Black History Month Inspiration - American Poem by Ras Baraka

“American Poem” by Ras Baraka

(Copy is not 100% accurate to the video…close but not perfect)

Are there any American poets in here?

I wanna hear an American poem
A South Carolina slave shout or 
Alabama backwoods church shack call and response

I wanna hear an American poem
An American poem
About share croppers on the side of the road
Of families in cardboard boxes. 
Not about kings or majestic lands or how beautiful ugly can be 
I wanna hear some American poetry 
I wanna hear some American shit
Some American poetry
Something about ghettos of Italians, of Jews, of Germans, of niggas
About abandoned projects and lead poison and poverty and children in jail. 

I wanna hear a poem about a picket line and the Joe Hill legend, struggle for an eight our day
Hey you, hey you
Where are all the American poems about Harlem number runners and barbershop conversations about colored faces on color tvs

I wanna hear an American poem, something American, as American as jazz, 
Or a South Bronx burner brandished on abandoned buildings
A scratch tune
A breakbeat
A backspin
A beatbox
A rap song
In Congo Square
Niggas beatin' on buckets on Broad Street, 
As American as the Zulu Nation and the Latin Kings

I wanna hear an American poem
About a dead girl on Chadwick Avenue with a bullet in her neck
From a cop doin’ his job ordered by Fascism and crack cocaine
You know, something made in the USA
Something American

An Afro Cuban New Yo Rican Latin tinged beatin' bomba and plena
Sprawling out of the wide open tenement windows in the middle of the winter
On the verge of East Harlem on North Newark
Poems of brown colleagues (?)
Of Albizu being tortured for breathing Taino blood
Screaming African tongues
Dialoguing in Spanish for being him (?)
Puerto Rican self and worst of all loving it

My God where is all the American poetry

[Not poems about your attic
Not poems about how your clothes fit
Or f***ing poems
And stale slobber
Nor the night before
Or the morning after
I don't wanna hear about your shoes
Or your statues
And your fantasies
There's no more American poetry]

Just death marches and stoic laughter
Niggers being funny
No American poets
No I won't boost your morale
Or play your songs
Or make you feel comfortable
Or build your ego
Or play my part
I just wanna hear an American poem
Something native like the Trail of Tears
Wounded Knee or smallpox and blankets
You know American
Something that represents us

I wanna hear an American poem
With American images like Welcome Back Kotter
Or White Shadow or Different Strokes
About white gods who guide helpless niggas to the light
American you know
Something that represents us

A colorful rainbow, a big bright fist
An uncorrected sentence
Improper English 
As American as Cointelpro
Peakskill New York
Robeson singing out of the back of a truck
Nina Simone playing at the Village Gate
With Baldwin playing next to her on the piano stool
And Amina [and Amiri] Baraka in the audience
Air filled with cognac and Mississippi Goddamn

Capture that moment
Write something about that 
An American masterpiece
You know an American poem
Something strictly American

Like Red summer
Strange fruit
Palmer Raids
Hey you, yeah, you, yeah, you, you
Something American
U.S.A. America
America U.S.A.
As American as the KKK

Hayes Tilden 1877
Dred Scott 1857
Brown vs. Board of Education
Sweat vs. Painter
Smith vs. Allwright
Smith vs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Us vs. them
Them vs. us
Us vs. them
Them vs. us

A poem about Emmett Till will do
Tallahachee River
Church bombings and child murderers
About Alabama red dirt and boycotts in Montgomery
About families migrating north with dignity and shotguns

I wanna hear a poem
I wanna hear an American poem 
About a beautiful black boy
Can’t you see him
A beautiful black boy colored into the night
His eyes the stars, his hands are willed (?)
About a beautiful black boy in the middle of a project playing checkers with glass and stone who beats buckets as drums and plays the horn in his sleep

I wanna hear a poem about a beautiful brown girl 
A incredibly, beautiful brown girl
With an aged mahogany smile and flower petals for lips
And a beautiful brown girl with a poem in her eyes 
With a poem in her eyes 
A poem in her eyes and a gun in her hand sitting in a puddle of tears in Clinton’s women’s facility in the Garden State in the land of the free
You know, something American
Something that represents me.