The Little Rock 9

It is Monday, I am twelve years old,
summer still feel like summer to me...

                                           Ernest Green


My elementary school principal was white
I only had one white teacher, she was named
after the juice the astronauts took into space,
Tang, I got some Tang at home...did you hear
about the little girls who got killed while we was
in Sunday School yesterday?

                                          Elizabeth Eckford


I live in Baltimore and so do you,
your people the raw and stinky crew,
my daddy a big shot on the Avenue
your daddy can't buy a pair of shoes...

                                          Jefferson Thomas


One little girl was named Addie Mae,
just liek my aunt from South Carolina,
and when I come home from church
everybody was cryin about the news
from Alabama...I know Alabama
Alabama was on the math test today—
                             If you going 65 miles an hour leaving
                             Richmond near where my cousin live
                             and you drive for twelve hours straight
                             will get you to Alabama? hell no, cause
                             Alabama in hell ...

                                          Terrance Roberts


The bus is hot, the white neighborhood
full of angry faces just two miles from where
we live, angry faces I see at night when I look
out the window and wonder why I have to sit
next to white children to be smart...I was smart
all the time, my mama told me so when I did
things the right way, extra things, good things,
smart is knowin when somethin's missing...

                                          Carlotta Walls LaNier


I like Malcom X because he looks like me
when I am so mad I can't stand myself, when
my cousins take my model car shelf down,
break up my cats and then dare me to fight,
when I have to walk from the white school
home through the white neighborhood when
I miss the bus or when I get a beatin for what
my friend did and he get a beatin, too, but
mine hurt more because he did it, not me, so
I like Malcom X. He so mean, Mr. Green,
he so mean...you got to be mean in Chicago...

                                          Minnijean Brown


When I was fourteen a boy kissed me
when we were walking to the movies,
he sneaked me, and I tried not to smile
because kissing is a sin and all the while
I was so full of hallelujah on the inside,
on the way to the movies we go to now
because somebody made a way somehow,
standing in lines with protest signs, dogs
barking all around, so I make sure I sound
educated when Henry sneaks to kiss me
on the way to the movies...we have
all kinds of movies in Philadelphia...

                                          Gloria Ray Karlmark


New York is faster than yesterday,
been here and gone before you remember
it ain't here no more, we go downtown
in the middle of tomorrow when it still be
today, New York is faster than yesterday,
I got a quarter for your ten dollar bill,
give it to me I'll pay your cleaners bill
because New York is faster than yesterday,
and a high school diploma is all a genius
like me will ever need in a city where
a thrill is more to me if you will believe
me...and believe me you will...

                                          Thelma Mothershed


What a word will do, my momma used to say
at night when her work was done, rearing back
in that chair of hers with the stuffin fallin out
of the arms, what a word will do when you know
what words are for, she would say, layin her head
back, closing her eyes and settling down
inside some dream. She never told us her dreams
when we asked her, she just said we would know
when the moon turned over three times and ghosts
rose up out of the sea. Mama was half out
of this world, in California we all the way in it...

                                          Melba Patillo Beals


              Little Rock Nine,
              Shaking the line
              Between white no
              And black oh yes,
              I'll walk all over
              What is mine, thanks
              To Little Rock Nine.
 

 


Afaa Michael Weaver, "The Little Rock 9" from A Hard Summation. Copyright © 2014 by Afaa Michael Weaver.  Reprinted by permission of Central Square Press.
Source: A Hard Summation (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2014)
More Poems by Afaa Michael Weaver