Da City

By JK

A lot of people don’t understand our swagg.
They don’t get us, so they stereotype us,
Try to put our unique character in a bag.
“Oh you from DC? Yall crazy!” yeah, I heard it all before.
But don’t be quick to judge, give us a chance we’ll show you more.

See slim, yoon (you don’t) even know da (the) half of it.
Our muvahs (mothers) and favahs (fathers) had to grind errday (everyday) just to make sure
That we were warm and had a plate

Our bruvahs (brothers) and sistas (sisters) had to watch us while they worked.
We stayed close, stayed together, to make sure none of us got hurt.
We grew up in da trenches, projects in erry (every) part of town.
Norfeast (northeast). Norfwest (northwest) Soufwest (southwest) & Soufeast (south east).
We are a small city wif (with) a big heart.
So don’t try to dumb us down when a lot of us are really smart.

They call us savages too, beautiful chaos, a city wifout (without) order.
They can’t figure us out, they say it’s something in the wartah (water).
Nah, it’s just how we live and how we vibe.
It’s how we was raised that keeps us alive.

A lil chicken wings + mumbo sauce, to get us through da day.
In the winter some Ben’s Chili Bowl wif a half smoke on our plate.

All they brag about is da other part of da city… The Monument, White House, and the Capital.
All the tourist attractions, Gallery Place and Georgetown which now resembles the Big Apple.

Errything’s different now. Looks like I’m coming home to a completely different town. They say home is where the heart is, and DC’s my home for sure. And I’ll never forget where I came from
So it’s time to leave up out these prison doors.

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23 Comments

  1. Chloe Espinal on September 26, 2023 at 8:39 PM

    This is an amazing piece that sums up really well what it’s like to be minimized to cliches or stereotypes about your identity. It was very immersive and well-written, and it really allowed me as an outsider to really be able to understand the real culture of DC without being blinded by the more touristy aspects of it. I enjoyed the rhythm and rhymes, as well as how the entire poem was written in your dialect. The ending made me feel determined and hopeful for you. I hope you will one day be able to return home and settle in again.

  2. Ann on September 27, 2023 at 8:31 PM

    Yo JK,

    You got DC! GREAT use of language. Zora Neale Hurson would be proud! Glad to hear you’re on your way back home. Keep writing!

    Best, Ann

  3. Colin on September 30, 2023 at 12:28 PM

    As someone who spent a lot of time in Boston with friends, I get what you mean about tourist attractions being what everyone talks about in each city. Nobody talks about the places where people actually live, and if they do it’s in a horrible way. I get that tourism is big, but that shouldn’t be what defines a city.

  4. Tim Kuang on September 30, 2023 at 11:57 PM

    The use of slang words and the structure of the poem made it sound like a hip-hop track, which was overall catchy to read.

  5. Omar Amran__ on October 1, 2023 at 4:37 PM

    JK,
    your poem is interesting for addressing common misconceptions about Washington, D.C. As well as highlighting the struggles and grit of those who live in the city. Additionally, your passion for DC is noticeable, and the diversity within the city adds to its intrigue.

  6. Hensi on October 2, 2023 at 12:41 AM

    I really like your poem. I love that you didn’t shy away from saying how you felt, and that you used language that was familiar to you.

  7. Ernest on October 2, 2023 at 1:16 AM

    I am just another tourist when I am in DC, seeing the nice buildings, landmarks, tourist things. But I know there are a lot more in DC than that. That is the more fun part of the city that I never got the chance to hear about it or explore it. There is an entire culture down there and that is what makes the spirit of the city, for it is not just the city but it is also “da city”. It is good to have come across a poem like this. For once I have come in some contact of that culture of the capital. Lovely.

  8. DarkPheonix on October 2, 2023 at 1:22 AM

    Your poem vividly captures the unique essence of Washington, D.C., and the resilience of its people amid stereotypes and misconceptions. Your words paint a picture of a city with a rich cultural tapestry, where family bonds and communal strength are paramount. The way you highlight the struggles and the tight-knit relationships within the community showcases the beauty of unity in the face of adversity.

    Your references to local delicacies and landmarks add a personal touch, grounding the poem in the tangible elements of everyday life. The contrast between the city’s authentic essence and the superficial image often portrayed by outsiders is powerfully conveyed.

    Moreover, your poem is a testament to your pride in your roots and a determination to rise above challenges. It’s a heartfelt portrayal of the love for your city and a reminder that true strength comes from understanding and embracing one’s origins. Thank you for sharing this evocative and authentic piece.

  9. Sarah on October 8, 2023 at 3:36 PM

    I loved the translations for the slang. It really allows the reader to see your perspective more clearly, which is so important in a piece like this. Reflecting on the parts of the city that you love, like the chicken wings and mumbo sauce, and discussing going back home paints a picture for the reader, and we can all reflect on where we came from. No matter what others have to say about DC, that is your home. The comparisons to the hardships you have faced living in DC against the tourist attractions, and those attractions being the parts people talk about is a great way of explaining the differences that can happen just within a city.

  10. Shelby on October 8, 2023 at 10:15 PM

    Hi,

    I like how you rhymed throughout the poem. I enjoyed reading, and hearing another perspective of the DC area. It is not often that DC is shown in a different light. Thank you!

    -Shelby

  11. Kate Lilley on October 11, 2023 at 6:45 PM

    This poem is different than any of the other ones I’ve read. It’s written in a really cool writing style. It uses slang terms and the author really shows his personality throughout. You get to see what his life was like before everything happened and you get to know the author on like a personality level whereas in some of the other poems you don’t. Even though it’s written like that it still does have an emotional component. Because you get to see all that the author has been through. And also, he talks about the stereotypes that have been placed on him and his friends with his family. So well, it is cool because you get to see his personality. You also have a more serious side to it. I think it’s really well written, and a really interesting piece overall. I really enjoyed this writing!

  12. IG on November 4, 2023 at 3:59 PM

    Thank you for sharing your perspective! I found it a great choice to include details about your upbringing in DC and how the city has shaped you. The specific references to family show how memories of them early on in your lifetime relate to DC. One part of this poem that stood out to me when I read it was “All they brag about is da other part of da city…”. It is a shift in the work that shows that others don’t appreciate the same aspects of culture that DC offers you and instead focus on places like the monuments.

  13. Morgan Schoenenberger on November 5, 2023 at 7:07 PM

    Your description is great. I love how you are talking about the culture you grew up in and how working for what you have is a great deal. There is great power in your words. Can’t wait to hear more.

  14. Caren on November 14, 2023 at 10:55 PM

    JK – A few of us read your poem together and wanted to pass along some words.
    A lot of people in DC are transient, so it’s nice to hear from someone who grew up here and is excited to come home.
    All the cultural references really give me a strong sense of place and heritage.
    It must be tough to see your home change and come home to a very different place.
    I love the way you use language and spelling to point out that stereotypes can divide us instead of unite us. Keep that big heart and mind going.

  15. Molly on November 15, 2023 at 12:45 PM

    This is so good!! The flow of words you created is so impressive. The way you describe the hard work and struggles of your life makes my heart go out to you. I respect your strength and persistence so much. The love you have for the people in your childhood despite the hardships is also extremely admirable. Keep writing!

  16. Claire Wagner on November 15, 2023 at 1:55 PM

    Hey JK!
    I just read your poem “Da City”. I personally have never been to DC or anywhere near DC but through your poem, I was really able to feel the culture. The way you explained everything, it was like I was able to picture exactly what it would be like. I agree, stereotypes are very harmful. Especially when people do not know what others are going through or struggling with. The way you see the city seems a lot more like a REAL home rather than the city everyone else brags about. I also wish people would try to see the real history and culture of the city rather than the tourist attractions. I hope the love for your city never changes, it is very touching. Home is where the heart is, thank you for helping me see that. Great poem!
    Sincerely,
    Claire Wagner

  17. Abbas Faisal on November 27, 2023 at 11:31 PM

    I like how the whole poem is written in an accent. Very culturally accurate?

  18. Caeden on November 30, 2023 at 5:53 PM

    Hi JK,

    This poem is absolutely incredible. You’re right; when I think of DC, I do think about the monuments and tourist attractions, things that, once you visit them, actually feel soulless. The way you describe your DC is so vivid and filled with amazing imagery. I have never been, but the warm way you speak of it, highlighting the strength in community and how prejudice blinds people from seeing it, is just so powerful. I also have a strong desire to eat chicken wings and mumbo sauce now!

  19. Uken on December 7, 2023 at 11:34 AM

    Hello JK,

    I found your poem Da City very interesting. The way you use slang throughout your poem makes it unique compared to the other Free Minds poets. You say brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers in a different way like bruvahs, sistas, muvahs, and favahs. Another example that stood out to me is that you have one single meal every day just to get by as you said “A lil chicken wings + mumbo sauce, to get us through da day” which means that there was little income from where you’re from. People judging off what parts of neighborhood you are in which you say, “They call us savages too, beautiful chaos, a city wifout order” and you say, “They can’t figure us out” and “It’s how we was raised that keeps us alive”. I look at it and see that people don’t see the full story of what experience you are going through. To me this poem has shown me that people who weren’t raised in poverty really don’t understand and underestimate what you are going through. Keep it up JK, your poem makes me understand a little bit more about the world you are in.

    Sincerely,

    UX

  20. Thomas on December 7, 2023 at 6:09 PM

    This poem beautifully captures the essence of pride, resilience, and a sense of identity associated with a specific place, in this case, Washington, DC. This poem is a powerful expression of pride, resilience, and the multifaceted identity of a community within the backdrop of a city. It effectively challenges stereotypes and invites readers to appreciate the richness of a culture often misunderstood or overlooked.

  21. Victoria on January 26, 2024 at 8:15 AM

    I like the slang, it something I could connect to because that’s how I talk too. I was comfortable reading the poem. I like how you described the uniqueness of where you come from and the details made me feel like I could imagine myself there.

  22. Nehemiah on January 26, 2024 at 8:15 AM

    Your use of slang is brilliant! It pulls the reader right into your perspective and brings the city to life. Details like the chicken wings and mumbo sauce, and the longing for home, create a relatable canvas for reflection. We’re all connected to our roots, no matter what anyone says about our hometowns.”

  23. Katie on May 8, 2024 at 5:52 PM

    This piece shows real talent. I can only respect and admire how much pride you have in your community and in your family. DC, like most cities, have the face they prefer to show and then there is the reality of the city that encompasses the hard-working people that makes the city run. Never be ashamed of who you are where you come from. excellent job and keep writing!

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