Poetry. One of my first loves. When done properly, it is one of the most effective vehicles for deconstructing illusion and misinformation. It admonishes, scolds, sympathizes redefines and interrogates knowledge and understanding.
Our youth have poetry just like prior generations did. The most popular and accessible form is Hip Hop music. Less popular but possibly more compelling is what we refer to as “Spoken Word Poetry.” In honor of Amiri Baraka the great Black poet, intellectual, activist, I present 7 poems Black youth should hear and discuss in an effort to deprogram themselves from the inundation of nonsense graciously provided by those who devalue them.
1.” I Am The System” – Prentice Powell. Brilliantly and creatively performed poem in which “The System” speaks to Black people exposing how it deceives, exploits and oppresses us.
2. “Imagine” -Black Ice. A critical portrait of life for Black youth in America contrasted with how life could ideally be with a change of thinking and habits
3. “Nikki Minaj” – Jasmine Mans. Blistering poem challenging the persona and consciousness of the popular Hip Hop artist around ideas of body image, white standards of beauty, and redefining womanhood.
4. “Open Letter to Tyler Perry” – Jamaal St. John. Poet performs a poem critical of filmmaker Tyler Perry, especially of his limited depiction of Black boys and men.
5. “Nothing is For Nothing” – Jill Scott.Discusses the struggle of women to be want they want rather than how men define them.
6. “MIddle Passage” – Sonia Sanchez. Self Explanatory.
7. Why is We Americans?”-Amiri Baraka. The late great Amiri Baraka recalls America’s hostile relationship with Black people and challenges our identification and treatment as “American” citizens.
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.”
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.