I told myself that I wasn’t going to do another spoken word poem for class after my two week special. But I think there’s something important about how spoken word as a genre deals with social injustices. So as I read the amazing and powerful sonnets of Claude McKay, I found myself reminded of the poem “Sons” by Terisa Siagatonu and Rudy Francisco. Today, I’ll be discussing “Sons” and McKay’s “The Lynching.”
Both of these poems deal with issues plaguing the culture of the time and how it is passed on through generations. McKay deals with how lynching was both commonplace and a terrifying reality in his life. Francisco and Siagatonu take up the issues of rape culture and victim blaming present in many aspects of American culture today. Although they deal with similar issues of race and injustice in the world, the two poems are vastly different. McKay makes us of the traditional sonnet form, using a familiar style in contrast to the horrors he depicts to unsettle the reader. The poem “Sons” is spoken word, which is often used to deal with issues of social justice. As the poem goes on Francisco and Siagatonu grow louder and more impassioned, bringing the listener in emotionally.
The use of children and the idea that cultural injustice is passed on through teaching is present in both. McKay finishes his poem with the lines “And little lads, lynchers that were to be, / Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.” McKay contrasts the image of children dancing with the awful truth that lynching has already been ingrained into them as both acceptable and fun. Likewise Francisco and Siagatonu say that “Rape culture is the worst kind of teacher our children are learning the most from.” Broken ideologies are not passive. They are actively taught by authorities, parents, and news outlets. Francisco and Siagatonu mirror the idea McKay puts forth, that racism and injustice are not merely symptoms, but lessons taught and learned. Perhaps in reading and listening to these poems, we can learn that although injustice still remains in the world today, it is possible to correct the lessons being taught to the next generation, and instead teach them justice.