History Class

So I wrote this poem inspired by ‘Art Class’ by Rhiannon McGavin, an American poet. This poem also derives my poem Genocide and its inspirations.

Despite society being an abstract noun, I have characterised society as a man. So for the nature of this poem, society is a he.


Society thinks
you can’t swear in poetry. 

So unto Society I say,
“Raise your hands if you have heard of Auschwitz.”
Instantly, he raises his hands
like mustard gas rising out of a trench.

Okay, hands down.”
Now raise your hands if you have heard
of the Morant Bay Massacre.
Rolling eyes blended with curious stares
a shaking hand ascends
half-raised like a lone soldier
struggling to stand at Passchendaele.

“Are you sure about that?”

“No”

“That’s what I thought”

“Society – what’s truth?”

They won’t let you hear it at school
if that person says “fuck.”
Can’t even talk about “fuck”
even though Education’s
been fucking students for years.

You can’t teach a 16-year-old in school
how to swear, how to use language,
how to wear words like body armour

There’s children in London
who carry knives to the library in case they get jumped
and you want to censor language.

“Society – what is history class?”

Your books leave out the Maroons and the Arawaks
Call themselves ‘World History’ and omit
Cecil Rhodes and Zimbabwe, King Leopold,
blood diamond mines and the Congolese Genocide
Fifteen million dead Africans,
call themselves ‘Politics in the Modern World’
and fail to mention Enoch Powell or Apartheid.

Why Black children hide in lighter skin,
dark-skinned girls under the boots of colourism
those with natural hair thrown to sin bin.

Folks thinking Edward Snowden
was a politician educated in Oxbridge.
How can education not include
Julian Assange or Jimmy Carter?

Photographer: Neonbrand On Unsplash

Schools are built in shadows
filtered through
the grinding teeth of money,
designed under coins and corporations.

They’re sterilising children,
injecting classrooms, drilling
independent thought with silent poison
stifling creativity, making a killing.

Jack hung himself in his bathroom
because he wasn’t smart enough
to meets school standards.

Hannah started bleaching
her daughter’s skin
the day before she started school.

She carves curved lines into her
beautiful brown skin so
she can remember her ancestors.

“What’s history class?”

“This, right here, is history class.”

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