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Ordinary Hero This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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I tell myself I will not cry,
As Arkansas turns me away.
The guards stare me frigidly in the eye,
I walk alone as my world starts to sway.

I tell myself the insults are wrong,
“Lynch, lynch, lynch!”
Their prejudices compose a poisonous song,
“Lynch, lynch, lynch!”
The jeers are laced with tangible tension,
“Lynch her, lynch the girl!”
They drone on, the sound of a monstrous engine.

I tell myself my fortune is not as it’s told,
As I seek the safety of an adult’s comforting stare.
Adults, who rear life, who nurture, who shelter,
Who appease the crowds that lust for the throttling of my soul,
Who shun and abandon me out in this cruel, biased cold.

The hallways are riddled with grenades of the mind,
If not spoken or written, punches and kicks are used to define.
Subjected to barrages of ivory assault,
Richness of color does not constitute fault!
I ache with passion from silently belting these cries,
My bruises whisper agreement, questioning those who seek my demise.

I tell myself bayonets are akin to security blankets,
That military uniforms envelop and stifle the hate.
I should find warmth in the lullaby of resounding footsteps at my side,
The thud of combat boots dulls (for now) the protests, the tumultuous tide.

I tell myself I have purpose, a life to unfurl,
That God is no jeweler, pitting onyx against pearl.
I clutch at the belief that I am more than a color,
That education is neutral, as accepting as family - a brother.
Convictions are solid, iron and real,
My body can be broken, but my dreams remain encased in steel.

I tell myself that the hearts of Arkansas will awaken,
Pump blood of acceptance and mourn the forsaken.
I will walk alone once more, my world remaining nailed to the ground,
Death threats buried, hatred permanently bound.
White will no longer be an entitlement, black no longer a flaw,
Seduced by these thoughts, I continue my plight
The nine of us, we enter the battlefield, drafted by right.

I open my textbook,
Regard the tiny black letters on the overwhelming white pages,
These pages, an example of darkness invading the light,
The publisher’s way of reminding us day always erases the night.

Nine against all,
David never faced an uglier Goliath.
Perhaps freedom will triumph,
And the world will take note of our impassioned defiance.

But if opposition continues, rooted in hate for our race,
When the white man strikes me down and sees the cuts on my face,
He will bear witness to a fact I’ve always known to be true:
That no matter my skin tone,
I eternally bleed red, white, and blue.





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