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poetry

 

Perhaps the oldest and most highly respected form of verbal expression, poetry has long been a mainstay of academic study. At the same time, poetry is both a vital personal form and an important tool of subversion and public criticism. Even nursery rhymes often have hidden political meanings. Sometimes, however, poets write quite openly about things like social politics. Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, for instance, challenged the ongoing injustice of American racism in his classic poem, "Harlem" (1951). The poem below, by Bronx Community College student Akini Legair, also takes up the theme of American race politics.

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"The Back of the Bus”

by Akini Legair

 

Once a place of shame and degradation
The back of the bus is now considered a therapeutic location
Long ago some were forced to the back and deemed inferior to the rest

In society, they were considered the town's refuse...the city’s mess

 

Regardless of being sent into the dark
In 1955, a light was ignited by one Rosa Parks

“No more to the back would I go”
Her head held high as she stared out the window

 

She was arrested and prosecuted for disobeying state’s prejudice law

This then ignited the famous Montgomery uproar
Now she could sit wherever she wants
Those that were doomed to the back could now be seen up-front

 

While in the bleak black gloomy corner
One could witness the sitting of the arrogant bourgeois
The situation has however taken a whole new look
Everyone now runs to the back to relax...to talk...to read a good book

 

The man in the far left corner with his feet stretched wide
A stocky guy in security uniform on his way to his watch for the night

Let’s not forget the young girl on the cell-phone speaking loudly of her day

The new traveler far away from home asking if he’s going the right way

 

It is tempting to bring certain questions to mind
What would Rosa Parks think had she been alive?
The zeal of the young ones to ride at the back of the bus

Would this make her all flushed, fiery and furious?

 

Her thoughts toward their love for the back region
Would she be filled with contempt, scorn or confusion?

Or maybe she might be satisfied as long as it’s a choice

And not some rule that makes one sad and another rejoice

 

Despite the thoughts of anyone, the back of the bus no longer has an identity of defeat

It can now be seen as the VIP section... the area for reflection and retreat
It has transformed from the naughty chair...to the psychiatrist’s seat
A mobile lounge, a throne of glory, prepare ye the way, while it rides along the street

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