How I was touched by a poetic plea for help from a black teen | Letters

As moved as I am by Aditya Chakrabortty’s article on Giovanni Rose, an award-winning young black poet (The Adolescent’s Poem Revealing the Cruel Reality of Life in Modern Britain, December 23), I do not may experience only a limited sense of optimism for their future. I fear he will continue to feel the effects of institutional racism throughout his life. If not, why have the injustices suffered by members of the Windrush generation still not been properly addressed?

Over 50 years ago, another young black teenager wrote a poem. She was fiery and rebellious. Small wonder. As a student in a school for “academically subnormal” students, she felt the full weight of a racist judgment that had already ruined her life. I was her teacher whom she accused of treating her harshly “just because I’m black”.

To mend her outburst, she wrote me a poem in her notebook. I will forever regret that I failed to keep this incredible, moving, well-written call for help. I quit shortly after in search of a “better career”, leaving her in a totally unsuitable environment. How I wish she could have had the inclusive support of a school like Giovanni’s. But supportive schools are not enough.

I would like to meet her now to talk about how our lives have gone. We are not that far apart in age. However, I fear her life has not gone as smoothly as mine. I couldn’t have written a poem like that. But I was white and privileged. She was a member of the Windrush generation and already damned.
Joan lewis
Saint-Etienne-de-Gourgas, France

Thank you, Aditya Chakrabortty, for your candid article on Giovanni Rose, who won the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. I am a retired school principal who has spent my entire career in downtown northeast schools. I have seen with my own eyes the reality of life for a large part of the population. Everything is against young people growing up in poverty, and Covid has widened the gap between the haves and have-nots to a shocking degree. I am still in touch with many families I have worked with and continue to marvel at their resilience, wisdom, humor and love in the worst of circumstances. We are not “Great Britain”.
Judy Cowgill
Blaydon, Tyne and Wear

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