Martin Luther King Jr’s on tour in the UK

to repeat the same speech, you’ve heard
but never remembered
word for word.
And why should you?
I have a dream
is painted onto enough t-shirts and baseball caps for you to get the gist.

School timetables squished all his visits
Into the last day of October
That way your headteacher can say they at least did something in Black history month.
Honourable mention to Rosa Parks
But not too long a mention,
Long mentions lead to questions
And questions lead to truth.

King takes the podium
and speaks.
The audience daydreams
and take selfies.
When they think themselves detached from segregation and Selma
what would actually compel themΒ to care
other than that classic cloud of collective guilt
which is only enough for them to show up,
not enough to protect him or us
from the red-faced gate crashers,
The ones that came with nooses, bananas and ragdolls in blackface,
The ones whose history classes went straight from Henry VIII
to World wars 1 and 2
And never bothered to ask why.

 

 

Jamal Hassan is a UK based poet and comedian. He hosts open mic nights around London, and was a regular performer on the BAFTA Award winning series Life & Rhymes. He describes his poetry as a mix of political and philosophical discourse with humour, ranging from witty wordplay to stapstick character comedy.