Manual High School's Gentrification Project Inspires Poetry by Students

In the current Westword cover story, artist Lauri Lynnxe Murphy (who writes about her Mayday Experiment here every Tuesday) talks about the changing area where she lives, the Whittier neighborhood, and describes how a class of students from Manual High School have been involved with the Gentrification Project, studying the changes, discussing them at community meetings and even writing poems about them. Here are two examples:
Yo Soy la Nueva América 
By Nancy Chavez

-My Ethnicity comes with a culture orgullosa de ser.
I’ve listened to a Black Martin Luther King speech.
Trembling hands, harder to breath
Air so polluted of prejudice,
Blinded eyes full of stereotypes
Watching my mexican uncle cry as he bleeds
Cause’ Amendment number 2 said the white man had the right to bear arms
Now my uncle’s got a bullet through his chest.
This is the America I witnessed.
-To serve and protect,” “to serve and protect”
This is what they promised me
But I don’t belong here , this is what this society believes
Constitutionally stating my freedom in 4,543 words
Allowing these 238 years of inequality.
Staring up at the veteran’s Memorial as the numbers start to rise ;
45.3 million souls living in poverty.
This is the America where I live.
-My hearts starting to accelerate so fast I can’t keep up with it ,
The Aztecs and Mayans tearing down pyramids
“The time is here, the end is here”
So ashamed the world reached this point
Matthew twenty-four:thirty-six
-Closed eyes, future lingering about embraced by hope
I am the new America.
The rebellion our founding fathers never envisioned
The new face, the face that isn’t white .
With a color so unique,
a color that sinks into the air as i speak.
But, as I speak you can hear the voices of my ancestors running through me.
I am what makes a culture like this so unique
I can tell you que hablo español, not Mexican.
Because my voice is the hope that makes up the rhythm of the American song, the voice who sets reality free.
But, why should it matter if I speak?
If all you see is “illegal” written across my face
“Alien” printed on my skin.
I’m not what you think even though society brainwashes you into labeling me.
I am the new America.

Who Am I?
By Isabelle and Munira
Who am I? Like you’d really care to know!
My voice is unheard,
I’m invisible to you.
I am another point of view.
I stand tall on my own two feet.
Despite what you say
You try to tear me down
But still, like dust, I rise.
Who am I?
I am the young colored girl growing up in a world that doesn’t understand me,
growing up getting teased for my skin color.
I was different from everyone else.
They wanted to see me broken.
They wanted to see me fail.
Still I’ll rise.
I am the shy girl who has so much to show the world.
But doesn’t know how to put it into words.
I am the young girl, afraid and insecure.
Afraid of facing a world that was created for me to fail.
A world set up to send black men straight to jail.
A world who when I can’t read in second grade
But instead of buying a book
Pre-orders a prison bed
Hanging in the balance of the choices I make
they’re just watching me,
Waiting for me to make a mistake.
Who am I?
I am a “baby mama”
I am “is that your real hair?”
I am “Do you want some fried chicken?”
I am a colored girl living
in the ghetto and wishing for
hoping for
dream of
something more.
Still I’ll rise.
Who is she?
No matter what she does, she’ll never be
Good enough.
Not good enough for America
only because they’re afraid of what she is capable of.
They fear her so they constantly degrade her.
But still, like air, she’ll rise.
Is it a crime that I want to be evaluated for my mind?
But you don’t want to give me the time.
You see me and look the other way.
Because of my race
You see me as a disgrace
You see BLACK
You see hate
You see fear
Who am I?
Look closer
Into the day break that is wondrously clear
Look closer
See the gifts my ancestors gave me
I am the dream and the hope of the slave
I rise
I rise
I rise
Read the complete story here.

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