99%-er anthem

we, the 99% have known for too long its time for a new dream

the signs explain it all. hand-written

or on computer paper: tax the rich, feed the poor.

this seems reasonable.


we, the 99% are inter-generational

those who occupied the 50s, 60s and 70s are here

those who tried and did push the country out of war (for a moment)

into integrated lunch counters             (for a moment)

grannies are here with their girlfriends, old comrades reunite

in these the camps, 90 years to 9 months.              and there is a brand new generation

in the streets. young and weird and industrious

art student dropouts, nurses and teachers, small business owners

and entrepreneurs. the unions are here of course in matching jackets

sweatshirts in primary colors. unions, big-city small-

minded mayors keep trying to bust, but whose union is too strong

cuz the will of the people is too strong. the republic window workers

and history teach us that


we, the 99% are young and vibrant, fly and fashionable

look at the haircuts, the infinite

variations. peep the sneaker game

we, the 99% are fly and too fresh for pinstripes

and boring blazers. no white haired white men

with dandruff and death

we, the 99% are tatted and pierced and ironic mustached

most of us are well-groomed and some of us

for real need to shower            but

all of us are funky

not board room boring. we wild

and lovely and well disciplined in the streets (for now)


we, the 99% are all documentarians with phones and flip-cams

the technology should look like the democracy.

so post and post and tell and capture the moments here

wide and far, see this smoldering heat. we are connected

and here and queer and allied and emerging in cities

across the planet


we, the 99% are a growing body, an undeniable mass

a cancer on capitalism’s decaying carcass

we, the 99% are socialists, communalists and beyond ideologic definition

we, the 99% are dorks and gamers, hip-hop heads and queens

graffiti writers and skateboarders, lawyers and parents

we are just like you                         cuz we are you

we, the 99% are overeducated and underemployed

we, the 99% are misunderstood and overworked

we, the 99% are the workers and lovers

we, the 99% are midwestern beauty queens who wanted to study

design but couldn’t afford four years at The Art Institute

and now slang drinks in Toledo or Grand Rapids


we, the 99% are single mother magicians

making miracles, jugglers in a wedding-ring less circus

of debtors and suitors and bosses and law suits and alimony

money and wall-mart. two car seats in the back of a ’99 mini-van

we, the 99% are fathers and mothers, family therapists and sages

backbones and warm hands that deserve a hand and a break

someone to have their back, some help, some health

and childcare, like the all the presidents of every country

and corporation get and never have to worry about


we, the 99% are back in city college trying to get more education

for a better job. cuz we need a job and better jobs that will affirm

life and locale and community. jobs that will restore parks

and clean water streams and tread lightly on the ecology

and economically fuel small and equitable growth plans.

jobs for the people from all sides of the track, investing

in education and infrastructure, in health care and culture


we, the 99% need a new dream

a new deal

 we, the 99% are not eating enough and eating too much

processed plastic food. we mono-crop and mono-culture

but we need small farms again and vegetables coming from earth

close to us, we want whole foods in all hoods but with unions

and other versions of freshness in the bodegas and food & liquor

corner stores where organic is as common and affordable as common

cents is. the census sense this

we, the 99% kid

want dollars equitably distributed on the kanye west side

a fair share of stuff. it seems only right at this point that a country

built on free and forced labor, on stolen land, on slave labor, all the labor

we, the 99% put in, need to see some back. all this labor, this making and inventing

for all this reaping we should see fruit too, sow more than need. insure

our backing, which is busted and badly curved. my father’s

discs are deteriorating. he needs shots and rehab and medicare

and is in great pain. he is 69 and can never retire

and still works 60-hour weeks


we, the 99% need to have each others backs

we are bigger than democrats and republicans

who are millionaires anyway             and though

we, the 99% don’t get along

ourselves, all the time                        or at all

but for this to be real

to translate and transcend

to resonate and resound

to be as undeniable as the need

for something to change drastically

we, the 99% need to build

bridges between the gulfs, the coasts

the rural / urban / suburban / blue / red

north/south side / segregated split

we need to build bridges

to use the word and

a bridge, a way

to include


we, the 99% in order to be the 99%

need to do the work of inclusion and expand

the growing center and organize and always create the mix

put more in the mix, we need to mix, to build a movement

that is undeniably mixed and looks like the city country

world we live and want to live in. not a scattering

of a few, not just white and young and educated

but an intentionally all-city polycultural miscegenated mass


we, the 99% on some radical mix shit

on some yes and shit:

we are pro-life cuz we are anti-war and death penalty

and we are pro-choice cuz we are pro-women’s right

to determine what happens to their own bodies

and that means we are clearly anti-rape

and will no longer let cops wreak havoc in the lives

and bodies of women who are our sisters

and mothers

our articulate leaders

our slut walk survivors


we are Scott Olsen

we are Troy Davis


we, the 99% on some Marcus Garvey and Harriet Tubman-type shit

one aim, one destiny

one collective, growing

undeniable mass of bodies and beauty

we, the 99% are marching

together            toward freedom!



Troy Davis and The Need for (A)New Brigade

i don’t want to live in a country that does this. that is brazen and cocksure enough to kill people despite evidence of overwhelming doubt. today the state of georgia/this country will kill a man who is innocent. the case of Troy Davis is clear, the rising interest and growing tide of support amassing in the last week, represents the culmination of work from organizations like the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP), Amnesty International, The NAACP, Troy Davis, himself, and many others, including his family, and his sister, Martina, in particular who has worked tirelessly to bring information about her brother’s case to the public eye.

and though today is about Troy Davis, this is an old story. the story of a country that since its inception has criminalized, imprisoned and executed bodies of color. today in georgia a white judge, district attorney, clemency board, state supreme court are murdering a Black man. we have a mixed white/Black president who is silent on the issue. he must be listening not to his white working class half, or his immigrant African ancestry, but to his rich and complacent whole. this is an issue of race. it is Black and Brown bodies who fill prisons in this country, who march to death dates without fair trials and any sense of justice. and this is a class issue, if Troy Davis had Oprah money or stature, if Troy Davis had Barak Obama wall st. friends, he would not be murdered at 7pm this evening.

because, this is an issue of grand, historic inequity and current injustice, it exists at the intersection of where a new movement can be born. in the radically integrated center of the working class who knows this country is run by and for the wealthy. this week alone shows us there are more of us, who are tired and overworked, who know Troy Davis could be a friend or family member, who scrape check to check, who can’t afford a lawyer or health care.

WE, the people, know these truths to be self-evident: rich, racists run america. today in 2011, when the country murders a(nother) Black man, whose guilt is at least not beyond a reasonable doubt, we must begin to look for alternatives to the status quo. we must use our resources, not capital and a paid police force, but the collectivity of our mass, our bodies that can organize together. it is all we have and all we need.

a mass of US, of the working and poor, of the fed up and under fed, US who hold firm that this life is not to be determined and deadened and dictated by the wealthy, white elite. this is OUR lifetime, together. WE can determine what will be of it. The wealthy, the white courts and congress and statehouses are not GOD, yet they over determine how we live and today and everyday they play GOD by taking away life in this country and in the countries their war planes and weaponry terrorize.

i am looking around today for a grand gesture and know the vigils that will happen this evening, hours before the execution of Troy Davis are not enough to stop the legal lynching this country continues to practice. it is hours before they come to get Emmett Till and we are unable to stop them. we need an organization, an organized force that will put our bodies to use, put our bodies on the line, use the collective body to grind the wheels of this madness to a standstill. that is all we have, this time, this body politic, the grandness of our collective body to halt the machine of criminalization, privatization, globalization, environmental desecration, incarceration and militarization. it is on us to build anew. from this day. a new brigade. a new force that says no more. not anymore from here.

last night i returned to the words Troy Davis wrote the last time he was facing death. these words came two hours before his execution (which that time was eventually stayed) he wrote:

…remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated.

There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city-by-city, state-by-state and country-by-country.

last night i read these words to a room full of educators at a screening of Howard Zinn’s The People Speak. I am struck courage and beauty of these words and by the audacious courage the everyday people in Howard Zinn’s film showed partaking in the dynamism of history. By acting in it, turning it with force to bend more forcefully toward justice and equity.

This morning Troy Davis’s words are reminding me of the great Jazz band leader,  Afro-futurist, aesthetic freedom-fighter, Chicagoan & inter-planetary being, Sun-Ra who said:

They say history repeats itself; but history is only his-story. You haven’ heard my story yet. My story is different from his story. My story in not part of history because history repeats itself. But my story is endless, it never repeats itself. Why should it? The sun does not repeat itself. Neither does a sunrise. Nature never repeats itself. My story is close to mystery. My story is better for man than history. Mystery is better than history. What’s your story?

what is our story, america? we must be more than we are now. more just, more humane, more fair, more inclusive, more considerate of ALL the bodies, ALL the stories. this life is a mystery, indeed. it is not the right any person or state to prohibit the living of another. but here we are america, repeating ourselves. i am down to write another story. my body on the line, my shoulder to the wheel. what is our story america? who is down to write it anew?

now available

“A concious Jewish phenomenon…[Coval’s] work speaks to the Jewish relationship to the American color line.” — Jew School

when i saw
an old woman
on all fours
in the ruins
of her home
looking under
floor tiles
for medicine
i did think
what would i say
if it were my grandmother

So begins What I Will Tell My Jewish Kids, a collection of poems on Palestine from Kevin Coval, four-time HBO Def Poet and ALA “Book-of-the-Year” finalist.

What I Will Tell My Jewish Kids is about the Jewish community, conflicts within it, and family reflections; it’s about speaking truth to power, at the dinner table and in the world at large; it’s about the undeniable power of history and facts, the inspiration of resistance, and the promise of justice and reconciliation. Most of all, What I Will Tell My Jewish Kids is a dissident artistic vision, a lovesong to both all of those who are Jewish, who refuse to equate Judaism and Zionism, who believe their people “have a long story. more than what is seen now”; and to those who resist against all odds, apartheid walls, checkpoints, and borders, their oppression in Palestine.

What I Will Tell My Jewish Kids also includes a special preview of L-vis Lives: Racemusic Poems, Coval’s forthcoming collection on race and culture, art and ownership in America today, releasing September 2011 from Haymarket Books.

all the pharoahs must fall

Mohamed Bouazizi didn’t have a permit to sell fruit
didn’t have government permission to earn a living
to live.
the police took his fruit and slapped his face
he went to the governor’s office. they refused to see him
he poured paint thinner on his body
and lit the match

all the pharaohs must fall

we needed inspiration, to be awakened
in our bodies, our lives made present
here we are
the world is not right, just or fair
the most have the least
the least have the most

all the pharaohs must fall

all the kings of jordan
all the queens of england
all the bridges crumbling
dictators like dominos
israel is a pharaoh
and must fall. all the leaders
with colonial control
who ransack resources
in Africa, who steal
lives in east oakland
who protect jon burge

all the pharaohs must fall

all the pharaohs who reign
over fruitsellers and farmers
the world over
the world is over

all the pharaohs must fall

the tycoons and filthy rich
heads of state on the chopping block
chairmen ousted from their seats.
there are many ways to do this
the giant is waking, it is the body
of the people who have little
to fall back on. no doctor or bank
account. the people who hand to mouth
who check to check. all this
scrounging kept us occupied.
all the gathering of crumbs
left us looking at the ground
but the bodies ablaze have given
us literal whitman’s, at wits end
they sing the body electrocuted
incinerated, sparks to wake us in the war machine
wake us in the mineshaft stuffing richmen’s pockets
wake us in our second job, our second mortgage, our second marriage
wake us in the routinized mechanics of our own labor
wake us cleaning gold toilet bowls, searing foie gras
all security guards, fast food line cooks and cashiers
all barbers and teachers, basket weavers and tea makers
all field hands and construction workers
all women with needles and men with hammers
all bodies who drive or lift, who sweep or cook
every body who takes away, who takes orders
every body whose body needs a break or bus pass
who needs an eye exam or job or a better job
every body whose body is uninsured, under fed
unaccounted for by governments and corporations
who bureaucratize their love

wake in this new day
look around
neighbors are allies
we don’t have to compete with
we can ally and fight with them
there are more of us
who don’t drill or bomb or legislate
more of us who 3rd shift and wash dishes
more of us who forge papers and sneak over fences
more of us worried about unlawful arrests
and whose worry arrests in the night without sleep

wake in this new day
we will all die soon
let us live while we have the chance
while we have this day
to build and plot and devise
to create and make the world
this time for us
this time for all
this time the pharaohs must fall