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John Samuel Tieman: In Praise of Rage

 after Kimberly Jones

I don’t know much about God, but I remember 

when I taught 7th grade history in a ghetto and Kelvin 

told me how he found a body on his walk to school. 

Kelvin’s stare was not the stare of some old war 

veteran, but the stare of a child who knows 

his history was written long before my class. 

So here’s what this old white history teacher learned

from Kelvin and the Black kids in the ghetto school.

Today our laws will not save us. So we pray 

blessed be the soul of Michael Brown, who died 

a few miles from here, and the soul of George Floyd, 

who died just upriver, and all those “yearning to breathe.”

We pray blessed is the man who breaks the glass

the woman who burns the Target. Blessed be the rage.

Blessed be the rage that so little has changed

from Emmett Till to Eric Garner. Blessed be.

Blessed be the rage of a man risks Covid-19

to carry a sign that says, “Black Lives Matter.”

Blessed be the rage of the woman who asks

“Why is that looter infuriated?” and not

“What is that looter stealing?” Blessed be.

Blessed the man who remembers Ahmaud Arbery

and the woman who remembers Rosewood.

Blessed be those who remember that Black folks

in Greenwood, Tulsa, were bombed from the air.

And blessed the Black woman, who looks straight

into this old white teacher’s eyes, and says,

“Blessed are the Black folks who remember, 

after 400 years of slavery and oppression,

that the goal is equality and not revenge.”

Copyright 2020 John Samuel Tieman

Protesters turned out in Ferguson in 2014 to protest the death of Michael Brown. On May 30th, 2020, they turned out again to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

11 comments on “John Samuel Tieman: In Praise of Rage

  1. Mary F Lenox
    June 19, 2020

    Thank you for this powerful poem . It has offers new insights for rage in a culture that fails to remember to remember.
    Oh May we repent act from
    A space of love and respect.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rebecca Tolin
    June 19, 2020

    Thank you for this gorgeous poem John. What a tribute and reminder for the reasons for rage—the violations of boundaries, state-sponsored murder, daily injustices. I really appreciate this poem so much, it’s humanity and elegance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jvi7350
    June 12, 2020

    If you’re attempting to justify vandalism and theft, or violence in any way other than self defense, then you deserve even less consideration that that for the vandals and thieves.


    • Vox Populi
      June 13, 2020

      Many would argue that the police have committed violence, and the protests and riots are acts of self-defense.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. granolaho
    June 11, 2020

    It was so touching, and an honor to read this, Mr. Tieman. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Barbara Huntington
    June 11, 2020

    And I remember a home visit when I taught junior high general science in Watts in the late 60s early 70s and the caring grandmother who wanted something different for her grandchild.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. loranneke
    June 11, 2020

    “Today, our laws will not save us”!!! (My heart hurts with this truth)

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Joy
    June 11, 2020

    Amen and thank you, John.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Jose Alcantara
    June 11, 2020

    There are a lot of words about what’s happening, but few as good and right on as these. I thank you for the humility and the wisdom. Blessed be.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. denkereclipsoeu
    June 11, 2020

    Dear John,

    Thank you so very much for this poem. What a compound it is of rage, compassion, historical awareness, and yes, faith and hope!

    As a former colleague of yours, I know this comes from your heart. May your words that call for blessedness in this time of pestilence, ahem, go viral!

    Liked by 3 people

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