Poet Demetrius Amparan was a 17-year-old senior at Morgan Park High School when he competed in the Louder Than a Bomb Youth Poetry Festival in the Spring of 2008 representing his high school.
As explored in the piece, Intersection, Demetrius suffered throughout his childhood at the hands of classmates that couldn't understand his race, creating an environment where even walking down the street was a challenging experience plagued with stereotypes.
At five years old,
my mother told me what a mutt was.
In a class full of cruel Kindergarteners
they made fun of me
according to Miss Hall,
I was the wrong color.
Johnny sat in front of the class
yellow and brown make tan, right Miss Hall?
So if his daddy is yellow,
and his mommy's brown,
why is he so red?
I laughed, because they laughed,
but the more cheeks blushed
upon the rays of embarrassment,
the further I was proving their point.
Each week, WBEZ features a poem from the Louder Than a Bomb collection that explores the issue of race. We offer the poems as part of Race: Out Loud, a collaborative production of WBEZ and vocalo, which aims to get us talking to each other about race. Louder Than A Bomb is Chicago’s teen poetry festival. It brings teens together across racial, gang, and socio-economic lines in a friendly competition that emphasizes self-expression and community via poetry, oral story-telling and hip-hop spoken word. Each year, Chicago Public Media invites festival finalists to record their work.
Click here to hear nearly 200 Louder Than a Bomb finalist pieces recorded over the past eight years.