Poetry Out Loud​

The author and speaker of this poem, “Letter to Your Flag”, is Ronald Vinson, one of America’s most promising young poets. During my research, I realized that there is not much background on Ronald Vinson, being that he is only 17 years old. Vinson read this poem at the 2018 Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam shortly before the poem went viral. His technique and delivery of his words make him an exciting poet that I hope to see again in the future.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJBo9jdUJiY

Throughout my various experiences in English classes and reading different types of writing, I’ve learned that the title of the piece alone can give the reader many clues as to what the work will be about. This poem called, “Letter to Your Flag” by Ronald Vinson, and it is about the struggles that people of color endure each and every day and specifically, it is about the exclusion and misrepresentation of people of color in our own Pledge of Allegiance. Through the title of this poem, the reader (or listener) can tell that the author is using the first person and is writing this to someone or a group of people. Shortly into the poem, the reader will notice the metaphor that the author is trying to deliver. When he refers to “I” and “my”, he is referring to all people of color and all people that are discriminated against. When he says “you” and “your”, he is referring to white people and the people who discriminate against them. Vinson recites the Pledge of Allegiance in which he adds, “…with liberty and justice for who?” He proceeds to answer his own question by saying, “For you? For some?” (0:24). Vinson is implying that the Pledge of Allegiance is not representative of all Americans. He, along with many other people, thinks that people of color are completely not equal to whites in various aspects of life such as job opportunity and criminal prosecution.

If this poem was read instead of listening to it narrated by the author himself, the same message would not resonate. By watching and listening to Vinson essentially perform this poem, the listener can further understand his message while he is more effectively relaying it to them. Being a person of color, Vinson creates a feeling of sympathy for himself and for the group of people that he is trying to represent. The credibility of the topics covered in this poem is unquestionable as they are the true and personal experiences in his very own life.

Although there is not much of a setting to this poem, the time frame of when the poem was written as well as who wrote it is very significant to its overall meaning. The reason why this piece is so moving is because at this point in time we are at the apex of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which basically portrays the same message as the poem. Seeing a colored child tell a story about his troubled life appeals to the emotion of the listener while further capturing his or her attention. If this poem was written and read during a different time period, the message would be much different. For example, if this poem was written 70 years ago, a man of color might not even have the opportunity or power to express his own words. Overall, the difference between reading and listening to this poem and listening to it being skillfully dictated is the difference between a good poem and a great poem.

Poem Transcript:

We pledge allegiance to your flag of the United States of America and to your Republic for which it stands one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for who for you for some not for us not for our people so please stop saying we equal which you’re a flag of red white and blue in one hand you beat us and to wear black and blue with the other beat us and to wear none beat us until we can’t walk straight then you put us in Chains if you’re lucky but for the ones of us who are so lucky you tell us to put our hands up some cyclists a tribute to your privilege and then you pull the trigger pull the trigger into our bodies laid down on your ground pull the trigger into your Clippers empty pull the trigger until we make your evening news and then when our children cry we have to look our children in the eyes and tell them that they have to be cautious that when they walk your streets they have to do so in fear that they have to spend an entirety of their life looking over their shoulder because you will hunt them down and you willbury them either in a prison system that aims to disenfranchise them where the dirt beneath their feet and this is all because of that same racism that you love to say no longer exist but we all know that that same racism is the reason that when we want to put a hood on we resist the reason that when we go to get these jobs we’re dismissed at the door the reason that when we go to shop we’re watching your stores that racism is the reason that us and your pledge of allegiance feels a lot like a root canal or whips impact that gets our flesh or baton to our head or a bullet in our back or tear gas and a black lives matter protest that racism is the reason that three women clinched their purses as I walk through the entrance of this very building it hurts that I have to remember that the system I was born into his bill to work against me hearse that I have to remember hers that I have to remember Hertz that I had hearse that I actually have to remember that you will happily invest more money into the preservation of Wildlife then you ever willing to the preservation of black life let me axe all the question when y’all turn on your TVs and witness another black bunny lay down your concrete what do y’all see another murder another sad story another funeral do you see the aftermath I see a little child that lost their father another single woman trying to raise a man another broken home which leads to another child that grows up and suffers the same fate as their father which means another black woman that outlive her adolescent son in this country right this is a culture that lacks equal rights for blacks and we love to say that black don’t crack me while y’all shadow or melanin like glass my bag breaks for everybody you let our feet for every memory I try to be erased within your war zones it’s like nice rebuilding my PTSD is on this way to the surface and my hate for this country reminds me that I’m for from patriotic so it’s a little ironic that I pledge allegiance to your flag of the United States of America and to your Republic for which it stands one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for who.

Retrieved from: http://www.yousubtitles.com/2018-Youth-Speaks-Teen-Poetry-Slam-Ronald-Vinson-Letter-To-Your-Flag-id-2269893ronaldvvv

Retrieved from: https://streetpoetsnyc.com/2018/08/16/poemfinds-ronald-vinson-letter-to-your-flag-video/


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