The Poem I wrote on Dr. Martin Luther King's Birthday/ Inauguration Eve... / by Shanelle Gabriel


As the world celebrates progress and change,

Somewhere far away,

A Black girl is being called outside her name.

Somewhere closer,

A Black boy learns that 'nigga' is his other name

And in your backyard,

A Black man is executed on the platform of a train.

As the world studies Gaza and wars far and abroad,

They neglect the terror in our own country.

Nothing can match the pain I feel

When I see a minority wearing the uniform of

The United States Army.

Their options were to die here in the States

Or die overseas.

Wear helmets to protect those wearing hoods.

I know they mean to do good,

But while the US stresses over homeland security,

The security on our homeland

Terrorize the people they swore to protect.

Uppity Blacks can reject the idea that racism still exists if they wish,

They can seal their eyes with EOE if they please,

But notice that history always repeats itself,

And we are in a country waist-deep in deceit, hate, and lies.

A place where whistles and wallets,

Blue shields and lack of Blue-Cross Blue Shield

Cause the life span of the average man to decline.

Tears wipe away my smile.

As the world studies Obama's blackberry addiction,

I saw varied shades of brown tear down their town

In mourning.

I'm wondering if the world would hear their pain

If instead of Oakland,

It was Beverly Hills they were destroying.

As the world studies the coming of January 19th,


Do we have your permission to steal our peace back?

Is it okay to let vengeance ring

And war cries sing

Over shells tinkling

Echoing through streets and public transportation systems?


Should we celebrate your birthday this year

When bullets shower our neighborhoods like confetti.


It's hard to partake of cake when forced to defecate

Splinters from nightsticks.

Dr. King,

How can freedom ring without justice for Sean Bell,

While they grant Oscar's executioner

A vacation from work.

Aggressive cops get sensitivity classes and a pardon.

Pardon us, Martin.

We've forgotten what it means to reject the norm

We've misplaced the words of wisdom for our girls and boys

Because VH1 and MTV don't teach reality.

Textbooks in the South have just been changed to mention slavery.


You had it better than we do

Because at least racism in your time was blatant.

Today it gets brushed away

As just ignorance and coincidence,

Mistaken identities and itchy trigger-finger tendencies.

Shoot first because of fear.

If you’re scared to die,

You’re in the wrong field.

How can they serve and protect a community

If they don’t know the value of life?


Thank you for showing us the path to peace

But I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

I can see you sobbing in your tomb

‘Cause we’ve buried our history

Like pirated doubloons

And lost the map to ourselves.

Dr. King,

We need another civil rights leader like you

Who wouldn’t turn an issue away

Because there wasn’t enough money to pay

Al or Jesse for the guest appearance they’d make.

As the world studies,

The first President of African decent

As the world studies a change to be proud of,

A symbol of growth,

We know that in your dreams you saw it first.

Dr King,

We celebrate your life,

The life you gave.

We should not simply give you praise

On this one cold January day.

In your honor,

We have to be the change we wish to see,

Not just celebrate you and what we've become.

We have to force strength and greatness into our community

'Cause you preached unity.

As we celebrate what you've done to change history.


I wish to see the spirit of love, peace, growth, and positivity

Finally rest itself into the heart of this country.

As the world celebrates your birth,

We all know,

We still have a long way to go.


For January's "Speak 2 Me" show at Philadelphia's Clef Club, I was asked to write a poem in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday (Jan 19th). I started writing it on my way back from Atlanta, when I found out about the BART killing in Oakland (See previous blogs). In the airport, I anxiously watched CNN, hoping to get more details on the riot out there...I was greatly disappointed as I watched CNN's top story be about how Obama wants to keep his Blackberry when he becomes president. No mention of the 300+ shops that were damaged as a result of Oaklanders' anger at the fact that that the officer who murdered Oscar Grant was not being charged. No mention of the wrongful death of a young black man at the hand of a police officer yet again. We're all just so happy about Obama being in office and so used to celebrating Dr. King's birthday without seeing that both occasions call us to be more than just people living in America. Both of these show that we should have dreams and goals that can make a change in the world. We have to be the change, not just celebrate it. They call us to rise into action and take a stand for justice, freedom, and equality for all.

Stay Blessed!

Shanelle Gabriel