Michael Sherman’s Opening Convocation Speech

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It’s a given that we are all of this earth, but often times we fail to realize we do not live the same realities. My purpose for this poem is to give my audience a chance to step outside of themselves and see with the lenses that I’ve developed through 21 years of life experience.

Born between a bullet
And a hard place,
A mother’s touch
Can only soothe
So much before
Life’s ills penetrate a child’s psyche
Like a syringe piercing veins
Delivering heaven to the fiends
On the corner.

It’s absurd
How much agony
Can be cloaked
With a smile
Painted on the face
Of a 9-year-old who
Witnessed the heavens open up
And God’s arm reach down
To elevate one of his brothers because
The sun in the sky needed a break
And only his smile could light the corners of the earth.
Surely putting one’s buoyancy
To the test in life’s deepest oceans.

Sink with grief
Or float with accepting the fact that
He still lives in memories of
Dairy Queen trips after winning Little League baseball games
And park adventures where his hands
Constructed bow ‘n arrows from the appendages
Of the lively maple tree approximately
Thirty-seven steps away
From a tire swing that housed doctor’s needles
With no medical practice for miles.

This is my reality.

A beast in the eyes of
Those who cross the street
When they see me approaching,
In fear of my beauty.
My hair, my skin
The clothes that I’m in
It’s all eyes on me
When I walk in the grocery store.
I’m tired of sensing fear
Everywhere I go.
I’m drained from the distress on his face
When I tell my pops I’m going out
He knows my chances of making it home alive
Are slim.

Now I ask,
Are you afraid of half of me?
Would it take a catastrophe?
Shattering comfort zones to do something challenging?
See trials and tribulations
Are weights to a body builder?
Formula to an infant
Clientele to a business,
All necessary for growth.
Only the stagnant reject advancement
In one or many aspects.

A word an anthropologist heard
From the mouths of children in an African village.
They said,
Don’t just hear us when we speak,
You need to listen to me.
Ubuntu is a lifestyle,
It means humanity
To not just you
But to me too.
I am who I am because of you.
Not just because of you,
But because of we,
I am who I am
Because of humanity.

We all bleed red.
We are all one breed.
To coexist in this world,
We need to revive peace.
The sad truth is we are in quicksand,

Let go of fear
And grab a hand,
Together we can turn away from hate
Because unity,
Is something we MUST cultivate.


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