A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
In times of unprecedented destruction, we need to activate unprecedented levels of creativity. During this election cycle, the widespread anxiety is begging us to initiate or deepen our practices of connection. One of those practices is poetry.
I’m a co-creator and cultural worker with The Peace Poets, a hip hop crew from the Bronx that uses music and poetry to celebrate, examine and advocate for life. In this historical moment, we are creating art for necessary healing, rebellious hope and the sustenance of the social movements of our times.
We believe that poetry is an invitation to let the song of our souls emerge. We write poems as prayers of protection for our people and the land. We write poems with the hope that you too might put pen to paper or voice to wind and spit truth into this hurricane. Countless experiences of profound healing and connection remind us, it’s worth it.
Here we offer two videos of poems about voting, followed by two pieces of written poetry about this election season. (We will be releasing a playlist of songs and chants on Waging Nonviolence within the next few days that can be used in efforts to defend elections and stop a coup. Stay tuned.)
The first video (above) is called “Poem on the Ballot,” and it’s a celebration of the people’s creativity and a vote of confidence for our dreams of liberation. The second (below) is titled “Listen,” which is a plea to take action to face climate chaos, performed amidst the ashes of a neighborhood burned by recent fires that devastated two towns in Southern Oregon.
As for the written poems, the first is called “Vote AND…” Its purpose is to remind us to attend to the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of our loved ones and ourselves amidst the madness of election time. And also, of course, to vote.
The second poem is called “The Mourning After the Inauguration,” and it emphasizes the extent of what’s at stake and encourages all people to get out the vote as an act of love for all that they love.
I hope these poems reach out and connect to you, and that you will give voice to the radical honest poet in you during these times. The people around you surely need the poem of you. And you’re the only one who can write that.
Vote, but don’t just vote,
Vote and don’t be afraid
She said vote and sharpen the blade
Of the way that you love and the way that you pray
Vote and learn how to finally say:
Salaam alaykum, to all our neighbors
Vote and know that, we all creators
Of the world we deeply need
So vote and fight to get free
Vote and laugh and vote and work,
Vote and heal where you feel it worst,
Vote and love on the earth
Vote and respect all moms
Vote and connect to your calm
Vote and commit to a grassroots org,
Maybe even vote and meditate more,
I’ma try to Vote and hate a little less,
Cuz I know we stressed but we all gotta flex
To learn how to give and get respect,
It’s a process, but let’s all be honest,
We gotta stand up and make a promise
To vote And protect the results
To Vote and protect our people
To Vote and protect our hope,
Its a long long walk to freedom,
But on the way make sure you vote.
The Mourning After the Inauguration
Young folks need to vote like a gun the size of the sun is pointed at their face.
Like trump got the trigger pulled back and he’s grinning
Thinking about winning four more years.
The ballot should read: the apocalypse in your mirror is closer than it appears.
What I’m trying to express is that there may not be another chance,
Climate crisis is so advanced, that four more years of this administration
Will produce a devastation that will be beyond what we have the capacity to heal.
If I could reach inside your heart and mind, grab you by the soul and make you know this is real…
This is actually me trying,
Cuz there is no reason to keep lying.
A genocidal narcissist is selling millions of people death,
and apparently millions are undecided as to whether or not they want that yet.
So I guess, all that all have left
Is a tired, humble invitation,
to go so hard for the vote
that when all is said and done
On the morning after
January 20, 2021…
you will know,
you did everything
in your power
Lu Aya aka Luke Nephew (he/they/we) is a co-founder of The Peace Poets. He is a cultural worker, poet journalist, emcee, and organizer. He has worked with communities using music for collective healing and liberation in The Bronx, Latin America, Africa and Asia. He is a facilitator with The Wildfire Project and an artist educator at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.
First published by Waging Nonviolence. Included in Vox Populi for noncommercial educational purposes only.