Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "No Power Like the Power of Youth"

Thanks to an audience poll, this is the free epic for the July 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It's spillover from the June 6, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "public places" square in my 5-29-17 card for the Pride Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

WARNING: This poem contains intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. namasteIt includes hate groups, racism, hateful language, attempted invasion of a racist protest into a peaceful neighborhood, arguments over free speech vs. the right to be free of verbal abuse, a lion, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before moving onward.

"No Power Like the Power of Youth"

Nykee was studying civics in grade school,
learning all about activism and protests and
what made them a good idea or a bad one.

So when the skinheads came to the plaza
and the Ku Klux Klan came to the streets,
then Nykee talked with her parents about
free speech and verbal abuse and where
best to draw the line between them.

Her little sister Kizzie sat on her lap
and listened, too young to understand
most of that stuff yet. Kindergarten
was still working on the difference
between nice words and mean ones.

The whole family went out to watch
the street march, staying on their side
of the culvert that defined the edge of
their neighborhood. Bridges crossed it at
the corners, divided with different lanes
for cars and for walkers or bikers.

Nykee took pictures of the people in
silly robes and the ones with bad tattoos.

She made notes about the protest on
her "Current Event Report" page for class.

She looked around for a list of goals,
which the teacher said a good protest
ought to have, but couldn't find any.

Also a lot of the signs had spelling errors.
Nykee thought maybe they should have
spellchecked their work before turning it in.

Then the protesters turned toward
the neighborhood. Nykee's parents
and their neighbors didn't like that.
She could tell from the way that
all the grownups stiffened up.

Mommy and Daddy got into
a big argument with the leaders
of the march. Mommy got right up
in the face of the leader in his red robe
that flapped like a tent, telling him
he couldn't come in this way.

The march stopped, but then Nykee
saw some of the people start moving
down toward the end of the block.

She left Kizzie clinging to Mommy's jeans
and ran as fast as she could to reach
the next bridge before they did.

Nykee planted herself right
in the middle of that bridge
with her hands on her hips.

"Get out of the way!"
someone shouted at her.

"No," Nykee said. "I live here.
I don't recognize any of you,
so you don't. Go away!"

"We got a right to free speech!"

Then Nykee realized that Kizzie
had somehow followed her and
was hanging onto her arm. That
made Nykee worry about her sister
a little bit, they wouldn't back down.

"You can't come in our neighborhood
just to diss us," Nykee said. "Go back
to the plaza where your audience is."

"We're protesters," said the man
with crooked tattoos on his hands.
"We can go wherever we want."

"Well, you're not very good protesters,"
Nykee said. "You don't even have
a manifesto. You're just whining."

"Whining is bad," said Kizzie,
who was just learning that lesson.

One man clenched his fist
like he was about to pick a fight.
"We don't have to back down
for a couple of nappy brats!"

But suddenly he turned pale
and ran away from them.

Nykee turned around
to see a black woman with
her hair in a big bushy mane,
like Nykee and her sister wore
only not pulled into puffs.

Walking beside her was a lion.

"Hello, little sisters," she said
to Nykee and Kizzie, her voice
dark and thick as molasses.
She sounded African.

Nykee was shaking, and Kizzie
was squeezing her so hard it hurt,
but they stood their ground.

"He--hello," Nykee said.
"What d-do you want?"

"I'm here visiting relatives
for a little while. People call me
Storm Walks Beside Her," she said,
dropping a hand to the head of
the black lion at her side. "We
came out to see what's going on."

"These guys started protesting
in the park, but now they want
to come in our neighborhood and
make a stink," Nykee said. "We
don't want them bothering us."

"That man has a rock," Kizzie said,
pointing at a protester. "Rocks
are for looking, not for touching."

Rocks could break windows.
Nykee had seen pictures of that.

The black lion sniffed the air
and then growled, low and fierce.

The rock clattered to the ground.

"You should all leave now,"
said Storm Walks Beside Her.
"Go back to stinking up the park.
At least there, people can go away
if they don't want to listen to you.
But nobody should have to leave
their homes to get away from you."

The lion roared. The protesters
scattered and ran away.

Kizzie cheered.

Nykee's knees felt like
wet noodles, but she was
glad the protesters had gone.

Then Mommy and Daddy
came running up to them
all worried and scolding.

"Your girls are safe now,"
said Storm Walks Beside Her.

Nykee told her parents about
the bridge and the protesters,
how Storm Walks Beside Her
had scared them all away.

"I was scared too, but
I didn't run away," Nykee said,
and Kizzie added, "Me too."

"Ain’t no power like the power of youth
cos the power of youth don’t stop!"
Mommy said, shaking her fist at
the park where the protesters were.

Daddy just chuckled and said,
"Like mother, like daughters."

* * *


Nykee Cosper -- She has sorrel skin, black eyes, and nappy black hair. She is 8 years old. Nykee is the older sister of Kizzie. They live in Motor City with their parents.
Qualities: Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Black and Proud, Good (+2) Fortitude
Poor (-2) Inexperienced

Kizzie Cosper -- She has sorrel skin, black eyes, and nappy black hair. She is 5 years old. Kizzie is the younger sister of Nykee. They live in Motor City with their parents.
Qualities: Good (+2) Black and Proud, Good (+2) Nimble
Poor (-2) Pint-sized

See the skinheads in the plaza and the Ku Klux Klan. Here are Nykee's parents facing them down. Racist signs often contain errors.

* * *

"Ain’t no power like the power of youth cos the power of youth don’t stop!"
-- Quotes About Youth Changing the World

Civics is the study of how citizens participate in their society. There are effective practices for teaching this, and materials to hand out in class.

Detroit has a long history of protests, including the race riots of 1943 and 1967.

Terramagne-America does not allow infringement on the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Therefore, permits for protests are not generally required because that invites a violation of rights simply by denying them. Permits may be required for any venue that regularly requires free or paid booking to use its space. Protesters are still not allowed to break laws, and police may require people to move to a safer location if they choose an unsafe one. Civil disobedience tends to get handled differently than malicious crime even if it breaks the law. Furthermore, a perk of voluntarily registering your demonstration with the police is that most departments have at least one officer trained in civil rights support whom they will send to the event in case anyone tries to infringe on your rights. T-America understands that peaceful demonstrations are an important part of democracy. It keeps most of its protests peaceful by ensuring that they work -- that is, people listen to protesters with a fairly good chance of following feasible requests. Know how to stage a protest properly.

Activism ideally includes making a list of demands. Local-America isn't very good at this; most manifestos here are written by nutjobs. Happily T-America does much better; protesters there are generally expected to display a coherent list of complaints and/or solutions, not just make a lot of random noise. I managed to scrounge up some references to writing a demand letter and a manifesto, although they aren't aimed at demonstrations per se.

A march is one type of demonstration.

Placemaking is the art and science of designing infrastructure to facilitate community. By capitalizing on the traits of a great place, and ensuring there are many things to do in each place, a community attracts more people to its public spaces. In T-America the streets, parks, and plazas are customarily made with these principles in mind. In addition to indoor space such as assembly halls and community centers, parks and plazas often have outdoor space for gatherings whether it's an amphitheater or just a big open area. Because T-America has organized its activism better, and journalists routinely cover protests rather than ignoring them, demonstrations typically gravitate to areas convenient for large public gatherings rather than traipsing through less-convenient, more-congested places.

A culvert may form a neighborhood boundary, with bridges for connection.

Concerns about privacy and safety intersect with free expression. T-America generally feels that residents get priority, so that citizens of a town may gather and protest in its public places, locals may protest in their own neighborhood, but outsiders attempting to invade someone else's town or neighborhood are likely to meet with resistance. People have a right to free expression, and society is obliged to provide safe and appropriate venues for that right; but nobody is guaranteed a captive audience, nor do they have the right to abuse or intimidate other people. Disturbing the peace is still a crime -- although in T-America it usually goes to community court rather than conventional court. You can see why the skinheads wouldn't enjoy that in this context. Read about making communities safer.

Another dilemma is harassment vs. free speech. (Regarding the average woman suggestion, I note that while men may not care about sexual remarks directed by men at women, they go apeshit over sexual remarks aimed by men at other men.) There are many types of verbal abuse, and it does not count as free speech. Similarly punching someone in the face does not count as freedom of movement. Emotional abuse can do brain damage; as it is wrong to punch someone and cause brain damage, so it is wrong to verbally abuse them and cause brain damage. Read a debate on this issue.

Most of T-America doesn't require permits for protests, for the obvious reason that if you need a permit, it isn't a right but a privilege. However, some areas are so busy that more organization is needed, in which case places suitable for speechifying or performing may be marked as such. It doesn't mean people can't do so anywhere else, just that those locations are guaranteed to be appropriate. L-America has generally done a lousy job of handling these issues.

Here's a really nice free speech stage in a park. You don't even need to bring your own soapbox! It features a large concrete dais surrounded by benches, with steps around most of it and a ramp up the back. It's big enough for several speakers or performers. You can find these in parks all over T-America.

This is a pretty good example of a sidewalk zone. The area is marked with a wide yellow line, and it is large enough that a speaker or performer won't be crowded. It's in a public place, but it's outside the immediate traffic flow so as not to cause a hazard or congestion. This lets people identify a safe and appropriate place to set up their soap box or busking pitch. This is typical of towns and cities busy enough that they need more organization to ensure comfortable sharing of public space, much like they put in bike lanes or skateparks.

Cages are right out. So is cordoning protesters out of the way so that the people they're protesting against never have to see them. T-America experimented with these bad ideas too, but unlike L-America, they learned better after some scathing lawsuits.

Of course, supervillains don't like rules, and they have their own ideas about suitable supplies.

Teaching civil rights in school may benefit from worksheets on vocabulary, traditional songs, writing your own protest song, current events, video notetaking, and changing the world yourself.

Afro-textured hair is coarse with a strong structure and tight spiral curls. It is sometimes called nappy, although people argue over whether that term is offensive or not. I happen to like it, so I use it; my own hair is loose nap. Afro puffs are one popular hairstyle for this texture of hair. And yes, when I was growing out my hair and put it in a ponytail, that's pretty much what it did. Even now when it's freshly washed, it forms a giant cloud of curls; pulling it back just turns it into a longer, floppier puff.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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