Poet Phyllis Roker of South Shore also wrote about the death of 11-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, executed by fellow gang members who feared he could be turned against them after he allegedly committed murder. Sandifer’s murder in August 1994 drew national attention to gang problems affecting children across America’s inner cities. Phyllis was impacted by the amount of violence in Sandifer’s young life and felt he “never had a chance to dream, or even know what a dream was.”
Sandifer’s story is now chronicled in the Coretta Scott King Award-winning graphic novel Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri.
Verse Journalism is a form of poetry inspired by the news. It was born here in Chicago when Gwendolyn Brooks coined the term. Another gifted local poet, Quraysh Ali Lansana, taught the form to participants in a Neighborhood Writing Alliance special workshop series. Lansana had NWA writers turn their opinions and reactions to news events into poems, which WBEZ will present throughout the month of April in celebration of National Poetry Month. This series was recorded in collaboration with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance, a station partner.
Click here to listen to other Verse Journalism recordings made as part of this project.
You can also listen to Quraysh Ali Lansana speak with WBEZ’s Jason Marck about the origins of verse journalism and his own experiences with the form.