Remember our people The dreamers. The Browns and the Blacks The ones who built bridges from inland to coast. The ones who fought for justice and freedom. The ones who couldn't be silenced—the hollering of their heartbeat, the hope in their words. Remember Martin Remember Assata reaching beyond that plantation haze, sword-lilies blossoming during our darkest times. Sparrows singing our victory song. This is for the ones who can no longer sing for themselves for George Jackson and George Floyd for Lieutenant Colonel Lemuel Penn and Breonna Taylor For Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley for Emmett Louis Till and Tamir Rice This is for the summer streets that once held our children’s laughs now turned to gunshots and mourning wails. For the black lives fired up who can’t take no more. Remember before your stores burned down, you looted our mothers’ wombs. Remember the middle passage Remember the imperfect laws Remember Selma the churches bombed the fire burning our souls the Strange Fruit swinging above a faulted constitution the bodies and souls left to harden, the back of the bus the walk of a million miles just to get to one place This is for the faithful and the fearless for Rosa Parks birthing a dream for Harriet following that North star into possibilities, for Paul Robeson’s soulful, deep, booming bass, echoing like a cannon shot in the still winter air singing the spirit climbing a mountain rafting a river sailing the seas counting every one of us who has not drowned who has ever stood up. We are an ocean. Some of us, ripples, others, waves. We carry the boat that heads into the horizon, the moon guiding us to a new dawn. This for the Tuskegee Airmen’s heraldry and Amanda Gorman’s yellow coat of arms This is for Barack Obama’s audacity and Rabbi Heschel’s faith If you want to grow and understand what it means to be human remember we are one soul, rooted in the same soil, moving toward sky. Soaring high. When you hear the shouts of protest, the feet marching, the hands clapping Embrace our knots. Love our shades. See us. Beautiful black birds cropped and culled by the cruel night of an alabaster storm. Remember, we are singing about struggle and strife the caustic stain of stolen legacies reminding us to never forget these stories must be told reminding us to speak the truth and say it loud. Remember violence is a cycle, but so is peace. That is what we are fighting for An end to chaos A new birth of freedom The ocean is our goal. Grasp it with your fingers clenched in tight fists of unison not to strike a brawl but to tear down the wall of division. Grasp your rights Grasp America the beautiful. This country is a house This world, a village. If we are to be a civil community let us come in unity Rise up out of the blue Rise up into the light Rise up out of the waters Rise up into the sun Rise up through the love Rise up, reach for the freedom Know that you are good enough to end the rage to turn the page to stand with pride to stand with peace to lift your voice to open your eyes to rise up Together.
Compiled by Kwame Alexander 4/19/2021
Poem contributors: Lawrence "Law" Bullock II; Tony Castaneda; Charlie Cutler; Ilana Drake; Louisa Flynn; Linda McCauley Freeman; Hannah Gelacio; Jathaniel Gonzalez; Alan Guttman; Taylor Hall; Dahlia Kassim; Najja King; Sarah Lerma; Celeste Lettman; Jan Marnocha; Kayla Morgan; Watipa Mzembe; Susanna Neiss; Zia Noffsinger; Calvin Pennywell; Alvaro Jimenez Silva; Leslie Valentine; Jacob Watson; Ashley Weiss; Terri Withers; Lekha Wood; and Tria Xiong
Photo by AP Images/Star Tribune/Leila Navidi