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Fall 2005

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The L.I.F.E Foundation* of Emmett Till
Fish Vargas

(1)

about to teach in a circle, talk from the middle
young minds molded by yesterdays hate
waiting for tomorrows let down, They reluctantly oblige
Three days before we celebrate Kings legacy,

I question my students, Who is Emmett Till ?
Thirty three students and only one hand raises,
The enthusiastic answer, Till was killed for whistling
at a white women down south. Kanye West talked
about it in his song.


(II)

the voice in the middle speaks, become Emmett,
his age, life in front of you, segregated or otherwise
it is still your life, in your bed, your room, the back door
to your home is smashed under the cover of darkness
you are snatched. giggles stop.
eyes close tighter

You were out in your town with friends. a compliment
in the form of a whistle was to blame. one, two, twelve men;
it doesn't matter. they dragged you to the riverbank
beat you with sticks, kicked your face, what did you hear?
Your bones crushing beneath your skin? who did you see?
Ignorance fed violence,
no laughter, my students become
Emmett's neck wrapped in barbed wire. he wasn't dead

thrown in the river. the bullet entering his face, didn't kill him.
he lives today. an open casket and a face untouched. He is
your Diallo, your Bumpers and every facet of prejudice you face.
Your 86 lynchings called Suicide. James Byrd was Emmett Till.
He was the 1981 Atlanta child murders. The rifle that killed
Medgar Evers. The reason you are here where you can write,
you can learn. Tell me who was Emmett Till?

Silence broken, like tills screams by the Tallahatchie river, breaking bones grinding
gurgling blood, snapping skin
Voices shoot across the room, He should be the reason
why we fight. That's not right. I hope they caught them
and the killers get the same.
I stop the class. The killers
were caught, aquitted by a jury 3 times.

I bet you they were all white,
this young man has fire on his back. anger,
a dark history running down his spine
Like an adamant sermon I scream at the top of my lungs, Who
was Emmett Till?
The students, our future, the ones priority
doesn't embrace, Emmett Till was my man Buggy who got lit,
Emmett Till was LaKeisha who got raped by her ex boyfriend,
Emmett Till are the metal detectors in our school, Emmett
Till was the black guy that was killed running from the white guys
in Bensonhurst, . Yusef Hawkins
I say .

and from behind me, Emmett Till could have been
Martin Luther King.
I am met by a face stretched with sadness,
eyes lost, he cries for a person he never met. I whisper,
Correct. we all fought the same fight and we will fight
for everything just, write it down.
Who was Emmett Till?