Literary Riot: I'm Not a Stereotype!

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In collaboration with Get LitGet Lit – Words Ignite unites classic and spoken word poetry to empower youth and inspire communities. By engaging youth in literature in and after school, Get Lit allows teens to become engaged in their own futures and unearth their potential. "Claim your poem, claim your life.”


"The Laughing Heart" by Charles Bukowski

Winston Thomas III
College Bridge Academy, 17 years old

Why did you choose your classic poem?
I picked the classic poem “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski because I had three choices and when I performed them in front of my class, they felt that one was best.

What inspired your response poem?
My response poem was inspired by everything that I have been through lately. I had my son at 15 years old and the girl I got pregnant was only 14. I knew I would do anything to make him happy but I felt my life going in the wrong direction at times. I then realized that in order to save his life, I had to save mine first. So, that’s where this poem came from. It came from going through life and the experiences I have been through at a young age.

You mentioned in your poem that you were doing stuff you probably shouldn’t have been doing. Do you feel like poetry and the Get Lit program has helped you refrain from participating in those activities?
Yea! Get Lit and the poetry program has given me an outlet to express my pain and anger through words. I have always been an intellectual person so words come easy to me.

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What do you think you would be doing if you hadn't joined the Get Lit program?
If I didn't have the Get Lit program or poetry, I would probably be playing basketball or bass and hanging with the homeboys. I would also probably be on the block doing stuff that I shouldn’t be doing.

Is your response poem a message to your son or a message to the rest of the world saying “I’m not a stereotype!”?
It was both. The first stanza was a message to my son but towards the second stanza, the message shifts to "I am not a stereotype."

Do you feel that poetry and the Get Lit program is helping you be seen in a different manner?
Yea! I think the Get Lit program and poetry is helping me be seen in a different manner because where I’m from, police racially profile you. They see you in this one category when there are many people who actually want to be something in life and make a change in the world. I'm not trying to dwell on stuff that happened in the past but it still holds us back as a people. However, it also makes us want to fight harder, do more in life and just become a better person.

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