Social Justice Poetry

activism poems

Tears | A Social Justice Poem by Diane Woodward Dorff

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing. Nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him if he gives too much.”
Alan Paton – Cry, the Beloved Country

cry, the beloved country
weep for the rising oceans undefended
grieve for the freshness of the air unshielded
for the forgotten cost of the purity of rivers
abhor the leaders investing themselves in themselves
mourn the babies raised in uncertainty
but let not the growing children
safeguard their hearts in mistrust
let them give their hearts beating with wonder
to the silver-green bending grasses
to the branches of willows holding all their breath underneath
to the secret days that turn the wheat from green to golden
to the green sky holding the water that makes the rainbow
let the young ones cleave to their beloved country
unafraid of tears

Words from the Subject Lines of Emails Received Today | A Social Justice Poem by Tricia Knoll

About the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB)
crime statistics by neighborhood –
working on these still, ever editing
tiny words of resistance recess.

Coming soon the cover-up in Trump’s taxes.
Yes, you can measure white privilege
telling our stories through the storm
to read the natural world.

This safe space, our circle we’re (almost) on,
speaks up for the end. In the beginning,
make polluters pay. Join resilience marches
all across the country.

No white supremacists have birthdays today –
active and more everyday specials.
A right-wing think tank’s letter
to someone living 50 years from now.
What song should we sing?

Psst! We’ve released #Resist with us.

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This Year’s History of the 20th Century | A Social Justice Poem by Benjamin Nardolilli

Maybe it’s 1939 all over again, maybe
it’s 1913, or 1914, just look at the Spratly Islands
or the Balkans, or any old strait,
in today’s world, sea is the new landmass

Maybe it’s 1929, I’m refreshing my page
waiting for the next big dipper in the Dow Jones,
the UK wants to leave the EU and Capital
has to collapse over that, that’s what they tell me

Maybe it’s 1992, if Scotland leaves and Wales
insurrects while Belfast self-destructs,
hell, London might pop itself off the body
politic and leave the United Kingdom for New York

Somebody thinks it’s going to be 1917,
or 1989 with shades of memory for 1789,
people rising up and putting chains aside to smash,
with gulags and guillotines for those with cash

The popular theory is it’s going to be 1933,
those who oppose, are arming to make it 1945
but if we really want to stop it all from repeating,
we need to march like it’s 1964 for jobs and freedom

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Protest, Again | A Social Justice Poem by J.K. Durick

They gather so often – they must,
injustice, we find, plays many roles,
arrives in so many forms,

and they gather – faithfully
on City Hall steps, in front of
the senators’ offices –

marching, picketing,
the form remains the same,
the content changes

there’s a war, forever a war,
there are laws forced through,
enforced unfairly;

the protesters assemble
some older, veterans ready for more,
younger ones, just learning how

to show up, march, and speak up,
say injustice, say justice and try
to tell us the difference.

The Night I Didn’t Stand Up | A Social Justice Poem by Tricia Knoll

That rock concert in New Haven, Connecticut took me by surprise
and why – the national anthem and the crowd was ready,
as one the many stood and hooted for the band.

I didn’t, a white girl whose knees knocked and never thought
of kneeling. Short of breath under the video of carpet bombing
of Cambodia, over the top, over the edge saturation
killing in Cambodia. And this was my country ’tis of thee

I sat in protest. Forty years later the black man kneeled
in more courage than I had in a pot-smoke crowd.
I ducked when some guy yelled I should stand
but there are times when you can’t, when the wrong

is too great, and the great isn’t great enough. So when
Judge Ruth says it’s wrong not to stand but not illegal
I know it can be right and the only thing you can do,
and perhaps it’s better to let wrong drive you to your knees

than sit like a numb ass.

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