teach them to fail themselves. Never take a brown horse to water if it’s thirsty. Teach them to be oppressed. Never teach them of any success. A black man held a light bulb above my head while Thomas plotted on how to flip the switch. Said a white man did it. A white man has always done it. He always schooling my people giving them projects, the hood. We don’t know how to spell neighbor because we’re redlined into not being one. We steady talkin Ls. We don’t have neighbors because they are our family. Blood brothers, cell mates. Schools can’t keep track of funds for books or to pay teachers but got projectors in the hallway to lure new prey into prisons. Punish the poor because of your privilege. Fed like criminals just not in loafs. Loath meeting adulthood because I can’t pay taxes, or mortgage, or buy a car but I know Columbus stole America, I know the great gatsby from cover to cover, and I know how to graph a slope. Was never taught how to climb one though. I was taught to expect obstacles. Remember if it isn’t a challenge it isn’t enough. You are taught to never be enough. Surrender to the the most high… ACT Score. ACT, act like you know what you’re doing. Act like you don’t know ACT stands for Anchoring Colored Teens. Act like a score doesn’t make you feel poor about yourself. Act like a score doesn’t set you up to be poor in the future. They grade you to degrade you. Put a pencil in your hand and a Scantron on your desk and demand you pass with no knowledge in your mind and no lead. Lead you to the valleys of the shadows of college and jobs. Barefoot and hungry. Crawling, reaching, and praying for the test to be over. 

Poem by Peter Lekas

11th grade, William Howard Taft High School

Our educator,
The person who has
open doors whenever.
Are the ones being
Treated the worst.

They don’t get the respect
From the board of education,
From the students they teach
And we say we “know” this teacher
But do you know what’s happening
In their personal life?

If they do not feel respected
Then they will not give respect
They will treat you the way you
Treat them.
Then the students won’t respect
No one will be respecting any one

But some people don’t deserve
The police who are
killing innocent
pedestrians trying to
get there life
In shape, but they can’t
do that 6 feet under.

Some people don’t deserve
Such as those teachers
who don’t teach anymore.
The ones who throw a
Piece of paper at you
And tell you to complete it.

Tell us why the the ones
Who are supposed to educate
And motivate us are the ones
who are giving us more and
more anxiety?
You say you teach but
Is giving us a paper teaching?
Then failing us on the
Midterm because you said we
Just didn’t pay attention.

And the ones who are supposed
To make us feel safe are the
Ones who are making us feel
More and more scared to leave
The safety and comfort of
Our homes.
Why do you fear people who
Don’t look like you?
Maybe you’re the problem.

You say the system is broken
But the system was never complete.

We understand
We understand that everyone
Had problems and
We can never know each exact
But why take your aggravation
Out on us the students,
The innocent pedestrians?

We understand that
Budget cuts such
But what you don’t understand
Is that it’s not our fault.
We didn’t decided to make
You’re hard earned money get
smaller and smaller,
I promise.

Yet along with those
Bad teachers/ police officers.
There are good ones,
They may be hard to find.
But there are out there they
Don’t deserve the things that
Are happening to them.
They have realized that
If you want something done
You have to go out and do it.

I have gone to one to
many schools,
To realize that sometimes
You have to go out and make
a difference.
Instead of blaming the
Students and pedestrians.

you have to wake
Your third eye,
To see what is happening
To this corrupted system.