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Young Writers Project: 'Imagine What It Feels Like'

Jojo Williams-Keane's poem, "Imagine What It Feels Like," is a reflection on the life and writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the first two weeks in January, the eighth grade students of English teacher Steven Glazer at Crossroads Academy in Lyme, N.H., reflected on the life and writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They began by looking at the context of King's Letter from Birmingham City Jail – photographs, newspaper articles, oral history and Birmingham's city ordinances – and looked for powerful quotes that spoke to them.

Their writing, including this piece by Jojo Williams-Keane, were read out loud at the school’s Martin Luther King Day assembly on January 16. You can read more of the Crossroads students’ writing in the March issue of The Voice, the Young Writers Project’s monthly digital magazine.

“History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.” -MLK, "Letter from Birmingham City Jail"

Imagine What It Feels Like
By Jojo Williams-Keane 
Grade 8, Crossroads Academy

Imagine what it feels like to be alone
In a crowd of people who know you.
Scared, an aching hatred in their bones:
As you walk by they hiss, and yell, "BOO!"

You may not know these strangers,
But trust me, they think they know you.
You and I, so full of dangers
That they disgrace everything we do.

They make the places
Where everyone sits
According to races.
They've remembered the list:

You, negro, go sit in the back!
Who cares who's getting off first?
You're there 'cause you're black;
Your place will always be worse.

But I promise you they'll hate us more if we fight.
So smile, stand up straight, it's just one more ride.
They think what they've been taught is right.
Their heads have been stuffed with stupid, false pride.

Have you ever heard of a King's court giving up its seat?
Or of an Emperor rejecting his power because of civilians?
How often have you heard a ruler admit that he's been beat?
But calm down brothers, for they are not villains.

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