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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2238276-The-Silent-Parade
Rated: E · Poetry · Children's · #2238276
This poem is based on the 1917 Silent Parade in New York City.
My mother
helps me button up
my best dress.
I only wear
this dress on Sundays,
when we go to church.
But today
is a special day.
Today,
We Are Marching


We Are Marching
for those killed
in the East St. Louis massacres,
for Jesse Washington,
for Ell Persons,
and for
Every
Black Life
and
Every
Black Family
destroyed
by white supremacy.

My mother
is an activist.
She works with her friends at our church,
St. Philip’s Church.
Three years ago
she joined
white women
in the Women’s Peace Parade.
They used
Silence
to get everyone’s
attention.
So will we.


My mother
hands me the pamphlet
that was sent out
a few days earlier
to let everyone know
when and where
to be.
1 o’clock
July 28th
1917,
on the corner of
5th avenue
and 59th street.

We March,
The pamphlet says,
because we are thoroughly
opposed
to Jim-crow Cars,
segregation
discrimination
dis-franchisement
lynching
and the host of evils that are
forced
on us.

We March
in memory of our
butchered dead,
the massacre of the honest toilers
who were removing the reproach
of laziness
and thriftlessness
hurled at the entire race.
They died to prove our worthiness to
live.
We live in spite of death shadowing us and ours.
We prosper in the face
of the most unwarranted and illegal oppression.
Signed,
Yours in righteous indignation,
Rev. Chas Martin, secy.


Are you ready, Irena?
my mother asks,
It is almost noon
and we must be there early
to get in line.
Who else will be there?
I ask.
Only us,
she says,
only those who feel the burden of Jim Crow.

Every congregation
across the city will join together
and we shall march
down the wealthiest streets
and surprise
white New Yorkers,
shocked them,
show them
what thousands of
Black Bodies
can do
when they come together.


When we arrive
my mother
goes to speak
to the other organizers.
I see
James Weldon Johnson,
a leader of the
NAACP.
He used to work for President Roosevelt.
And next to him is
the Rev. Dr. H.C. Bishop,
the president of this protest.
But my heart
skips a beat
when I see
Mr. W.E.B. DuBois.
My mother
reads to me from his magazine
“The Crisis”
after school.

They all seem
so powerful
so strong
so righteous.
I wish they could see
how much
I want to be like them.


My mother
walks me over
to where the other children stand,
the girls in white dresses,
the boys in white suits.
She kisses me
on the forehead
and then takes her place
behind me
with the other women.
They too
are all dressed in white.

In front of us
are the Boy Scouts
their hands full of pamphlets
that describe
why we are marching.
And ahead of them
are the drummers,
their drumsticks itching to begin.
And all the way at the very back
are the men
dressed all in black suits

We are a sight to be seen
standing
in nice neat lines.
Poor man
next to rich man,
the poet next to the maid,
the chef next to the pastor
All there to march
in the Silent Parade

Suddenly a hush falls over the street,
a silence that betrays
the thousands of bodies here.
And then the drums start
and a chill washes over me
as the Tap Tap Tap
begins to move us forward


Tap Tap Tap
The drummers are leading us to war.
A silent war.
A peaceful war.
Against the unjust
the unwarranted abuse
the violence
Tap Tap Tap
We March
south,
down 5th avenue.
White eyes poke through
the curtains
and then white faces
emerge to watch us
Silently
As We March past
Tap Tap Tap

They’ve never seen so many of us before,
whispers the girl next to me.
The boy scouts
ahead of us
smile and nod to each woman and man
that have gathered on the street
and they press a pamphlet
into their hands
and say
this is why We March.
Tap Tap Tap

Behind us
our mothers and fathers
carry signs
that break our Silence:
Thou shalt not kill.
We have fought
for the liberty of white americans
in six wars,
our reward is East St. Louis.
We are maligned as lazy
and murdered
when we work.
We are excluded from the unions
and condemned for not joining them.
Our music is the
only
American music.
The negro has never betrayed the flag,
attempted to
assassinate the president
or any official of this government.
Tap Tap Tap
Mother,
do lynchers go to heaven?


Tap Tap Tap
All I can hear are the
footsteps
of thousands marching,
the beating of the drum
and the rattling
of the elevated train
on 6th avenue.
Even the crowds are silent.
No cheering.
No hand clapping.
They watch in awe,
some
with tears in their eyes


Silently
We march past
St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Past,
the Colored Orphan Asylum
that was burned
by an angry white mob,
during a Civil War riot.
Past,
the Union League Club
where wealthy white men
stand and watch us.
And past,
Grand Central Terminal
where the Red Caps
briefly join us.


We are barred
from Madison Square Garden
and so we turn
down
on West 24th
and dissolve.
My mother
finds me
and hugs me.
We each hug friends
and neighbors,
we all cry and cheer.
We all smile and pat each other
on the back,
feeling proud of what we have done.

We,
who have so little,
marched peacefully
today,
in response
to the actions of those,
who have so much
but burned us
and
killed us
in East St. Louis


The next day,
black newspapers
reported
on their front pages
our grand parade.
The New York Times
gave us a few paragraphs.
But for most of the country,
our accomplishment
was not noticed,
and then
promptly
forgotten.
When I realize this,
my mother
squeezes my arm
and says not to worry.
We shall just have to try
again
tomorrow
and keep trying
until we succeed.

So I keep trying
each day
to work towards
a more equal
and more perfect
America.
And I tell
in great detail
to those I meet
what I did,
what we did,
on that great day
As We Marched,
south,
down 5th avenue
Silently,
to the beat of the drum.
Tap Tap Tap
And to all those I meet
I tell them,
I hope you spread the word
about what I did,
what we did,
on that great day
as we marched
south
down 5th avenue
Silently,
to the beat of the drum.
Tap Tap Tap
© Copyright 2020 Taylor Anno (tcole274 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2238276-The-Silent-Parade