echo: an autobiographical journey of the power of the ballot



    this land is your land, this land is my land

                            Woody Guthrie


    this land of lies and death march

    seven votes shy of becoming home


    for all freed africans. the founding

    outlaws of oklahoma went to roosevelt


    drunk on statehood. teddy said yes if no

    jim crow. in november 1907 the forty-sixth.


    by mid december, senate bill one, jane and

    jim crow walk arm in arm down bitter


    streets in tulsa, jackson, atlanta, new orleans

    wichita, baltimore, little rock, st. louis,


    charleston, dallas, louisville, memphis

    selma. a legislated hate. a literacy test.


    a poll tax. a photo ID. a nothing new. bull

    connors’s grandkids meet at election integrity


    group parties, slang for white citizen’s councils

    drink tea with their whiskey, load guns.


    we are at the pettus again & again & again &


    we are a teacher unemployed for registering

    students, we are the over employed weekend


    voter, we are the solo mami’s & papi’s

    who struggle with the machinery, not the process


    we are we are two-thousand chicago

    precinct judges answering a robo-call telling


    them not to report for work. fraud is in the eye

    of the beholder, that permanent marker of lines


    we cannot see because they are clear. are we

    medgar, mary, chaney, goodman, schwerner?


    it is 1965. it is 2015. we are on the bridge.


    (Image credit: 'Two-minute warning,' by IIP Photo Archive, via flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

    Quraysh Ali Lansana was born in Enid, Oklahoma and earned his MFA from New York University, where he was a departmental fellow. He is the author of the poetry collections mystic turf (2012), They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems (2004), and Southside Rain (2000); his chapbooks include reluctant minivan (2014), bloodsoil (sooner red) (2009), Greatest Hits: 1995-2005 (2006), and cockroach children: corner poems and street psalms (1995). He has also written a children’s book, The Big World (1999). Lansana has been a literary teaching artist and curriculum developer for over a decade and has led workshops in prisons, public schools, and universities in over 30 states. He is a former faculty member of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School, and served as director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University from 2002-2011, where he was also associate professor of English/Creative Writing. Currently, Lansana is on faculty in the Creative Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and the Red Earth MFA Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma City University.


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