The instructor said,

    Go home and write
    a page tonight.
    And let that page come out of you—
    Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?

Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That's American.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you're older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Knopf and Vintage Books. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

This is not a small voice
you hear               this is a large
voice coming out of these cities.
This is the voice of LaTanya.
Kadesha. Shaniqua. This
is the voice of Antoine.
Darryl. Shaquille.
Running over waters
navigating the hallways
of our schools spilling out
on the corners of our cities and
no epitaphs spill out of their river mouths.

This is not a small love
you hear               this is a large
love, a passion for kissing learning
on its face.
This is a love that crowns the feet with hands
that nourishes, conceives, feels the water sails
mends the children,
folds them inside our history where they
toast more than the flesh
where they suck the bones of the alphabet
and spit out closed vowels.
This is a love colored with iron and lace.
This is a love initialed Black Genius.

This is not a small voice
you hear.

From Wounded in the House of a Friend. Copyright © 1995 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press.

yes, my love
where do we come from?

and we come from all of this
this is a story about a time
a time of strange times
what happened during the Big Bang?
what came after our Sun and planets were created?
throughout the first nano nano nano milli centi second of this Universe
that’s when this story takes shape
in the valley of our birth place
and we cried out to the Universe that we were here
that we were here
and we were many
so many
trillions upon trillions upon trillions
so countless and beautiful

every atom of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorous that makes up our bodies was forged in stars
and as the world continued to change
we evolved our ways
we honor the ancestors and the elders
we pass on the knowledge from generation to generation

maybe we go cyborg
incorporating technology into our skin, bones, and brains
if we all had biological Bluetooth, USB, or WiFi, 
i could’ve just beamed this presentation to y’all
it’s hard work up here you know

there will be the pulling and pushing of emotions
there will be laughter, and tears, and everything in between

for all the racism and hatred that the color of our skin has produced through the history of
our humanity, and for all the conflict that exists even till this very day
it all comes down to vitamin D

if we held hands for a moment and listened
we could become the power of love
the power of unity
and the power of understanding

we gathered together as a community in peace
we showed the universe how great we could all be
if we just sat and listened to the music

if you happen to be down to help create a global self-sustaining reality,
imagine the impact we could have
because the moment we perfect this
the moment we get this
we all win
game on
because energy is the currency of the universe

tonight, I want you to think about your life
and go out there and live it

Hānau ka iʻa hānau ka Naiʻa i ke kai lā holo

this is our chance to write our own history
do we destroy ourselves?
or do we take care of ourselves
and give our species the best chance of making it to the future unscathed?

the time to listen to each other has just begun

Used with permission of the poet. 

Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
                         motion that forces change—
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

From Never by Jorie Graham, published by HarperCollins. Copyright © 2002 by Jorie Graham. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.