Meet Newark’s Own Amanda Gorman, Seventh-Grade Poet Mikayla BrownByAdmin Waters
A month ago, as Amanda Gorman sang her beautiful prose during President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s inauguration, students at KIPP Rise Academy in Newark had recently finished their latest history unit on the enslavement of Africans in America. Students at Rise, a public charter school that serves students in grades 5-8, were asked to think carefully about the unit and create a project that explained the connection between modern days and the era of slavery.
Makayla Brown, a KIPP Rise 7th-grader, wrote this poem. A future poet laureate, perhaps?
My joy went away
Learning about that one day in 1619
The first slave ship arriving with 20-30 enslaved people
The first time my ancestors were declared
Worth 1,000 dollars.
Of reading books and articles
Seeing my people lynched, burned, and
Working in a white man’s field
For 396 years with no pay
Seeing our hair pulled from our heads
Cut, shaved, burned and stuffed in chairs
My memories of learning
That my great great great grandmother
Could’ve been leather
My rights, non-existent
And culture stripped
“Speak proper English” but you didn’t teach me
And even after this we still struggled
We still had to fight for a right to be a alive,
Mothers and fathers kneeling to the white man
Yet 396 years later we still aren’t free
Seeing our people killed
On a mobile device and even in person
All because of skin
All lives matter?
Read the full poem here.