Social Justice 101: Green hopes for better future through winning poem
“I wanted my poem to be a verbal slap in the face."
May 14, 2021
“As we rise from the trenches. As we build our own bridges. As we strive with unimaginable ambition. There will be no more social injustice for me,” said poet Promise Green.
Social Injustice is “the way unjust actions are done in society. Social injustice occurs in a situation where equals are treated unequally and unequal is treated equally.”
“What is Social justice to me?”
Sophomore, Promise Green took home the prize in a contest created by the FCTA (Frederick County Teachers Association). After submission, Green’s poem would go through a series of approvals from the committee for a final selection.
The prompt was to create a medium through art, poetry, spoken word, performance, or essay that described “What does social justice mean to you?”
“The contest was the product of our Human and Civil Rights Committee’s focus on anti-racism this year. Along with teacher education and book study opportunities, we wanted to give students in Frederick County the opportunity to express their own joys and frustrations. We opted for an open format allowing for poetry, essays, artwork, or any form of expression students felt the best communicating in,” said Jennifer Reynolds, FCTA-Human and Civil Rights Committee/Brunswick High School English Teacher.
“Promise’s poem stood out for her honesty and her craft. Her message was strong and demonstrated her depth of thought and her strength of character. I admire her attention to craft in creating a highly structured work without sacrificing her mature voice. This is not a student who took our prompt and thought about how best to please us; this is a student who faces the hard work of looking bravely at both her anger and her joy. I hope to see more work from Promise in the world!” said Reynolds.
Green was not as confident as the judges.
“I wish I could say that I was struck with an inexplicable urge to share my work, but, unfortunately, that was not the case. It was actually my mom’s idea. She has been trying to get me to share my writing since middle school, and with the George Floyd trial and the storming of the Capitol, the contest was the perfect thing to get the gears turning,” said Green.
From Green’s mother’s wishes to Promise’s delivery. Green created a masterpiece describing her dreams of social justice in 2021.
As Green presented her poem in Culture Committee Meetings and AACC (African American Culture Club) events, her peers were in awe of her ideas and delivery. They followed with a discussion of ways to improve and transform social injustice into social justice.
“First hearing this poem, I was really amazed that someone could put how I felt into words. How relatable the situation was for me and other AACC members was astonishing. The poem is impactful and inspiring. I think it was very moving. An amazing poem,” said Oluwatomi George.
The poem’s success was the result of clear emotional experience combined with a driving rhythm.
“When I first started writing my poem, I wanted to delve into social injustice unemotionally. It had to rhyme methodically and be as systematic as social injustice and racism actually is. I wanted my poem to be a verbal slap in the face for some people, you know. It had to have an absolutely inconceivable confrontational level.”
“Initially I had finished my poem with only seven stanzas. But I read it again mere hours before the due date and I felt something was missing. It took me about 30 minutes of reading the poem over and over again before I realized it was the emotion. The anger that i felt, the anger that we aren’t allowed to have, wasn’t there,” said Green.
So I proceeded to summon my inner 50 Cent, and J. Cole, and D. Smoke and write about how I felt. I rationed it of course so that it didn’t over shadow my previous point”
— Promise Green
Murder after murder, victim after victim, our Black youth are growing up in a society that looks down on them because of their color and views them as threats.
“This piece was inspired by the feeling I have whenever I see a Black man harassed by the police and I imagine my little brother’s face instead,” said Green.
While Green speaks on the transformation of social injustice to social justice, she emphasized the impact that Linganore’s AACC has had on her.
“AACC has helped me acclimate to the ‘Linganorian’ environment, and I am incredibly grateful to them for that. Their opinions have shaped my way of thinking immensely, and it’s amazing to talk to people who share your position rather than your perspective,” said Green.
While AACC has provided Green with a sense of belonging, it has also provided others with a sense of understanding.
“Reading Promise’s poem made me feel pain because it made me feel Promise’s pain. When she wrote about a teacher giving her bad grades for being Black, it crushed me. That a teacher, someone who, almost more than anyone else, is meant to be there for all students, could do such a thing, filled me with both rage and profound sadness. Wondering if/when I’ve subconsciously done the things Promise wrote about, made me reflective,” said Elizabeth Ericsson, AACC Advisor.
The ideals behind social injustice become difficult to grasp. Oftentimes, for POC it’s difficult to understand why we are marginalized in a country that preaches “liberty and justice for all.”
“Recognizing white American behaviors and our relationship to social injustice made me question how people could let such injustice continue to stand. I am excited to witness the rise ‘from the trenches,’ the building of bridges and the striving ‘with unimaginable ambition’,” said Ericsson.
Green’s poem is now more relevant than ever.
Not even a full 24 hours after the verdict for the Derek Chauvin case was announced, the news cycle reported other acts of violence against Black people.
Say their names! Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant! George Floyd! Breonna Taylor!
“These events have definitely made me all the more eager to speak up on how I feel in the hopes that I could somehow make a difference,” said Green.
“Daunte Wright, for example, cases like these make my head hurt sometimes. If there is the slightest possibility or the most infinitesimal chance that you could mistake a weapon that has the ability to take away life for a weapon that could debilitate someone then you have too many weapons.”
Think for a moment what is the highest negative reinforcement? Discomfort. So are we in turn providing police officers with positive reinforcement when they reach for their gun instead of their taser? Lastly, how do you make that mistake after 20+ years of service? And apparently this occurrence is more common than previously believed but I feel like that has more to do with the fact that our police started as slave catchers but that’s a conversation for another day.”
— Promise Green
Social Justice– defined through different terms among different individuals. With the goal for the same purpose equality.
“Exposure. I think exposure to different cultures and hard conversations are the only ways to end social injustice. People have to get used to being around what they deem socially unacceptable; they have to learn that their opinion isn’t the only thing making the world go round,” said Green.
Justice isn’t a murderer receiving their deserved jail sentence. Justice isn’t having mercy on Black lives. Justice isn’t even protesting. Social Justice is simply equality.
“United we stand, divided we fall….. “ “Liberty and Justice for all…..” “Under God, one nation is indivisible….”
“I continue to reflect on myself and ponder what my role will be moving forward. The only thing I know for sure is that I want to be on the side of social justice,” said Ericsson.
America preaches equality in their day to day. From the pledge of allegiance to flags and symbols.
So why don’t we put the preaching into practice?
“But if you only have love for your own race. Then you only leave space to discriminate. And to discriminate only generates hate. And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate,” said Will.i.am