Start watching
Tending Nature show poster

Tending Nature

Start watching

Southland Sessions

Start watching

Earth Focus

Start watching

Reporter Roundup

Start watching

City Rising

Start watching

Lost LA

Start watching
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement and Special Events teams.

Beats and Rhymes: Besskepp's 'Ode to Stockton'

Downtown Stockton by calwest used under a Creative Commons license.

As both a poet and urban historian, I have always been partial to poems and songs about specific cities. There's a rich history of city poems from Baudelaire's gaze on Paris, William Blake, Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot, and later Linton Kwesi Johnson on London, Langston Hughes on Harlem, Carl Sandburg on Chicago, the list goes on and on. One of the best city poems I have ever read or heard is about the unlikely city of Stockton, California.

Cory Cofer aka Besskepp, the poem's author, came to Southern California for college but spent his formative years in Stockton. His heartfelt poem, he says, "was inspired by Forbes Magazines' conclusion that rated Stockton as one of the worst cities to live in America. I wish they had talked to me first. It's diverse, eclectic, rich in tradition, and green." His ode to Stockton celebrates the rich history and racial diversity, "Black girls play Chinese jump rope in Stockton, white boys know hip hop."

The poem packs a mix of stories and facts to illustrate the soul of Stockton. Besskepp informs us that an all-Black school was founded there in the 1860s. In the 19th Century after the Gold Rush, Stockton was one of the biggest cities in California, and it's been diverse from the beginning. Furthermore, Stockton's Little Manila enclave is a bustling, internationally known district in the city that once had the largest Filipino population in America -- the famed Filipino poet Carlos Bulosan passed through in the 1930s and wrote about Stockton and the Central Valley. The annual Asparagus Festival celebrates the agricultural history. Sunset magazine declared Stockton the best Tree City in Western America in 2002. And if that's not enough, the band Pavement formed in Stockton, and the celebrated boxing novel turned to movie, "Fat City" was also set in Stockton.

"Stockton" is on Besskepp's most recent album "The Hey Moment." His book, "Up the Street Around the Corner," includes some more short stories about Stockton. His weekly poetry venue A Mic & Dim Lights in Pomona has been going for 12 years and is one of the largest poetry events in California. The same spirit in his Stockton poem can be felt in his weekly performances in Pomona.

Besskepp clearly describes why Stockton's racial diversity and working class spirit transcends Forbes. "Stockton raised me," he says. "I miss its' foggy mornings. As a kid I likened it to eye-level clouds; the same clouds that may have blinded Forbes of Stocktons' beauty."

Support Provided By
Support Provided By
Read More
Chiqui Diaz at work advocating to end social isolation | Courtesy of Chiqui Diaz

Youth Leaders Making a Difference Honored by The California Endowment

The Youth Awards was created in 2018 to recognize the impact youth voices have in creating change throughout California. Learn more about the positive work they're accomplishing throughout the state.
A 2011 crime scene in Tulare County, where one of Jose Martinez's victims was found. | Courtesy of Marion County Sherff’s Office via FOIA/Buzzfeed

California's Unincorporated Places Can Be Poor, Powerless — and the Perfect Place to Commit Murder

It's time to do better by communities that don’t even have local police to call, let alone defund.
Protesters confront police outside the 3rd Police Precinct on May 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota after the George Floyd killing | Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

In California, A History of Young, Powerful Voices in Journalism Emerge

In the Golden State, the youth have a long history of storytelling that uncovers little-heard narratives.