In honor of National Poetry Month, we’ve collected a few poems written about public housing, as well as poems by public housing residents. Read them below!
A Black Girl’s Attempt At Escaping Gentrification
I pray y’all make my name a good poem
A liquor store lacquer
A flash mob crip walk on Garfield
I pray somebody writes an ode to Englewood
Turn my name into a city of God in gold
A black hole of black girl resurrection
Warriors Are Us
We are warriors that run through the dark…
We are warriors that yield onto no end…
We are warriors that restrain ourselves from failure…
We are warriors that prevail…
We are warriors hidden in the valley of our domain…
We are warriors not to go insane…
Yet we are warriors that need love…
Nurture the soul into the realm of nature’s source…
The source of heart…
Let us the warriors move forth into the next millennium, carrying the baggage of hope onto our shoulders…
Warriors of our destiny…
We are Lathrop Strong survivors of Earth!
-Tommy Woods, Lathrop Homes
An Inner City Tales (Ode to Cabrini)
Born into a tenement in the heart of the windy city in the summer of sixty-nine,
Fourth small mouth to be fed and second girl in line.
A time just after the assassinations of Malcolm, Medgar, JFK, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
A time when proclamations like "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud," were the in thing.
When Bell-bottomed jeans and afros swayed effortlessly against the wind,
An era when Motown was king and Stax was In!
Our guardians were diligent and always instilled in us the need to get ahead,
Stressing that there is strength in numbers and to stick together no matter what was said.
70', school bells, limited teaching apparatuses and burned out teachers and no recess,
Escaping boredom, through reading autobiographies always held my interest.
Benefiting from RIF (Reading is Fundamental) reading Angelou, Hansberry, Morrison, Moody, X and Cruz.
Discovering and rediscovering, Richard Wright, Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.
Brown scarred knees from repeatedly falling upon thick blacktop.
Corner stores, liquors stores, ice cream, pickles,
Now-n-laters, barber and beauty shops.
Loud sounds blaring to break through red glistening project walls, Aretha, Chaka, Diana, O'Jays, Jacksons, Curtis Mayfield and Lou Rawls.
Broken elevators, and broken dreams, straightening combs and fade creams.
Mayoral candidates making mockeries out of project residents by handing out
V-necks, turkeys, and miniature Christmas trees in exchange for votes.
Some project residents coming undone and always at each others throats.
Skateboards, hopscotch, jump rope,
Red Light Green Light and Mother May I?
Young men masquerading as gangsters on street corners, over already-conquered city turf, why?
Soon childhood laughter is silenced by gunshots and young bodies dropping.
Caskets, tears, sensing my own mortality at 13, anticipating my own heart stopping.
Guardians' tenacity paid off in the spring of '83 they rescued me,
Before our transition out of the ghetto,
I noticed young women making spaces in their bellies for little ones, completely throwing caution to the wind,
Yeah, babies having babies starting the cycle all over again...
-Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
The Off/Page Project presents its latest short film, "This is Home," produced in conjunction with The Center for Investigative Reporting's new report on failures of Richmond, Calif.'s housing authority.
Off/Page recruited three Richmond poets -- Deandre Evans, William Hartfield-Peoples and Donte Clark -- to work with CIR reporter Amy Julia Harris in the Hacienda and Nevin Plaza housing projects, interviewing sources and walking through dilapidated, mold-infested buildings during her investigation. The poets also worked with drafts of CIR's research to inform their writing. Playing the roles of both documentarian and storyteller, the poets incorporated Harris' findings into their own investigation of the larger socioeconomic state of Richmond.
Watch the video below: