Overwhelmed (For Dr. King)

By Glenn North  

Listen to Glenn North read and discuss this poem, as well as race, faith and justice.

I am so excited.
I am about to play a videotape
of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech for 33 sixth graders
and I am going to watch their lives
be radically transformed right before my very eyes.

When much to my surprise
I am assaulted with a barrage of
gasps, cries, boos, sighs
moans, groans
and an urgent request to go outside
and play kickball despite freezing rain
and sub-zero temperatures.

Disheartened and dismayed
never did I once suspect
such an alarming disconnect.   

And I am overwhelmed because
although I can make them watch the tape
I cannot make them care.

I am overwhelmed because
Dr. King was able to inspire
all the Black men
and all the Black women of Alabama
to boycott buses for eleven months,
but I cannot inspire a small classroom of Black children
to sit still for twenty minutes.

I am overwhelmed because I realize that I am being overworked and underpaid
but I also know that they are being overdosed and undereducated.
They are overeating but they are undernourished.
They are overexposed and underdeveloped.
They are overlooked and undervalued.
They are being underestimated by underhanded people
and I am overwhelmed
because I know that they will never overcome
until they understand.

Until their young hearts have been penetrated…
like Dr. King’s neck was
on an April night
on a motel balcony
in Memphis, Tennessee.

Glenn North is Poet-in-Residence and education specialist at the American Jazz Museum.


1 Comment »

  1. Bob McGill said

    I’m not sure if this is appropriate to anything, but last night I came across a song recorded in 1945 by Andy Kirk and This Twelve Clouds of Joy with the Jubalaires. “When we all get together with the lord.” Maybe you all have heard this song enough that it doesn’t have the same effect. But it got me a little choked up.

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