The following is a poem excerpted from Chicago poet and activist Kevin Coval’s forthcoming book A People’s History of Chicago. The book will be published on March 4 by Haymarket Books and will include a foreword by Chance the Rapper. The book, says Coval, “flips to the b-side of history in the tradition of Howard Zinn, Ida B. Wells, and the counter-narrators to American terror and mainstream whitewashing.” He wants to “set the record straight and remix it and dig in the crates to rescue and retell some of the best and most radical and real and celebratory and difficult parts of our Chicago story.” The book begins before the arrival of Europeans in North America and ends with the Chicago Cubs’s World Series victory late last year.
I got a family reunion in my mouth. Love Jones on molars. Chuuch under my tongue. Loud packs and loose squared language. Bootlegged babble. Mild saucy and slick. Quick card crackin gramma. Squad a sanctuary on my top lip. Throw the handles of my cheeks. What’s good in the hood of my mouth. The yo in my yawn. A fugase flap and flick of tongue. Southside schtick and slobbered. A candy lady’s cabinet. Bud and MC Lite/Lyte a boombox on my beak. Suited and booted. Food and liquor leaking. Tripping on my tonsil. A1 and K47. The rink skating on my no’s and what consent mean. My gots belong to Giovanni and Jasmine. A Different World in a Dutch Masters. Elbows off the table of my teeth. Don’t you have any manners. Melanin in the suck. Auntie pokie neck roll caught in my throat. Living Single and large on my bottom lip. Natalie Diaz in my cupid’s bow. I speak a queer language. Color coded. No code switch or swap in my mouth. I hold a rainbow coalition in my tongue. Obama Care is in my back throat. Let my mom claim the baby in my teeth for tax season. I speak sacrifice. Urban dictionary in the suburbs. Know my rights and speak them. Loud. Like my music. Like my body. I speak my body. I speak my bossy. I speak Trina and Cardi B. I speak woman runs the house. I speak field and house. I speak house. I speak Chicago. Chicagu. Chic A Go. Redline lingering lick. I speak shaa(r)p. Sharp sword. Bible translations. Revenue. I speak Avenues and Blvds. Stomping grounds when I chew. Cabrini when my mom cooks. LeClaire Courts on 26th and California. I speak free my mans. I speak free my energy. I speak in royalist. In concrete King/Queendoms.
Black boy brown
Coltrane Ain’t This Blue
I love my nature
“Trayvon Martin armed himself
These poems were all written by seventh and eighth grade students in a writing program at Brighton Park Elementary School, a neighborhood school on the Southwest Side. They were compiled for publication by Xian Franzinger Barrett, a teacher at BPES who led his students in non-traditional writing classes that focused on expressions of trauma, identity, and community. This portfolio is arranged in alphabetical order by author and will be updated throughout the summer.