Meet Newark’s Own Amanda Gorman, Seventh-Grade Poet Mikayla Brown

By Admin 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

As property

Their lives

Worth 1,000 dollars.

Paper.

My memories

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

And now?

All lives matter?

Read the full poem here.

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