NWPNH Statement and Poem

My Dear Friends,

These are indeed difficult times. The murder of George Floyd is just one more instance of police brutality and the racism that lies at the heart of our country. We, as educators, have much work to do: first in educating ourselves, in confronting our own biases and in working with and for our students to make a better and more just world. Yet despite how dark these times are, young people are stepping forward and taking the lead, from the student-led demonstration in Concord today, to the strong participation by young people in the peaceful protests, to the way that our students are using their writing to express their anger, frustration and desire for change. We share this poem by Ruthie Zolla, originally from Chicago, who will be a senior at Derryfield School in Manchester next year. We are grateful to Ruthie and to her teacher, Louisa Burdette, for sharing this with us and for granting permission to share it with all of you.

In Solidarity,

Meg Petersen, Director, NWPNH

June 6, 2020

Photo by Fibonacci Blue

For the Flamethrowers
By Ruthie Zolla, Grade 11, Derryfield School, Manchester

I can’t write anything about
anything except that my city is burning down once again
Great Chicago Fire, reborn
in the 21st century
Recast, remade, it is a people’s
fire
The cow tipped over the lantern
in 1812,
And in 2020 the cow is called
a man
And the man tipped over his
boot,
And anger spilled out of
the people’s lantern
The one made by my friend
Destiny,
And the destinies that cut
the branches of family trees down,
Stomping on necks, stomping
on the backs
Of the people who built us
What kind of destiny does
my friend Destiny have?
Except to tip her lantern
time and time again
To spread fire unto the parts
made clean by her people’s
Labor.
You see,
They built the lantern,
But were forced to trap their
fire inside it
For so long
Everyone else forgot it mattered
somehow
Disposable flame, disposable
life
And a scroll of names
That only our memory can
preserve
Because when fire comes,
It spares no one,
And although we are made
out of things better than wood now
We are not better

My school
Whitney M. Young Magnet
Built from the ashes of riots
before this
A magnet for students from
all corners of our city
Named for the man who fought
for the freedom to be
School of Michelle Robinson,
becoming
And despite all this
My school still reaps from
the branches of the white money tree
Gritting their teeth against
the songs of students daring to stand up
Or kneel down
Daring to say enough is enough
Because those are the only
words left
When everything is choked
out of their own throats
By he who wears the boot,
and they who shine the boot,
and she who pays the boot
And we who acknowledge the
boot and then ignore it once more
Until it pushes down on the
artery of America, the one that carries the blood from the heart to all the other parts of our nation’s body. They who are the artery as much as the heart, the blood, sweat, and tears of U.S., and the boot, pushing down,
oh white rage is a blinding
one

But it is not the fire, nor
the artery, nor the heart
Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin,
Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Quintonio Legrier, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Rekia Boyd, Laquan McDonald
Their flames flicker still
In little boys who carry
signs and the history of hatred
The 12.5 million in the Trans
Atlantic
Not even fire can burn that
from memory
And yet there is the lantern,
spilling now, across cities
On asphalt where people used
to buy and sell other people
On the streets where carriages
held cages full of humans
On the sidewalk where men
died for the assumption of guilt, not innocence
There is the lantern, spilling
now,
endless it is.