Quintessence of African American

By PJ

My country…
Tis of thee.
Bittersweet land, apparition of liberty.
So long withheld from me…

Of thee I see
Land where my fathers died,
Land where the pilgrims cried.
A pretense of courtesy,
But held disdain deep.
Likewise, today people in positions of authority
And opportunity.

My country…
When will you unchain the shackles: mentally
Historically, and physically
That bind us
Civilly to hypocrisy.

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33 Comments

  1. Cameron on February 1, 2021 at 12:59 PM

    PJ,

    I love your creativity in this poem! It’s such a strong idea of changing the words of a classic American song to show what America is actually like for a majority of its people. Really great job! I can’t wait to read more!

    -Cameron

  2. Maya S. on February 2, 2021 at 12:57 PM

    PJ, this poem gave me the chills to read! I love your use of a traditionally patriotic song to highlight the fact that American ideals have historically (and still to this day) exclude black people. The way you change the lyrics (ex: “apparition of liberty”) is so powerful as it rewrites the narrative. And the last stanza especially stood out to me. Please keep writing and thank you for sharing such an important message!

    ~Maya

  3. Lexx on February 3, 2021 at 12:11 AM

    PJ,

    I love how you changed the words of such a patriotic song to show how American ideals have always excluded African Americans. Thank you for sharing this!

    – Lexx

  4. Joyce on February 3, 2021 at 3:54 PM

    Dear PJ,

    This is so creative and honest. I think you capture what many of us feel about this country right now. Changing the traditional lyrics to a patriotic American song is such a powerful way of conveying your message. You do a great job of highlighting the injustice that certain people in our country face. There is strong imagery in this poem as well. I love that your last stanza contains a question. It offers a little bit of hope, as you’re asking your country, when will you change? I hope that we can change for the better.

    Sincerely,
    Joyce

  5. Kathy on February 4, 2021 at 10:09 AM

    Wow! This is such a powerful poem. It’s short, sharp, penetrating, and insightful. Thanks for sharing your writing.

  6. David Liu on February 24, 2021 at 2:42 PM

    This poem is so powerful and creative. I love how you changed the wording of such a patriotic song. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Fabiola Vega Albino on February 24, 2021 at 11:25 PM

    i love the writing, I can feel your emotions through the poem. Very well written and amazing work!

  8. Emily Bickel on February 24, 2021 at 11:54 PM

    PJ-
    “That bind us civilly to hypocrisy” I LOVE IT. So true. Yet painful to comprehend and acknowledge. This is a wonderful poem. i only wish it were longer!
    -E

  9. Leenda on February 25, 2021 at 10:21 PM

    I really like the juxtaposition of what America stands for to what it is now, and the shift of injustice that America has been facing this past decade. I think the mirroring of the song “Let Freedom Ring” and the rhyme gives it so much more power. I also think the breaks of each line of the poem keeps the readers attention while keeping that clear message.

  10. Kiana Loo on March 1, 2021 at 2:58 PM

    PJ,

    This is truly an incredible poem! The hypocrisy you allude to is deep and multifaceted, and the fact that you can communicate that in so few words shows just how powerful of a writer you are. Thank you so much for writing, and I hope you continue to write!

  11. ken on March 2, 2021 at 1:22 PM

    This poem is so strong and important. Every word that you used had a meaning. It was very well written, one would say short and to the point! Keep up the good work!! Never stop writing!!

  12. Samantha on March 5, 2021 at 5:14 PM

    PJ,

    You took a very complex relationship that we as Black folks have with this country, and articulated it so well. Thank you for putting to words what is often so hard to describe. I loved the lines: “Of thee I see, Land where my fathers died, Land where the pilgrims cried.” They gave me such chills. Very nice work!

    Best,

    Samantha

  13. Brittani Forman on March 11, 2021 at 4:10 PM

    Dear PJ, i really connected with this poem being an African American woman myself. Living in this country does become overwhelming and emotional. I sometimes wish I could. I wonder when we will truly be free. Love the poem!

  14. Lizzie on March 12, 2021 at 9:14 AM

    I love this poem! The mix of old and new words really brings to light the contrast in your argument.

  15. Jessica on March 20, 2021 at 11:48 AM

    PJ,
    This is an amazing poem, not only because it sounds amazing, but because your juxtaposition and imagery make a strong call to action and help us to understand things from your point of view. Your poetry is amazing! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  16. Joe Fargo on March 25, 2021 at 10:46 PM

    Dear PJ,

    Thank you for sharing this poem. This is an incredibly fresh and powerful take on a traditional American patriotic song, and your use of it really reflects the two-faced nature of America’s oppressive nature. I hope you continue writing, and I hope you continue doing well.

    Best wishes,
    – Joe

  17. Natalie C on March 27, 2021 at 3:27 PM

    This poem was beautifully written! Everyone knows this song, so it is a great tool at getting your message across. America has a lot of reconciliation to do and your poem conveys the pain African Americans have felt at the hands of this country. It is impactful and clear. I really love the line “so long withheld from me”

  18. Torie Seagraves on March 30, 2021 at 9:39 AM

    What a great play on the patriotic song. The powerful use of your words make the poem very impactful. Thank you!

  19. Maddie on March 31, 2021 at 1:13 PM

    PJ, this is so impressively well-written! It gave me chills to read your take on such a classic song. I think your version sends a powerful message that should make people think deeply about what we really value from the original. You have a true talent, and I hope you keep writing!

  20. Nick on April 1, 2021 at 1:11 PM

    Thank you so much for your poem, PJ. You are speaking to experience of so many Americans who have never felt on equal footing. Please keep writing!

  21. LD on April 3, 2021 at 11:57 AM

    PJ,

    This is such a raw and powerful poem that seamlessly points out America’s hypocrisy. Great work!

  22. Sawyer S on April 6, 2021 at 3:43 PM

    PJ, I love how you took this patriotic song and turned it on its head to reveal the evils behind it. The last stanza will stick with me “When will you unchain the shackles: mentally Historically, and physically That bind us Civilly to hypocrisy.” You’re so creative, and the things you’re talking about here are so important. Please never stop writing and using it to express your truths!

  23. Nicole Burkoski on April 10, 2021 at 9:36 AM

    This poem stood out from the rest as it summarized what America has become while formatted around My Country ‘Tis of Thee. This poem was short yet it spoke volumes as our country, known for liberty, is incarcerating people based on race. This poem was the first to discuss racism within the prison system and instead of using their own experience, they describe our country’s oppression towards African Americans. This poem portrays the author’s view of America and the idea of freedom and liberty has been stained. The title of the poem also portrays the unjust legal and social ranking of African Americans.

  24. Megan on April 15, 2021 at 3:58 PM

    This is such an insightful poem. It shows the other side to things and how there are people in this country who are fighting injustices. It was very creative and inspiring. I hope this inspires others to make change, and I really appreciate your willingness to share your work!

  25. Maria Griffin on April 16, 2021 at 6:29 PM

    PJ,
    My name is Maria Griffin, and I am a second-year student at Wayne State University in Detroit. This semester, I am taking a class whose goal is to engage with the community, beyond the university and corporations.
    Your poem, “Quintessence of African American,” has a great rhythm that gives it power and resonance. The first stanza explaining how it is your country, but it is being withheld from you. All the way until the end of your poem talking about the hardships of an African American in America. I think your poem is great and surfaces a topic that needs to be talked about more. Your poem portrays the oppression and racism of America throughout history by using patriotic wording such as “my country tis of thee.” This gives meaning to your last line, “Civilly to hypocrisy,” because you are using words from famous American literature to describe the incivility.
    Overall, you have some great talent, PJ. Keep writing poems and using your voice.

  26. Edmon on April 17, 2021 at 6:10 PM

    PJ,
    Im Edmon and I am in a college English class at Wayne State that hat aims to engage with the community beyond the university and corporations. I really like how your poem had a mood change from sad that these things happened and then a deeper kind of sad that their country back stabbed them. Really liked the poem and how it was structured. It had tons of imagery that made me feel I was with you while I was reading this poem. Good job and I wish you much luck in the future. Good luck!

  27. Mae on April 19, 2021 at 10:38 PM

    PJ,
    I really enjoyed your poem and the message within it. It flows really well and the syntax is good! I liked how you took the original piece and made it your own, for how it represents your experience that is so drastically different than the promises of the song. It is a really beautiful piece and thank you for sharing both your writing and your story.

  28. Fin on April 20, 2021 at 6:03 PM

    PJ,
    What a wonderfully composed and written poem. I love how you turned something original into your own portrayal of such an important message, it was truly brilliant to read and created such a beautiful overall piece. Thank you so much for sharing!

  29. Billie Marcheva on April 28, 2021 at 7:34 PM

    Dear PJ,

    Very well said. I feel so much pain for the way that this country treats African Americans. The land of the free, but for whom? Certainly not for everyone.

    With this relatively short poem, you do an excellent job illustrated the lived experience of being Black in America. I wish more people would listen to you and believe you.

    Sending you love.

  30. Jason on April 29, 2021 at 11:26 AM

    Hey PJ, I’m going to have to think about those two last lines, “bind us civilly to hypocrisy”. That’s deep. I wish you could explain it to me because I don’t think I’m insightful enough to figure it out completely for myself.
    From Jason

  31. Carly Reno on May 1, 2021 at 10:26 PM

    PJ,
    This poem gives a very big message which I love. It refers to a bunch of violence that is and has been occurring for years, even decades. You made the poem patriotic and asking when change will occur. This change is something that many people are hoping and dreaming for. You have such creative mind and really know how to incorrupt ideas together. I truly love what you did here! Keep up the great work on your poems. I hope to read more soon!
    Carly

  32. cm on May 2, 2021 at 6:15 PM

    Hello PJ – I am currently in a college English class called Writing and Community, where we focus on community outreach to serve others outside of the university setting. I think you make a great point in this poem without actually explicitly saying you are talking about racism. I think you use great symbolism and you really express the ideas of race and racism in this country in a way that creates a clear picture in readers minds. I hope you continue to write and express yourself through poetry. Good job and good luck in the future!

  33. Aracelli on May 3, 2021 at 8:34 PM

    Hi PJ, I love the form of this poem! The allusion to “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” provides a powerful subtext about the freedom of African Americans in America. I love how you use this form to highlight problems in our society and the experiences of African Americans. Beautiful poem.

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