Poetry for Trayvon Martin: Atta, Skurtu, Paris, Hughes

In the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal, there has been significant public and online support for Trayvon Martin, who supporters contend would still be alive if he were not racially profiled by Zimmerman. Vigils and rallies continue to be held around the country, and many of them have involved poems in support of Trayvon.

A British spoken word poet, Dean Atta, has released “Black Britain and Black America,” in which he contends it is “our right…to live normal decent lives / And not fear bullets and jail // Not have to justify our existence or presence / In countries built on our backs with no thanks or penance.” Tara Skurtu has also published “Anyone’s Son” over at the Huffington Post with a dedication to Martin’s family.

There is also a long poem by Rae Paris at Guernica called “The Forgetting Tree.”

And in April, FreedomSeed press published Stand Our Ground, an anthology of poems dedicated to Martin and to Marissa Alexander, who was just sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot into a wall near her husband. All proceeds from the book, which includes Amiri Baraka in its slate of poets, will go the Martin and Alexander families.

Some news sites are also reprinting a poem by Langston Hughes, “Kids Who Die.” If you see further poetic responses to this case, please forward them to editors@coldfrontmag.com.

Here is the full text of the poem:

Kids Who Die
By Langston Hughes

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people—
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together

Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
Your are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.

John Deming