As part of our series, Poetry Friday, celebrating National Poetry Month, we hear from some local aspiring poets. All are members of Northern Arizona University’s Gold n’ Brown Jacks Club, a support network for black men within the campus community.
Their writing explores the relationship between internal conflict and societal expectations regarding race—everything from police violence to standards of beauty to hope. Let’s take a listen on this Poetry Friday, starting with a Dr. Frederick Gooding, Junior, an ethnic studies professor at NAU. He reads a powerful and terrifying poem called “Ku Klux” by Langston Hughes about the abduction and violation of a black man by the white supremacy group.
"Ku Klux" by Langston Hughes
Read by Dr. Fredrick Gooding Jr.
They took me out
To some lonesome place.
They said, "Do you believe
In the great white race?"
I said, "Mister,
To tell you the truth,
I'd believe in anything
If you'd just turn me loose."
The white man said, "Boy,
Can it be
You're a-standin' there
They hit me in the head
And knocked me down.
And then they kicked me
On the ground.
A klansman said, "Nigger,
Look me in the face ---
And tell me you believe in
The great white race."
“trials and tribulations,” as written and performed by Michael Lyles
i'm seeking spiritual stimulation but sin is tempting and intimidating
live in this world but lack integration
white man take ya life no hesitation
i love my enemies
but lately its been hard to tell the differences
between those that befriended me
find it hard to fit in
21 and over im at the door and i cant get in
had a friend that will never get in '
you probably wont get that '
at a traffic stop an officer split his wig back
like kit kat
i guess they don't like chocolate
i kind of feel unsafe here
somebody build a rocket '
load the the starship
i'm not a skywalker
so i go to church and pay my tithes often
black in America who knows when you'll see your coffin
black boys get shot too often
white man use swat too often
is it cause we fly
(that was a metaphor)
i know mothers that regret the day they bore a black child
they treat us like animals
maybe thats why they actin wild
why jamal cant live like brad
is their a difference between ghetto fab and rad
heavy metal and jazz
cant we appreciate dfferences and settle them
my ancestors built this country and i aint settled in
40 acres and a mule wheres our settlement
i guess your just american
living in good ole America
"The Soul of a Queen," as written and performed by Demetri Kelley
I want to tell you a story about a woman that I know. She has the most beautiful smile, but for
some reason she'll rarely let it show. Sometimes her laugh is obnoxious, especially when she
really let's it go, but it's beautiful in my opinion because, in those moments, she truly lets her
light glow. Sometimes she'll wake up in the morning and look in the mirror with disgust because
of all the lies she's been told about herself that she's come to trust. That her skin is not pretty
because it presents a darker hue, and her physique is not beautiful 'cause she can't fit into a 2,
society's skew of mother nature, false perception of God's creation. The world has come to know
beauty as an external proclamation, but it's much more than the sensation brought forth by a
compliment. It's a a daily declaration of yourself, the Queen within.
You see, this story is about the Queen who doesn't know she has a throne. The Queen who walks
around, head down, face sunken into her phone looking at all of the words and images columns
tell her she should be, focused on everything she's without, but what's within she fails to see.
This Queen may be listening to these words, she may be sitting in the room, so let me take this
time to stop and say a quick prayer for you.
"Dear God, I see her strength and her beauty beyond the surface. I see that you are her
foundation, her makeup and her purpose. I know she has some scars, and she may be a woman
scorned, but let her look in the mirror and see you in all her form. Every curve, every blemish,
every personality flaw, which was made with divine purpose, a masterpiece of awe. God, I
embrace her as she is, and I recognize her worth, so I pray that she'd realize her value and that it's
been there since her birth because she truly is a Queen...in mind, body and spirit. People may tell
her every day, but God I pray that she would hear it; that she would truly understand that these
are not just words, she's the embodiment of you, so the Kingdom can be hers. But she must look
within herself, for nowhere else can she find this missing piece of masterpiece of mine, she's one
of a kind. But she must look within herself...nowhere else will she find this missing piece of
mass, her peace of mind, she's won. From a kind glance in the mirror of her soul, she can see that
she's a gift from above, and look upon all of herself with grace and with endless love.
"It is time,” as written and performed by Tylor Brown
Well look at that
White man kill 13 people and gets thrown in the back
We unarmed on CNN getting shot in the back
Selling cigarettes to get by cut me some slack
Can't concentrate in school my mom gone off smack
Planted drugs in the hood keep our mind off track
Spook who sat by the door how I plan my attack
Tried everything to break us but black don't crack
Matter of fact
Maybe they read between the lines
Tried to infiltrate our minds but with these brass feet and wooly hair show me Devine
Use my third eye so I can control time
You can take my physical but the world is forever mine
Plus I don't die I'm forever multiplying
Every poem I write I put my life on the line
Cause Who knew being black was actually a crime
No matter what tho we gonna be fine
Cause the blacker you are the brighter you shine"