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A Civil Community

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



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; Melvin Palowski Moore​; 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