mother always said that you were born with a soft heart and a hard head,
which meant that from the beginning, you were at odds with the rest of the world.
and as I watched you unfurl your tiny fingers for the first time,
I tried to see what paradoxical destiny
would be engraved on the palms of your hands.
I saw you walking along sidewalks and streetlights on summer nights,
with house keys and a handful of crumpled dollar bills
tucked into the crevices of your coat pocket.
when you turned the corner at Gotham Avenue
and 5th street you heard the familiar siren of an ice cream truck
and the snickers of black and brown kids playing in their backyards.
yours is a world of gritty simplicity,
and on days like these, your mind can’t help but wonder
as you sit listlessly in your classroom,
listening to the fairy tales
they call history textbooks
you start to think of an existence outside of the one
that you have grown up with.
My Brother, please do not allow your dreams to die
within the confines of these four walls,
don’t fall for the lie that your school supplies, because
intelligence is more than a composition of essays and test scores,
and there are some things about life that you will never learn in school,
like the fact that people of color make up 60% percent of
our imprisoned population,
(in case you skipped math class, remember that’s three-fifths)—
don’t compromise your education for the sake of your schooling
don’t buy into the myth of No Child Left Behind
because it assumes that when teachers see you
they see someone worth teaching
this system isn’t looking out for you,
unless its looking through the barrel of a gun
and the only time you ever seem to read about protagonists who
look like you is when you see their names in the obituaries.
these teachers may have taught you how to write and how to read,
but until you learn how to resist, you still can’t breathe.
The specter of failure weighs heavy on your lungs,
but your young soul still deserves to escape
from these low expectations that others have set for you.
learn to bind these truths around your neck;
your mind is the birthplace of an apocalypse,
your lips the portal for a voice the world needs to hear,
and I can assure you that as long as there are dreamers in this world
there will be those who will try to shackle their souls to the ground.
I still dare you to keep resisting.
let your feet float off these chalk-covered sidewalks
because you were meant to live with flying colors.