U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera Pens Poem About Protests, Killings and Hope

Posted on July 12, 2016

U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera has written a poem about the tragic deaths of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and of five Dallas police officers, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa, who were killed by a sniper who said he wanted to kill white police officers because of the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement has vehemently denounced the shooter's actions. The protest march was completely peaceful and nonviolent until the shooter opened fire with assault weapons.

The poem is called "@ the Crossroads -- A Sudden American Poem." Mr. Herrera was recently reappointed to the position of U.S. Poet Laureate to serve his second one-year term. He dedicated the poem to those who died as well as their families and those who were injured in Dallas. The poem opens with a a call to reflect and pray about the deaths, as well as a call to celebrate the lives of those who died.

He writes:

Let us celebrate the lives of all/
As we reflect & pray & meditate on their brutal deaths/
Let us celebrate those who marched at night who spoke of peace/
& chanted Black Lives Matter/
Let us celebrate the officers dressed in Blues ready to protect/.

The poem further explores the lives of those who died. The poem ends with a hopeful refrain:

This could be the first step/
in the new evaluation of our society This could be/
the first step of all of our lives/

You can read the poem in its entirety on poets.org. Mr. Herrera seems to be echoing the thoughts that President Obama expressed in his recent speech in which he said, "So, you know, when people say black lives matter, that doesn't mean blue lives don't matter."

Today President Obama and former President George W. Bush are both speaking in Dallas at the memorial for the five police officers who died.

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