Case Western Reserve University students will be sharing their opinions on social justice and related community issues using #SocialJusticeCLE. Please note: The statements made are personal opinions and do not reflect Case Western Reserve University or its administration.
Poem Written Specifically for this Event by Norma McLaughlin (Williams) Nelson
March 2, 2016
I Was, I Am, I Will Be
Read by Yumi Ndhlovu on March 4, 2016 at Bridging Worlds Together
I Was, I Am, I Will Be is a half-rhyme, half free-style poem written in the “voice” of 6th through 8th grade youngsters.
I WAS, I AM, I WILL BE
Who WAS I?
A few short years ago, I was a baby—
Like each of you, like all of us!
My mother held me close to bond, she said,
And also when I made a fuss.
With few thoughts about what was ahead for me,
Her feelings of love and pride and joy
Excluded concerns for my personal safety.
Who AM I?
I’m now a near-teen or a new teen.
Will my brown-ish skin color lift me up or tear me down, or matter not at all?
I am a family member, a student and a citizen.
With independent thoughts and free-willed actions,
I often fear violence from some nearby factions.
I do have fun and hopes and dreams,
And I ask myself now, “What does it all mean?”
“But who do YOU say that I am?” ***
Parents, teachers, law enforcers, religious and community leaders, let me ask you:
Am I that energetic, inquisitive, “black” youth whose actions may seem good or bad to different people?
Am I a youngster with talent and potential who needs know-how about personal power and guidance about personal responsibility?
Recognizing the contradictions of safety for me, am I someone who needs to know how the justice system really works?
Today, my friends, your interest in me and efforts for me make me happy and hopeful because I know you want the best for me and you “have my back!”
Who WILL I Be?
To my family, I hope always to be God-made and Heaven-sent.
For myself, I will be true to my ethnicity, whatever its identity; and I will know it to be an important building block for the contributing American citizen I will become.
I will believe the last part of America’s Pledge of Allegiance which states: “. . . with liberty and justice for all.” —and that this phrase includes ME and others like me!
In the future, I will have done my best to conquer the worlds of indifference and injustice for positive change.
And I will remember that my power to persuade others toward real justice will have been kindled by your empowerment of me through cultural awareness!
This is who I was, who I am, and who I will be!
* The March 4th 2016 panel discussion was moderated by Rev. Dr. Shawnthea Monroe, senior minister, Plymouth Church of Shaker Heights, UCC where the event was held. Panelists included: Eugenia Cash (ADAMHS and CMSD), Reverend Lawanza Colvin (Olivet Institutional Baptist Church), Phyllis Seven Harris (LGBT Community Center), Judge Kristin Sweeney, attorney Reggie Williams and Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams (SJI).
** Yumi Ndhlovu is an 11-year-old sixth grade pupil, a professional actress and is Mai Moore’s daughter. Yumi appeared recently in Playhouse Square’s production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”
*** Holy Bible (NRSV), Mark 8:29.