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Currently Crushing On: Ramya Ramana

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On the first day of this new year, eighteen year-old Ramya Ramana delivered a poem dedicated to the new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. De Blasio’s campaign platform addressed the glaringly obvious inequalities of the city and promoted a vision of a more just, fair city in which progressive ideas are actualized in bureaucracy (His rally cry of “looking forward” is reminiscent of Obama’s “hope” campaign, relying much on votes from citizens with faith that structural changes can occur). But this post is not about him, or even politics that may (or may not) change the power structures in the city of New York.

It is about a young woman’s bravery to use her voice against inequality through romanticizing New York’s spatial ability to bring together people of common class struggles — drawing on imagery from working-class realities, single mothers, brown skin, believers in God — all dedicated to a sense of place, an allegiance to community.

She is also well-known for her poem that responds to racist backlash of this year’s non-white Miss America and for other distinguished poems in the spoken word community. Currently on full academic scholarship to St. John’s University in Queens for her poems, Ramya’s achievements are impressive to say the least.

You rule, Ramya! Congrats on being New York City’s newest Youth Poet Laureate.

Here’s the text of the poem “We Will No Longer Stay Silent to This Classism”:

A constellated skyscraper moving gracefully to jazz beat, finding the Gil Scott-Heron in all her footwork, gripping the streetlights like an eclipse of hymnals, this is home. The lost voices, the heart’s devotion to beat and pulse, slow-dancing colonels, home to hustle, home to work hard, dream harder, home to move in silence, let success shatter the glass of hostage echoes New York City—not lights, not Broadway, not Times Square. It is single mother donating her last meal’s worth of money to church. It is the faith in that heart that makes a dead dream worth resurrecting. It is coffee-colored children playing hopscotch on what is left of a sidewalk. It is chalk-outlined, colonized map on a street as dark as the bones of the dead. This we call holy. This we call tough skin, thick-boned. This is New York.

We will no longer stay silent to this classism. No more brownstones and brown skin playing tug-of-war with a pregnant air hovering over them like an aura of lost children. No more colored boy robbed of their innocence. This city always will be the foundation of this country. We are root. We are backbone. We brown, we black, we yellow, we white, we young, we collage of creatures stomping to be reminded of the mammal inside of us. We chance, we deserve, us opportunity, us new mayor, us new beginning, like dancing cocoons, us hope, us fight, us happen, us love, us some good human, us happy, we happy, we happy with change. It is a constant baptism to remind us of our holy. We welcome, we family, we congratulate Mayor Bill de Blasio. We are so very honored and pleased to have you. And the congregation says:

Amen!

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