Nov.1 Prop 209 Rally

Yesterday Nov 1, a lot of inspired students of color and working-class students joined forces to rally here on campus against prop 209 (the anti-affirmative action proposition that was passed in CA in 1996).  I was really taken aback by a spoken word performance by a brilliant UCLA undergrad from Oakland by the name of Eric Adams.  He was kind of enough to share the poem with me.  With Eric’s permission I’m posting it here.  Amazing passion, brilliant analysis, genius.

By Third Grade – Read
I came in bright, new, bronze and beautiful,
baby hair my only hair and brain open to possibilities,
I am ready to take in the world,
I heard that grown-ups do this thing, called reading,
and that the children that couldn’t do it by third grade became statistics for jail cells built,
my stilted hopes loft over what could be mass made speeches and the knowing the lessons  a book teaches, reading,
but when I came to you, you never really got to teach me how.
And now I’m in fourth grade looking at letters, sputtering sentences that I have to repeat after my classmates,
the time it takes to teach one child to read is the same time it takes to plant one seed, you must, soft insert pressure in fertile soil, introduce letters to a child’s understanding, insert seed, drop knowledge of sound on child’s tongue,
and pray for interconnectedness of nature to take place,
and watch, and see, and help the seed flourish.
With a child, you must do the same, you must nurture, and express, do not hinder, but uplift, you,
could have saved my now seventh grade semester of relearning letters and sounds with your 4 weeks of careful watching,
my 8th grade humiliation that I can’t even spell my own name, speaking with another month’s anticipation of the things
I could begin to know from
books, and zines and newspapers abundantly strewn, news buzz in my head, you,
forgot about my needs, you planted no seeds, I still cannot read, I needed, water,
you were supposed to be my valley,
and sadly now I am unable to graduate,
another student sentenced to the same sad fate of illiterate oblivion,
I am now 20 and jobless, and all this leads to
Late night drop offs of substances and
Playing hero to these hoodrats slanging
Heroin to pay the rent, can’t put a dent in my bills
The only thing I can even read these days
Am now in cell block d, makes sound like duh, like damn, I can’t understand these lines on these pages
which I tried to learn in 1st 5th and 10th grades repeatedly
Over and again
tell me,
what time was taken to tell me these things when I was still a field of fertile soil in which to plant community freedom and justice,
and it’s just this,
the forgotten fulfillment of letters and sentences and books to hold comfort,
tell me,
how many trees did you save by obliterating the possible forests of my knowledge,
tell me,
what time was taken to water my seeds.
students and children need to read.
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