Poetry Friday: Black in America

Apr 13, 2018

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.

Members of NAU’s Gold n’ Brown Jacks Club at the KNAU studios. From left: Ethnic Studies Professor Dr. Frederick Gooding, Jr., Tylor Brown, Demetri Kelley and Michael Lyles.
Credit Gillian Ferris / KNAU/NAU

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

A-sassin' me?"

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

so steadily...

i'm conflicted

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 panicking

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

forget it

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"