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Quraysh Ali Lansana

A riot is the language of the unheard.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


if a riot is the language of the unheard what

is silence? the disease of the privileged

the opioid of the wealthy or apathetic   silence

is only listening to the loudest mouth

an agreement from the ignorant  legislation

of the partisan silence is authorship

by the indifferent  cries of the powerless & poor

is silence the echo of contrition  drone & dirge

of the duped  allegiance to the status quo

silence is sitting in a room when your boss

calls afrika & haiti shithole countries

& saying nothing  silence is sitting

in a room to honor a native preacher

of a shithole country called atlanta  

& speaking   still saying nothing

silence is seventeen in parkland  fifty-eight

in vegas  forty-nine in orlando  twenty-six

in newtown  six hundred & fifty in chicago

the nra cash in their accounts loud as an AR-15


unarmed teachers revolt in red states  teens

with machine gun vernacular spray

relentless hope  angry tears blood

on their nikes  they know testing

only assesses the number of prison beds

on the stock exchange  at a school in a mexican

community a student wrote he’d build

a wall around the hood to keep trump

out as we worry the windows for tanks

militia or the ins our skin too anxious

for dreams only white men can navigate

the world without code-switching


i am not non-violent  i am a teacher

i am not non-violent  i am a writer

i am not non-violent  i vote

we are not non-violent  we care

Quraysh Ali Lansana is author of eight poetry books, three textbooks, three children’s books, editor of eight anthologies, and coauthor of a book of pedagogy. He is an Upper School Humanities Teacher at Holland Hall School, and is a former faculty member of both the Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Drama Division of The Juilliard School. Lansana served as Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University from 2002-2011, where he was also Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing until 2014. Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community (with Georgia A. Popoff) was published in March 2011 by Teachers & Writers Collaborative and was a 2012 NAACP Image Award nominee. His most recent books include The Whiskey of Our Discontent: Gwendolyn Brooks as Conscience & Change Agent, w/Georgia A. Popoff (Haymarket Books, 2017); Revise the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writings of Gwendolyn Brooks w/Sandra Jackson-Opoku (Curbside Splendor, 2017);A Gift from Greensboro (Penny Candy Books, 2016); The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop w/Kevin Coval and Nate Marshall (Haymarket Books, 2015) and The Walmart Republic w/ Christopher Stewart (Mongrel Empire Press, 2014).

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