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Liberty & Justice was a piece combined from two different pieces by Kiki (Cyara Wongus) and I (Lexus Roman). This combination started when Ms. O’Brien — our coach for Tiger Poets, teacher, and best friend — read mine and Kiki’s two separate pieces, and suggested we work together. 

Kiki wrote about a young black man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in the United States. She brought out the racism, discrimination, and unfair justice system we have in our country. 

My inspiration came from hearing Trump one night on the TV. His words were so pathetic to me and since freedom of speech is a right, I used the power I had — my voice. 

This poem is a wake-up call for the young, old, and anyone else who will listen to us. We want our points proven and our words to mean something to someone. We want people to understand how unfair this country really is because soon, we’re all going to fall.

Poems in our Youth issue were written by members of the Kensington Poetry Team, which is based at Kensington Health Sciences Academy and competes in the Philly Slam League. This poem was written to be performed by two voices, with Lexus’ and Cyara’s speaking parts denoted by their names.

How can I stand up high and fill my face with pride,
When every single day more of my people die? 
How can I salute the red, white, and blue,
When the red sticks to our bodies like glue, 
Holding us down and pushing us through?
Blue bruises reminding me what we really are to you

As the red and blue passed, I thought
“Was I about to pass?” 
Hands up, don’t shoot!
God make me glass
I ain’t giving him bunny ears when I’m holding this piece behind his head
Should I make peace and put it down
Or should I light off a couple rounds until his face hits the ground?

“Make America Great,”
But all we do is study hate
Can’t even walk in these streets 
Without being a cop’s new fresh meat


Why did you do it?

It was self-defense

Why did you kill him?

The moment was too intense; his skin full of melanin glowed in my police lights.
I saw that young man having a future, you know, really taking flight
I saw that man having a wife and kid,
His little girl was so bright
And to be honest I did it out of spite
Now bite me, because I still have my job

Say something wrong and you get a gun pulled to your face based on your race
Don’t judge me for speaking what’s on my mind,
Because I still got freedom of speech, right?

Mind your business ‘cause it’ll pass just like he did
Man, my gun was heated, 
even before I pulled the trigger
Guess it didn’t like that black ugly [n-word]

His life was gone in a flash

In my defense, I was only playing cops and robbers like when I was a little kid
My dad told me take the bad guys out or you won’t live
So I did, and I’m still breathin’

How can I pledge allegiance to the flag, 
When we’re the ones marked with stripes?
When we’re the ones seeing stars?
Ripped and torn is our flag, 
Our blood, and our hope.
When we can finally call this place our home, is when we receive
Our liberty and justice


Editor: Siani Colón / Designer: Jillian Bauer-Reese / Translator: Kristine Aponte