Poetry as a Unifying Force

As National Poetry Month comes to a close, Jacqueline Ramos, our Program Manager of Community-Engaged Learning and poet, speaks on the importance of poetry in activism. Also the Community Empowerment Activist Instructor, Ramos encourages our CEAs to approach social justice issues in all lenses, including poetry. Read on for her piece, “Inauguration”, and her view of poetry as a unifying force.

poetry is my voice
she pushes me out of bed
when my soul feels defeated
whispers freedom to my ear
while calling on the Sun
kissing my wings in prayer
so i can fly again.


Since a child, I’ve felt the weight of the world, good and bad, and literally move through life––“wearing my heart on my sleeve.”

Poetry has been my saving grace. A place where I regroup, reflect, and replenish––returning to the eye of the storm amidst chaos, making sense of the senseless, and finding stillness in my breath that allows me to breathe, feel, dream, imagine and be without shame or fear. Maybe that’s why my poetry name is “2BFREE.” It’s a call to return *home*––to our childlike selves, before hurt and pain and disappointment made us question the beauty that lives inside us. 2BFREE… without doubt, inhibition, or worry. To love, to give and receive love, in the most vulnerable way because we belong and we are seen.

For last week’s CEA reflection, I posed this to our students: “What is your weapon in the movement? How do/will you use your weapon to raise consciousness and build people power?”

My weapon is poetry––carried by rEVOLutionary love. The Spirit brings life situations, whether or not I’ve been directly impacted or bear witness, accompanied by a song I’ll play on repeat until the piece is completed. I write about love and loss, the fight for collective liberation––birthed in commUNITY and hope––carried by the eyes of a Frisco Mission native.

It’s my hope that my poetry––my heart to mind to pen to paper––dismantles imaginary borders and builds bridges of trust. That it reminds us of the magic we carry and that we are worth everything that brings our hearts joy. That it unites us, fighting against the oppressor, as we reclaim our place in a reimagined just world.

A piece I wrote in January entitled, “Inauguration.” The audio version can be found here.

Jackie Ramos performing poetry at the Mission Arts Performance Project (MAPP), “Water is Sacred” event, San Francisco, October 2016.


i saw 400,000 flags tonight
meant to represent hope
but carried lonely spirits
in an empty hospital room
of a pandemic
fueled by racial capitalism

every day is a breaking record
and the most vulnerable suffer
while the asymptomatic
post Instagram stories to “close friends”
and perform acts of activism
*in public*
on June 2nd
all I saw were black squares

we are a human race
connected to a screen
incepted by lonely spirits
who realized
profit was their greatest revenge
and my best friend
is now someone i will never meet
hearting pictures
without further thought
and move onto the next
quicker than you can blink
our joys have become a trend

we sip and inhale
to an empty facade
for a moment to forget
is far greater
than a lifetime working towards peace
we continue to live in a world
where CAREN
needs to be enacted into law
Emmitt and Mamie never left the room

the roots of this country
bleed genocide
the cries of our ancestors
come out at night
and those you elect
return home
to a tabernacle of confederacy
counting the money
they stole
out the spoon
of my unborn child
making a return
off a policy
that would have
saved my father’s life
the night
the color of his skin
dictated the quality of care

we pay taxes
to a so-called democracy
that places profit over people
the building
i pass off Market and Powell
has more rights
than my daughter
and I’m post’ to salute
the national anthem?

i do not plead the fifth
i am going to tell
you all the wrongs
you did
never code switch
i will not make a place at the table
i am going to dismantle it
with all my people
and rebuild and resoil up
is the only restoration we know

we bleed revolution
and we walk in truth
our bodies
are the shields of our sacrifice;
for the oppressor
will never give us liberation
it must be demanded
as our great ancestor
Dr. King wrote in his longest letter
in that cold cell in Birmingham
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

you will not co-opt
our offering
you will not co-opt
the movement
you cannot take
from a people
whose rewards
live in heaven
whose Savior
overthrows tables
in your place of business
“You will not make our home ‘a den of robbers.’”

we will pour oil into the fire
where your greed lays rest
revenge is not ours
but of the Divine
our People rise from ashes
birthing flowers
that caress
so our offspring
can drink promise
into the purpose of today

we are alive.

i looked at 400,000 flags tonight.
and saw our People
on Redemption day
and understood the prayer:
“Peace be unto you.”
is the heart we carry
fists raised in solidarity
this world
in all its glory
can never separate us
from the truth
can never deny us
from love
i will meet you
at the Promise Land
and come with a rose
to remind you

your breath was worth every fight.

JSR © 2021

To stay connected with my work, visit me at jacquelinescottramos.com

art for changecommunity empowermentCommunity Empowerment Activistscommunity engaged learninginaugurationNational Poetry MonthPoetry

Leo T. McCarthy Center • April 29, 2021

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