Dear, Dr. King: A letter from Pittsfield


In celebration of Martin Luther King Day, WordXWord offered an open call for poets to develop work that reflects on, is inspired by, or otherwise connects with the legacy of Dr King. The challenge was open to poets of all ages, backgrounds and perspectives. On Monday, at The Berkshire Museum, the following poets will present their work as part of WordXWord Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.

"A Letter From Pittsfield." The evening will also include Chris Carr, Bruce Garlow, Marykate Sweener, Jen Holey, Sherrie Mcgregor, Alex Boucher, Dave Read, Ayla Wallace, Stan Spencer, Curtis Asch, Brent Ashby, Zoe Hypolite, Don'Jea Smith, Melissa Quirk Cairns, Donna Motta and David Motta.

Sherrie McGregor


In Honor Of Martin Luther King Jr. And What Impact He Had On My Life

               I Am The Dream

Who am I to be confident in all my mess

Who am I to be bold during my test and trials

Who am I to step out on faith no matter what is ahead of me

Who am I to love unconditionally through the good the bad and ugly

Who am I at times to be the only one in the room where no one looks like me

Who am I to take a stand even when I don't know what lies ahead of me

Who am I, I am a child of God

               I Am The Dream

Bruce Garlow


Broken Soul

How could we have chosen such a hateful racist?

Since Trump assumed the office, he's debased it.

Damn the Mexicans, the Muslims, all dark-skinned folks,

Intolerance and discord are the values he promotes.

He doesn't know a thing about our Constitution,

Has no respect for democratic institutions.

He thinks he runs everything and everyone,

Our very own, home-grown authoritarian.

You must admire the man who came before him,

And wish we could find a way to restore him.

Fair and faithful was the man Barack,

It didn't matter if he was white or black.

Hear the words of Dr. Martin Luther King,

The content of the character's the critical thing.

Don't look to see the color of the skin,

It says nothing about the man within.

The leader who peddles vile and racist hate,

Can never make this country great.

It's a fake and fabricated goal,

Because the president has a broken soul.

Stanley Spencer


Beware of false prophets.

They will come in big shiny cars.

You will know them by

their bumper stickers.

Hate was always

happening somewhere

else, somewhere else

down there in 1955.

They wanted

them to ride the bus

the way they wanted

them to ride the bus.

The way they wanted

them to ride the bus

was to ride the bus

in the back of the bus

Rosa Parks said the back

of the bus ain't for us.

Rosa Parks was arrested.

The Montgomery bus

boycott began.

The White Citizens Council

doubled in numbers.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s house

was firebombed, his home,

his family dwelling place.

Firebombed! In the land of the free!

Resist and persist is more than

Just a bumper sticker.

I said, resist and persist is more

than just a bumper sticker.

Hate was always happening

somewhere else, somewhere

else down there in 1956.

After the Supreme Court declared bus

segregation unconstitutional, white

racists began once again

bombing homes

bombing churches

bombing children






National Guard



Fire hoses


Cattle prods.

Albany GA

Birmingham AL

Washington DC

By the end of 1963,

African Americans

were once again riding

in the back of the bus.

Resist and persist is more

than just a bumper sticker.

Glory, glory halleluiah

Glory, glory halleluiah

Glory, glory halleluiah his . . .

Bible belt just got tight

around my tongue

tasting the lies that

prop up the mother of all

who eat their young

magically turning tap water

into flame throwers

and raising the ungrateful

dead to slip through the cracks

of dope and churchgoers

who would rather you not

mention America and genocide

in the same sentence

but polish the trophy you

got for perfect attendance

show up and shut up if you please

unless you want to put your hand

to your heart and boo black

athletes on their knees

there's no better respecting

the flag then to boo during

the anthem of a racist composer

who just couldn't get over

black lives being free.

Resist and persist is more

Than just a bumper sticker.

Bible belt just got tight

around my throat

choking on the puke

of failing to rebuke

the aggressive suppression

of the minority vote

smashing the ten convenients

chiseled into Roy Moore's brand

that any black life knows is not

justice but trust us built on sand

and leaves no white man to

wonder about black lives matter

nor about black lives shattered

it's just part of making

America hate again.

Bible belt just got tight

around my heart pumping like

a beta blocking emoji

exclamation point

exclamation point

exclamation point

but it cannot block

it cannot rock

that which is holy.

Resist and persist is more

than just a bumper sticker.

Hate isn't something always

happening somewhere else

down there; sometimes hate

is happening in here.

I believe as we speak today

somewhere in America where

the grapes of wrath begin to fall,

there are thousands

of young Rosa Parks

trampling out the vintage,

ready to answer the call.

I believe as we speak today

somewhere in America where

the terrible swift sword is

more than an abstraction

there are thousands

of young Martin Luther Kings

ready to loose the fateful lightning,

putting words into action.

Resist and persist is more

than just a bumper sticker.

Laurel Joy Graceson

North Adams

Black skin

Begin again

Whip crack

On muscled back

Back that bore

The cares

And burdens of years.

Oh, come on —

That was years ago — We've moved on,

Why don't you?

Hands on the wheel! Don't move!

You move ... you're dead!

He must've moved ...

Old man

Lies in the street — Don't shoot!

Don't hurt me!

I'm not moving;

I'm only going to speak!

Shots heard-

Blood spilled —

Video blast-

"This can't be real!"

My Momma always said,

" You take a white man,

And a black man,

And cut them —

They're gonna bleed the same."

True, I guess ... except ...

Whoever cuts a white man?

Whoever shoots a white man

because he's holding

a water pistol?

Exaggerated white voice: " Let me tell you — I completely understand you Brother.

We all have prejudice to deal with!"

And, how true ...

We do.

Yet, No one ever shoots overweight white women; Or Sunday School teachers ...

Oh wait,

They do shoot Sunday School teachers ...

WE Need to Talk,

To speak.

(Birmingham cell) My hero tells me to:

Identify —                         Is there a problem?

Hmmm... Well, Hell yeah ... there's a problem, But only if I admit it still exists.

Hard to say when riders

in urine-stained sheets

Storm city capitals.

Exaggerated white voice: "Do you have to wear your sheet on the outside for it to count?"

Negotiate — the circumstance. God, I love this man!

Negotiate —

THIS is what's wrong and,

THIS is what's right...

How do we get from what's wrong, to what's right?

How can I help you see,

believe, move?

Because, wrong is to be killed for color, religion, sex, citizenry ... Right is to have equal right to live in peace, to pursue, to breathe free.

I have to still say this in 2018?

(See point 1: ID presence of problem.)

Self-purify — Do I have prejudice?

"Do I have prejudice? I don't even see color!"

Recent learning: That may be my problem ... the whole "not seeing color." Prejudice is not always hatred ... it's pre judging, or qualitating that I don't.               Because you see:

Black is Black, Brown ... Brown, White ... White.

All beautiful ... all important ... all needed.

Your Black is not OK ...

Your Black just is —

                         Powerful, True,

                                                  Given to you

By the One Who created.

Without one moment of consult with me as to my opinion...

Because your Black

                                        is just supposed to be ....

Direct action — You see ...

Oh to wax poetic,

To stir you to passion with use of literary tools ...

The story of personal awakening-

to the truth and depth of hatred's deep, persistent roots in red Southern soil ... Forbid, even in the fertile soil of our own hearts.

I recall,

small white girl in Alabama;

Standing on school friend's grandma's porch.

Grandma had been a sharecropper almost 100 years before ...

Young, soft skin —

Now creased ... wrinkled ... brown bag.

Old woman says to girl "Bend on down here; lemme see yo face."

Girl bends, obedient ... awaiting obligatory, old woman kiss.

Soft pink lips purse up, in the middle of that dry, brown mask, like a slick rose.

Repulsed ... girl's eyes close ... "Here we go."

Wet sounds ...

Then, like she'd been shot...

Wad of translucent warmth,

Cooling as it oozed down

From forehead to bridge of nose.

"You gonna Get yoself o my porch...

And stay o ..."

Old, bent body still houses ery ame of youth ... of righteous ght ... of deep, unhealed wounds ...

little girl running — Shocked, Scared, Sickened, Sad,     Outraged, O ended, Awakened ... Aware ...


                                        ... Ashamed of truth.

Little girl ran straight into reality ...


No more ...

All hatred exposed to light, dies.

Black skin, Brown skin, White skin too ...

Begin again;

Begin anew

Walls torn down,

Whips crack no more.

Jim Crow,

By any other name,

Still just smells of rotten lth.

Green cards/ Sideways stares/ Pro les

The Collective We

                              MUST BE

                                             The back that bears

The burdens

                                        Of years to come.

David Motta

North Adams

A Great Man Once Said

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness;

only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate;

only love can do that.

Hate multiplies hate,

violence multiplies violence,

and toughness multiplies toughness

in a descending spiral of destruction....

The chain reaction of evil —

hate begetting hate,

wars producing more wars —

must be broken,

or we shall be plunged

into the dark abyss of annihilation."

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love, 1963"

What made this man great?

It was not his dynamic speaking voice.

It was not his ability to lead others.

It was the fact that he was truly committed to the cause he fought for.

Today, we are inundated with politicians who speak eloquently,

but don't truly care about the issues to which they are speaking.

They flip flop on issues so often we can't be sure what they

believe. We are constantly seeing through the facade they

project as the truth; and it is not pretty.

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from a place of

quiet resolve, with power and dignity that was fueled by love.

He was a Reverend who knew that with out love and respect, no

good would come. He knew that violence could never bring

about peace; that only light can drive out darkness.

What was that light? That light was the key.That light still is the

key. That light is what binds all people together. That light is the

essence of who we are. That light is the only eternal part of us.

That light is the breath that we all share; the spark that is our core.

That is why Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was such

an influential person. He understood that in order to look down

on The Promised Land, we have to stand on that Mountain Top.

He knew that we are not just physical beings, but are comprised

of three equally important parts: the Mind, the Body, and Spirit.

He understood that we must all come together in Unity of Spirit

if we are to have peace.

So let's not forget that what made Reverend Doctor Martin

Luther King Jr. great, was his spirit in his fight for freedom,

equality, and social justice for all.


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