#Ferguson: Ferguson Streetpoem

by Claudia Alick

in Diversity & Inclusion

Post image for #Ferguson: Ferguson Streetpoem

(Ed. Note: The following blog salon series will focus on how theatre artists are responding to Michael Brown’s death and the oppression, violence, and resistance happening in Ferguson, MO. This series grew out of a series of discussions between Oregon based theatre-makers Claudia AlickMica Cole and Massachusetts based theatre-maker Megan Sandberg-Zakian, and myself. If you would like to participate in this series, please email Gus Schulenburg.)

Struck by the historical importance of the events happening in Ferguson and their resonance with our production of The Great Society at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival I traveled to Ferguson MO with several theater colleagues from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to spark and organize national artistic responses. While there we witnessed, we served, and we collaborated artistically. This poem is one of the results of that trip.

Ferguson Streetpoem_image3

(Photo by Katy Rubin)


“poetry for the people by the people”

By the people in Ferguson, MO

Edited By Claudia Alick

August 23-24, 2014

From “Dada & Surrealist Art,” by William S. Rubin, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York 1968

Among Surrealist techniques exploiting the mystique of accident was a kind of collective collage of words or images called the cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse). Based on an old parlor game, it was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.

The technique got its name from results obtained in initial playing, “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau” (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine). Other examples are: “The dormitory of friable little girls puts the odious box right” and “The Senegal oyster will eat the tricolor bread.” These poetic fragments were felt to reveal what Nicolas Calas characterized as the “unconscious reality in the personality of the group” resulting from a process of what Ernst called “mental contagion.”

At the same time, they represented the transposition of Lautrééamont’s classic verbal collage to a collective level, in effect fulfilling his injunction– frequently cited in Surrealist texts–that “poetry must be made by all and not by one.”

Note:  Ferguson, a suburb just north of St. Louis, drew national attention this month after white police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot an unarmed,18-year-old black man, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9. In the weeks sense the street have been filled with police violence, protest, looting, praying, press and productive work to make things better.

This poem was written in St. Marks Church, on the streets of Canfield Green, in art’s spaces in St. Louis, on the street. Writers included children, protesters and volunteers from around the country, farmers, teachers, locals from the neighborhood, journalists, religious figures, computer programmers, politicians, activists, police, and artists.

The people I met told stories of being jailed with no charges, ways to combat teargas and other forms of attack, being provoked, being afraid, being angry, being hopeful, organizing, what groups were against them, what groups were working for them, hearing about the death of Mike Brown online, seeing another black man shot by police at a different location, making art, making money, their poverty, their privilege, their confusion, their heartache, their impatience, their love, and the reasons they were there, the reasons they cared.

Participants of the poem wrote after viewing only the previous line.  Handwriting was deciphered as clearly as possible.  Case and punctuation were retained for most part. No punctuation added. Spelling was corrected except where necessary for meaning.  Some line breaks added.  I wrote the first and last stanza.

 Ferguson Streetpoem_image2(Photo by Katy Rubin) 

A cacophony of voices
A movement of people
A cacophony of voices
A movement of people
A cacophony of voices

My love for my people is deep and strong
We must have no fear and keep moving on
And like a river erode the injustice that harms us
We pray for the little angels affected by the struggle
We pray for the families standing by each other with love
I pray, pray, pray for the mothers of little black boys

Race is part of the same embRACE, unity
The lack of Synchonisity BRUTALITY CONFUSING ME
Young children miming emotion at the site that ignited a movement
A movement where the rules bent
For a nation that lacks improvement

For our young
Is our future
Save them, SAVE THEM
Charges the negative
Rules and laws of the land
Please give our young people a chance
SAVE THEM, not kill Them
Injustice is not justice we need change in this land
Together we stand and we fear one man
So take your brother hand and hand each other to God loving hands
Justice and God for us all
Blessings and overflow are to be established by God
May God lift up the family of Michael Brown
As well as the many families victimized by police violence and our people in general

May the energy of shango!
Make a way out of no way
I don’t preach non-violence
I teach self-defense
Let’s continue to pray and participate in the peaceful protest for our community
This much is needed
Humanity is all
The quest for justice begins with us
Step by step, always forward
Moving forward, with are heads held high
Unity, Love, and Peace will Keep us
Black is beautiful, especially in large crowds
I shall not stop until justice is done
Until peace is restored and our youth are safe
We will continue to add water to a river of blood on our streets

Stay calm, and strong
Justice is coming!
But don’t get too calm,
Because this isn’t funny

God Is!!!
Peace, Hope and Love
Your Kingdom Beak Forth
Because no more broken bodies
No more broken dreams and better days
All we want is justice and new ways
My brownness is not a weapon
I am not meant for target practice
I practice with targets
Punctured paper with no soul
Break the Mold, We reach the goal
The gaze is intriguing leap
Is this true? Is it honest? Is it me?
Who do I ask, to see myself?
Confusion, crowds, cheers and chants
I’m mentally drained
I can’t understand the lack of logic

So far the people in Ferguson are now walking
Together and helping each other helping the community
Now having a better understanding on what we
Mean when we say Justice No Peace
Justice on the police
And peace for us
And our family
And not just here

We live in different areas come from
Different walks of life
Despite all that we
Come together for equality
No Equality No Peace
We shall stand our ground until all needs are met
What’s right is right don’t panic a race for misunderstanding
Taking advantage of them and subconsciously enslaving them!
Strength is power
Power to the people
I’m a white girl from out of town, I know my place is in support, so my presence means more than my voice
Freedom justice and equality for all
Was the American promise
And it’s time to make due

So many voices spoke
Each one is true
A cacophony of voices

A movement of people


Alick_headshotClaudia Alick, Associate Producer, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, produces the events that bring OSF into artistic collaboration with our community such as “The Green Show”, The Daedalus Project, and Juneteenth. She develops hip-hop based projects like Mixing Texts, the Hip-hop Boot Camp, and OSF Open Mics as well as producing audio-plays with OSF such as the Grammy nominated Hamlet. Named by American Theater Magazine as one of 25 theater artists who will shape American Theater in the next 25 years, Alick has served as the Artistic Director of Smokin’ Word Productions, is a playwright, and is a member of the award winning NY Neofuturists, and featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. She is a winner of a NYC Fresh Fruit directing award. Her latest one person Show “Fill in the Blank” exploring disability and the medical industry was last performed in the 2013 OSF’s Presents series. Described by Bob Holman as a “Sexy librarian” her fiery, inspirational, and often humorous poetry looks at race, identity, and the struggle to be human.