Three Poems from Arts Now: LA County Arts Education Summit

The following three poems were written onsite during the Arts Now: LA County Arts Education Summit. They were written for and in response to the events, ideas and topics of the summit.

By Cyrus Roberts

through art, allow me to share my fear
but i have a fear i’ll only fit a quota
like i’m included without inclusion
you act like your diversity is hurting
birthing a fear of reparation
desperation made me this way
fear of a non-white nation made you to hate
but i’ll shine if you let me
i promise i will, will you let me
but i have a fear i’m only fitting a quota
your inclusion includes labeling me the exception
a fable labeled me a weapon
abel and cain were the first brothers to kill each other
my brothers kill each other
my brothers don’t necessarily share the same skin color
if you are breathing
you are my brother
so why do you kill us
why do you hate us
are you jealous
allow me to speak to a crowd about injustice
allow me to be the black poet who speaks on black issues
but i have a fear i’m only fitting your quota
let us explore the arts
sore through the heart, label me a king
label you a queen, a king, an emperor, an empress, a sultan, a sultana
a god, the god of the world you make
create art, create music, choose to lose the idea that
it’s not good enough
don’t fit the quota, redefine art itself
and love, and love, and love?>

By Brian Sonia-Wallace

Nelson Mandela says: "Speak to a man in a language he understands,
and you can change is mind. But speak to him in his own language,
and you can change his heart."

Madrugada me ve corriendo (Daybreak finds me running)
Bajo un cielo que empieza color… (Under a sky that's beginning to color)

Like a bridge over troubled water…

Language is learned through music
better than any other modality.
Our songs ARE scope and sequence,
students separated only by voice type
rising from their chairs.

We, too, are a choir
voices raised in support of one another
from the school board to the halls of Sacramento
the melody bears the message:
Arts ARE the intervention.

We read data like sheet music
slice politics with facts
that are not alternative but may provide alternatives.
(We wouldn't put up with these outcomes for reading!)
Here's what we have.
Here's what our students have a right to.
La lucha sigue.

How do we go from diversity to inclusion to belonging?
How do we uplift what's in our backyards rather than exporting?
How do we empower students to be their own advocates,
just by giving them the language?

In the words of a 17-year-old, "Youth are not the future, they are the now."
So now:

  • we commit to listening
  • to learning new languages, from dance to data,
  • uplifting young hearts, trading number scales for adjectives.

We are arts advocates
so we are ideas people and idealists,
building Wonderland
through sweat equity;
we have believed as many as 6 impossible things before breakfast!
It's after four, now.
We're on to fondue.
But we refuse
to stop

By Aman K. Batra

If our history writes our stories
better than we can,
where do we go from here?

Struggling to prosper,
stuck and equal,
growth born from discomfort
like 3,000 cherry blossoms
suspended in the air.

If you knew me,
you would know the broken glass
of my fractured identity.
Every day I am shattered
and reconstructed again,
a dark figure reflecting
shades of deep purple.

    The eyes melting but I can still see
    The skin in flames but I can still feel

What am I if not the echo
of my name repeated back to me?
A fiber in the wind?
There is so much strength
in my fragility, so much to unlearn
in our conditioning,
in the removal of setting.

I am a collection of found objects:
a hallowed out redwood,
a line from a Rodriguez poem,
the ash of memory from burned trees.

I am culture redefined,
exhibit of borderland,
summit of translation,
notebook of observation,
pink light full of conviction
telling anyone who will listen:

    If our history writes our stories
    better than we can,
    our very existence
    is a renaissance.