Ordinary Hero

December 23, 2010
By Molly Walker BRONZE, Concord, North Carolina
Molly Walker BRONZE, Concord, North Carolina
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

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.

The author's comments:
This poem is inspired by Elizabeth Eckford, one of the African American students involved in the 1957 "Little Rock Nine" incident in Arkansas. After school segregation was ruled unconsitutional by the Supreme Court, Central High School added nine African American students to it's previously all-white roster - and drew extensive protests. The Arkansas National Guard was even ordered to prevent the students from entering.
Eight of the students coordinated walking to school together in order to provide security for themselves, but Elizabeth herself could not be reached due to lack of a telephone. Instead, she took the city bus to school alone that day. Upon arriving, the fifteen year old experienced hatred and taunts of epic proporitons.
Eventually President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division to accompany the students to school in order to deter any potential violence, but Elizabeth's story still lives on. This poem is written to convey her hope, not bitterness, and to assert her right to everything America has to offer its citizens - regardless of race or color.

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