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caption: Angel Gardner, Seattle's Youth Poet Laureate 2016/17
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Angel Gardner, Seattle's Youth Poet Laureate 2016/17
Credit: KUOW Photo/Katherine Banwell

'Black Courage': A young poet's words to her son

Angel Gardner started writing while living in a group home as a child. She wasn’t into therapy, but sometimes she wasn’t into writing in her journals either.

“My journals would be taken from me and read,” Gardner said of her guardians in group and foster homes. There would be consequences to pouring her thoughts into her poems then. “They’d say to me, ‘You’re too depressed, too upset,’ and they’d want to put me on more medication.”

She didn’t start writing freely until she had aged out of the foster care system and became homeless.

Gardner, 21, was Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate for 2016/17.

Here is a poem she wrote for her son, Maverick, inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ letters to his son.


There are wolves in wolves clothing

Telling the weak

That the sheep are the ones to fear,

You are that sheep baby boy.

Courage runs in your blood,

So you will be tapped into.

We live in a world where the authority

Shoots patterns into unarmed citizens

We live with crisp folds in blue uniforms,

Profiling our melanin.

Trying to connect imaginary holes

In speech leaking innocence,

Shoving bullets into bellies

And elbows into faces.

Because we decided,

Our home will be wherever the hell we make it.

We are sun favored kinky haired

Pains in privileged asses,

We are locked elbows

And softly swaying strange fruit.

So I will say again my son,

You will be tapped into

Courage runs through you.

Black courage,

Thicker than blood

But smooth as a sky blue stream.

Black courage I can’t teach you my love,

But I will lead by example.

America will try and tear the steel from our backbones

And replace afro

With star spangled shackles,

Don’t let them.

You can never love your black too loudly,

And there is no such thing

As holding your head too high.

Always remember your melanin is your greatest accessory.