Louder Than a Bomb Goes BOOM

Our friends at Elementz and UC’s Taft Research Center presented the Louder Than a Bomb Cincy Finals competition this month, via Zoom and YouTube video—check it out, because these student poets are on fire.

Special congratulations to the top-three scorers: Anabel Villanueva and Mama Njie of Walnut Hills H.S., and Ornella Siakam of Princeton H.S., three voices familiar to listeners of “Democracy & Z.”

Ornella Siakam

Ornella also received the Democracy & Me prize of $200, for “work that confronts tough issues in our American politics, media, and society.” The explosion of the Ahmaud Arbery case in Georgia was happening around the same time, adding tragic weight to Ornella’s poem, but also hope.

“If I could drop everything and just be an activist, I would,” Ornella told us by phone. “I have a drive. I have a motivation to change things… That’s why I like poetry—I’m talking to large groups of people, and you never know how big an effect your words can have. I’m getting my voice out.”

We asked Ornella to share her extraordinary poem here; you can also listen to her perform it in the video, starting around the 27:30 mark.

To My Future Son
Ornella Siakam

Always introduce yourself
my melanated king.
Cause they won’t know nothing
but the face they see,
and i mean
let’s agree,
cause truthfully
that only defines you loosely.
But,
i hear your questions
“mother…
why am i defined by
an intricate array of systems
programmed to lessen me?
lessons not really taught
cause it seems that
the less i know
the less i’ll see.”
Baby
they’ll like you like that.
Naive.
easier to manage,
call it Play-Doh
but you won’t play though.
You’ll finesse the game
they baiting you with,
only stronger and smarter.
But child,
you will never really know
the unknown
till it makes itself known
trust me i know.
That’s why,
to my future son,
i write this letter
with only hope in mind
that since you are mine
you reflect me…
partially.
You’ll be your own person
son,
and sooner than later
you’ll be propelled into the arms
of what we call manhood.
Don’t run,
don’t hide,
don’t let it overtake you
son.
Your mother is a strong woman
who was raised by a strong woman
so i’ll be damned
if they see my child as anything less than.
Son
don’t get confused with the true
definitions of strength.
Don’t let taking your guard down
mean weakness.
Son,
be vulnerable without regret.
Son
your want to protect
comes from the many survivors
that came before you.
Son,
in its own simplicity
don’t you ever allow for fear
or toxic masculinity
force you to disrespect
any
individual in your life.
Son
life…
isn’t fair.
It never has been
it never will be.
Son
you are black.
Son,
love your skin in its entirety
and no matter how hard it gets
never question why God
so generously
poured helpless heaps of rich melanin
into the mixture that came to be you.
But son
your complexion is both
a blessing and a curse,
tucked neatly in a box
topped with a bow
delivered to you at birth.
It’s a complex matrix
you will never escape.
But it’s yours
for the rest of your life.
Son,
Your sole existence
is a result of many generations
of resistance.
Your ancestors walked
so you may one day run.
MLK Jr. had a dream
that you might one day
bring it into realization.
Just because they
succeeded in suppressing his
with a brutal shot,
doesn’t give you any damn reason
why not to chase yours.
Son
Aaron Huey explains
that “the last chapter in
any successful genocide
is the one in which the oppressor
can remove his hands and say…
‘My God,
what are these people doing to themselves?
they’re killing each other
while we watch them die.’”
Son
don’t ever put yourself in a position
to prove this man right.
Never find yourself
in front or behind the trigger.
Son you’ve got to be bigger,
and you’ve got to be able to stand
cause ain’t nothing gon shake up this world more
than one more
educated black man.