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Connecting Racial Divide Through Poetry

When Tri-Town Against Racism put out a call for entries for their 2021 Black History Month Creative Expression Contest, Aliyah Jordan ‘23, submitted her poem “Heroes Unsung”. Of the 38 entries — students from surrounding local schools submitted essays, poems, art pieces, songs, and many other original works — Aliyah won the top prize!

The theme of the contest was “Beyond Martin and Rosa” and Aliyah’s poem was inspired by the story of Claudette Colvin, who as a pregnant teenager, became a pioneer of the 1950s civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded, segregated bus. Aliyah recalls, “I have taken a strong liking to Claudette Colvin and her story ever since I read the novel Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice in my eighth-grade English class... I found the parallels in the division between race in the world, and complexion in my own black community interesting. Too often our views can be so divided based on physical characteristics, that we can forget that at the end of the day, we’re all human and deserving of equality. I knew that I had to share this message, and putting it in a poem was the best way I knew how!”
 
Aliyah continues, “I included the simile at the beginning of the poem to help with the clarity of my message. Most times we only acknowledge the brightest things without considering the equally important things that get lost in the shadows. I decided that the lines ‘To lead a movement’ and ‘To lead the movement’ should be by themselves to emphasize the difference in treatment Claudette and Rosa received for doing the same thing. I let the word ‘Unsung’ lead the poem and ‘Heroes’ end it to showcase how unsung heroes are most times the pioneers. They pave the way for others to follow in their footsteps and fight for a common goal.”

 
Unsung

Like the dimmest star in the galaxy,
Shadowed by the most blinding of them all,
Both with the same success,
But one seems more small,

Like Claudette who first refused to sit in the back,
The knowledge of this many people seem to lack,
The dark-skinned teen with a soul in her womb,
Was told that she was too black,

To lead a movement

Rosa followed in her footsteps,
And sat right in the front,
Fair-skinned and well respected,
She had to be the one,

To lead the movement

Division in the world,
The black vs. the white,
Dissension in our own communities,
The dark-skinned against the light,

Why must we classify ourselves?
Based on hue and hair,
We’re all human beings,
Deserving of what’s equal and fair,

Heroes
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