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.