Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor


As I prepare for Anne Waldman’s visit (see poetry readings page), I am inspired by her outrider hybridity, where poetry meets poem-festo, where outrage meets love, where academics meets art and activism, where aggravation meets meditation.  I have had the August 23 rally with me for many weeks now and here is my “off the UGA record” public citizen poem-festo response.  No line breaks–No borders–No bans.


Debate over illegal immigration and higher education resurfaced last spring after Jessica Colotl, an illegal immigrant attending Kennesaw State University, was arrested on campus for a traffic violation. College officials disclosed they had charged her in-state tuition. 10/13/10 AJC

Your tiny foot escaped our black ink, our precious political papers.  You did not bathe in the light of our hospital registrations or nurse in our fluoride waters.  You, whose refrigerated parents slit our chickens’ wings, fell our highest pines, trim our dirtiest windows, mow our runaway lawns, wipe our snottiest children, chop our expensive salads, factory seal and deliver our cheap muffins and exclusive auto parts, you, we pronounce, do not deserve to be here, you who have learned to speak “our language” and silenced your own, you who believed our gospel of Standardized Test, you who have won! Good Citizen Award in third grade; Attendance Award, fifth grade; Leadership Award, tenth grade, you who qualify as a human being in the superior category, you who did not drop out or dope up or unleash the tiger of anger, the jaguar of rebellion, you who did not let the anvil of prejudice crush your brown heart, you who did not let the anchor of “anchor baby” sink your precious forward motion cargo, you who skipped high school today to attend to the arches of this institution which proposes to banish you, not for who you are but for who you are not: legal, documented, dignified, acknowledged, understood.  You who are bored by the regents, you who stand in the shadow of bans of the lowest order, you for whom failure and hate are not an option, you whose lyrics remind us of our anthems, that todos somos immigrantes, you who march in cap and gown to request in-state tuition, you who give us hope when Hope has been compromised and merit has to be questioned when we valorize the rich and call it subsidize for the poor and now cancel your twenty-nine brave five state campus requests to affordably join three hundred and ten thousand others.  You already know this is not about you but about us, how we’ve over drafted, how our costly weapons need both bullets and targets and I’m afraid you, driving without a license, accidentally forgot to stop. You’re full speed ahead and we’ll never catch up.

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