The Beat Within: This Is a Poem About What Causes Poems Like This to Be Written

Before I begin this poem ...
I'd like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence …
In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
On September 11th 2001 ...

I'd also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence …

For all those who’ve been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped or killed in retaliation for those strikes ... for the victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the U.S. and throughout the world ...

And if I could add just one more thing ...

A day of silence.

For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who died at the hands of U.S.-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.

Six months of silence ...

For the million and a half Iraqi people … mostly children ... who died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of a twelve-year U.S. embargo against that country … before the war ever began … and now … the drums of war beat again ...

Before I begin this poem ...

Nine months of silence
For the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Where death rained down and peeled back every layer
Of concrete, steel, earth and skin
And the survivors
Well they went on as if they were alive ...

One year of silence …

For the millions dead in Vietnam ... a people ... not a war ... for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel — their relatives’ bones buried in it — their babies born of it ...

Two months of silence ...

For the decade of dead in Colombia ... whose names … like the corpses they once represented … have piled up and slipped off our tongues ...

Before I begin this poem ...

Seven days of silence ... for El Salvador
A day of silence … for Nicaragua
Five days of silence … for the Guatemalans
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years …

1,955 miles of silence …
For every desperate body that burns in the desert sun
Drowned in swollen rivers at the pearly gates to the empire’s underbelly
A gaping wound sutured shut by razor and corrugated steel ...

Twenty-five years of silence …
For the millions of Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky
For those who were strung and swung from the height of sycamore trees
In the South
The North
The East
The West
There will no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains ...

100 years of silence …
For the hundreds of millions of indigenous people from this half of right now
Whose land and lives were stolen
In postcard-perfect plots like
Pine Ridge
Wounded Knee
Sand Creek
Fallen Timbers
Or the Trail of Tears
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry
On the refrigerator of our consciousness ...

From the somewhere within the pillars of power …
You open your mouth to invoke a moment of silence …
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut

A moment of silence …
And the poets are laid to rest
The drums disintegrated to dust ...

Before I begin this poem.

You want a moment of silence …
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
While the rest of us hope to hell that it won't be
Not like it always has been
Because you see
This isn't a 9/11 poem
This is a 9/10 poem!
A 9/9 poem!
A 9/8 poem!
A 9/7 poem!
This is a 1619 poem!
A 1492 poem!
This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written
But if it is a 9/11 poem
It's a September 11, 1973 poem for the people of Chile
It's a September 12, 1977 poem for the Steven Biko of South Africa
It's a September 13, 1971 poem for the brothers at Attica prison in New York
It's a September 14, 1992 poem for the people of Somalia
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground
Amidst the ashes of amnesia
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history uprooted from its textbooks
The 100 stories that CNN, ABC, The New York Times and Newsweek ignored
This is a poem to interrupt their programs
This is not a peace poem
Not some poem of forgiveness
This is a justice poem
A poem for never forgetting
This is a poem to remind us
That all that glitters
Might just be
Broken glass
And still you want a moment of silence for the dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empties;
The unmarked graves
Lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children.

Before I begin this poem …

We could be silent forever ...
Or just long enough to hunger for the dust to bury us
And would you still ask us for more of our silence ...

Well if you want a moment of silence ...
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines
The televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights
Delete the emails and instant messages
Derail the trains and ground the planes

If you want a moment of silence …
Put a brick through the window of Taco Bell
And pay the workers for wages lost …

Tear down the Liquor stores
The Townhouses
The Penthouses
The Jail houses
And the White Houses

If you want a moment of silence ...
Then take it now!
Before this poem begins
Here’s your silence
Take it!
Take it all!
But don't cut in line
Let your silence begin
At the beginning of crime …

Jesse Jackson, 52, is currently in the San Francisco County Jail for a probation violation. He has spent the better part of the last 35 years in and out of the criminal justice system.

The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth, was founded by David Inocencio in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at

School Resource Officers: A Topic of Hot Debate, Even Prior to Sandy Hook

In Augusta 2011, a School Safety Agent stands guard outside JHS 50 John D. Wells. in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Photo by Robert Stolarik.

In the aftermath of the deadly shooting last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., intense public debate has focused on protecting students – and the role of student resource officers (SROs), in particular – in the event of future shooting sprees.

Generally, school resource officers are local law enforcement officers appointed to patrol schools and handle juvenile disciplinary issues. The effectiveness of SROs is highly debated. A National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) report claims the presence of SROs has reduced juvenile arrests in some schools by nearly 50 percent. On the other hand, the Justice Policy Institute issued a report that found SROs had little effect on curbing criminal activity in schools, and may even lead to inflated, and potentially unnecessary, juvenile arrests.

In a recent letter to CNN, NASRO President Kevin Quinn stated that SROs might save countless lives in a potential school shooting scenario.

“We are immediate first responders for any and all critical incidents on campus, whether it’s an intruder, a student fight or a health emergency,“ he wrote. “Having a police officer on the campus can eliminate several minutes of response time when seconds count. I know the school like the back of my hand, and if there’s a problem, I don’t need a map. I can respond in the time it takes me to get down the hall.”

However, an op-ed by Judge Steven Teske appearing recently on JJIE argues that the multifaceted duties requested of SROs may impede them from actually being present at the school in the case of a shooting incident.

“A misuse of police officers on campus will not protect the campus from another massacre,“ Teske wrote. “It will likely take the officer off the campus due to the high incident of misdemeanor arrests and allow for many to die in the wake of a deranged gunman’s wave of bullets.”

Teske continued: “God forbid there is another shooting and the media asks this one question: ‘Where was your SRO when the shooting began?’ The answer: ‘At juvenile court booking a kid for a schoolyard fight.’”

Although media attention of school resource officers increased following last month’s shooting, for the last three years, JJIE has been covering the issue with numerous features and op-eds.


- JJIE's New York Bureau chief, Daryl Khan, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity, wrote about the effect of school safety police in New York City schools. Many argue they have created a prison-like atmosphere in the schools.

- The Chicago Bureau’s Alex Nitkin, with contributions from Gideon Resnick and Jenny Starrs, wrote about school resource officers, particularly policies in Illinois schools, in an article published late last year.

- Last November, JJIE’s Maggie Lee wrote about the thorny issue of Miranda Rights and school resource officers when she explored a case involving a high school student from Kentucky.

- Judge Steve Teske addressed the issue of agreements between schools and school resource officers in an op-ed published last September.


- Juvenile defender Cheryl Cutting wrote about effectiveness of school resource officers in a Dec. 5, 2011 op-ed, arguing that their presence leads to an increase in arrests for disruptive behaviors that, in most schools, would only warrant in-school disciplinary actions.

- In an article from Oct. 2011, Chandra Thomas -Whitfield writes about a young boy in Georgia that committed suicide after being harassed by his classmates. The boy’s sister said that SROs did little to address accusations of bullying following his suicide. “She says last year a boy in her class repeatedly teased her about her brother’s death,” Whitfield writes. “Her mom says she filed charges with the school resource officer but the school never responded.”

- “Should teachers carry concealed guns in school?” asked Ellen Miller in a Jan. 25, 2011 article. She brings up the Harrold Independent School District in Texas, which in lieu of school resource officers, allows teachers to carry concealed weapons into classrooms.


- A Dec. 9, 2010 op-ed written by Judge Steven Teske explored the topic of school resource officers, in particular the phenomenon of increased referrals for misdemeanors.

“We had data reflecting an increase in referrals by over 1,000 percent since the inception of the SRO program in the mid nineties,” he stated.

- Are hamburgers better protected than school children? Ken Trump addresses the need for tighter security measures, including school resource officers, in an op-ed penned in Sept. 2010.

- Chandra Thomas-Whitfield interviewed Aaron Kupchik, author of “Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear,” in Sept. 2010. “In a peaceful school, there should be more counselors and less police officers,” Kupchik argues. “A police officer can’t create a completely safe space for children to talk. For one, they’ve been trained to respond differently and if they learn of a criminal act they have to act on that.”

Photo by Robert Stolarik.

Aging Out of Foster Care: Georgia Challenge, National Problem

The future is uncertain for 700 Georgia teens in foster care who will turn 18 in the next year. They have a big decision to make - whether to go out on their own, or remain with a foster family. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien profiles an Atlanta teen and the choice he faces. We hear from DHS Commissioner B.J. Walker, and Cathy Colbenson, CEO of CHRIS Kids, who warns that a quarter of the young people who age out become homeless within two years.

This is not just a Georgia problem. There are 400,000 children in foster care across the nation.

This special report brings it home:

Atlanta Church Facing Eviction To Serve Free Thanksgiving Meal

The looming threat of eviction is not stopping a metro Atlanta church that provides multiple programs for at-risk youth from feeding the hungry for Thanksgiving.

The Atlanta Urban Foursquare Church (AUC) is facing eviction from its building owned by the United Methodist Church, but church leaders say they still plan to move forward with its annual Thanksgiving meal for the poor next week.

“We want to invest in souls; that’s the purpose of this church, to invest in souls,” says Pastor Mark Anthony Mitchell, a former drug dealer who turned his life around and earned a masters degree from Harvard Divinity SchoolSchool.  Watch CNN's interview with Mitchell:

Under Mitchell’s leadership, the church has earned a reputation as a “beacon of hope” in the economically challenged Lakewood community and surrounding neighborhoods. It’s been particularly welcoming to area residents who have served time in prison and need help re-entering society. AUC also houses a free pre-school and after school program along with hosting a mentoring and sponsorship program for ex-offenders.

The church also serves a weekly free breakfast to the needy on Wednesdays and Saturdays. All of these services could potentially come to an abrupt end due to an ongoing fight with the United Methodist Church.

AUC’s lease ran out last summer and they have been trying unsuccessfully for 10 months to persuade the United Methodists to donate the building to them. Anthony says the church’s financial resources have dwindled steadily, due to its efforts serving an indigent population in these tough economic times.

“We’re’ just asking the United Methodist Church to work with us to do the work of Jesus Christ,” he says.

The United Methodist Church has taken the church to court to get them evicted, but Anthony says he is still hopeful that the church will not have to close its doors.

“We’re still fasting and praying and believing that in this 11th hour something will happen to help us continually be able to serve the community there.”

For more information about the fight to save the church visit

17 States Fight Craigslist "Adult Services"

Attorneys General in 17 states have teamed up to try to get rid of the Craigslist’s “adult services” section, according to a CNN report.

As we reported earlier this month, the popular “adult services” section has been scrutinized because of ads that exploit women and underage girls.  The attorneys general addressed Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster and founder Craig Newmark in a scathing letter on Tuesday.

The increasingly sharp public criticism of Craigslist's Adult Services section reflects a growing recognition that ads for prostitution -- including ads trafficking children -- are rampant on it.

They go on to highlight an open letter that two girls wrote to Craigslist in July about being trafficked through the site.  The Attorneys also mention CNN Amber Lyon's report which questions Craigslist's screening methods.

A Craigslist representative told CNN that they agree with some of the letter and hope to work with the attorneys general to stop child and women trafficking.  Craigslist typically responds to complaints and criticism on the Craigslist blog.

Click here for the Attorneys General full letter.

Threatening Letters Keep Teen Killer in Prison

At 13-years-old, Billy Ray White was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus 10 years for armed robbery, theft of a motor vehicle and the murder of J.D. Hall in Douglasville, GA.  Four years later, White wrote threatening letters to Hall’s family.  Now, 15 years later, they are fighting his possible release.  CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg reports.

In a handwritten letter to J.D. Hall’s daughter, the convicted killer promised to carve her up like a turkey and make her head into a flower pot.  In another letter to Hall’s son, he said he would put him through a meat grinder and force his relatives to eat him.

You can run but you can’t hide.  You can go to the police, but they can’t protect you.  You can change your name, address, or even move, but I will always find you,” he wrote in a letter postmarked May 15, 1989.  “They can’t keep me in here for the rest of my life.”

White has admitted to writing the letters and that they were a “stupid thing.”  His sister stands up for him, saying that he was the product of alcoholic parents who neglected and abused him, and that he deserves a chance to prove he's changed

The Georgia Parole Board has refused to release him six times, the last time in June.  He comes up for parole again in April.

Click here for Grinberg’s full story.

Cartoon Net Fights Bullying

Cartoon Network will launch a Bullying Prevention Campaign in October called Stop Bullying: Speak Up.  A series of public service announcements will target young people who often witness bullying and urge them to take action.  According to a company news release, “Bystanders represent the 75-85% of students in schools that witness incidents of bullying every year, whether on the playground, in the classroom, on the bus, on social media websites, or cell phones.”

Cartoon Network execs made the announcement at the National Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington today. Campaign partners include sister company CNN, and the Anti-Defamation League, which released it's own set of recommendations to fight bullying, as well.

Craigslist Sex Ad Investigation

The internet has become the favorite place to sell women for sex, according to a CNN report. Now there is a national campaign against Craigslist and its popular “adult services” section. Police and anti- sex trafficking groups are pushing to end the “adult services” ads, arguing that underage girls are being exploited.

"Craigslist is like the Wal-Mart of online sex trafficking right now in this country,” said Andrea Powell of the anti-trafficking group The Fair Fund. Watch CNN reporter Amber Lyon grill Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, about sex ad's on his site.

Atlanta is a hub of child prostitution. As we reported back in June an estimated 7,200 men are paying for sex with teenage girls every month in the Atlanta area. The group called A Future Not a Past is leading a campaign against the child sex trade in North Georgia.

Read more:


Craigslist stuns child advocates

FBI Targets Child Sex Trafficking

The Fair Fund

A Future Not a Past

New Alarm on Robo Tripping

There are new warnings about the dangers facing teens who get high on cough medicine.  CNN reports that children are showing up in hospital emergency rooms after mixing cough medicines with stimulants, such as energy drinks and prescription drugs that treat ADHD.  The symptoms include hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat and numbness in hands and feet.

The Partnership for a Drug Free America reports that 1 in 11 teens admits to Robo tripping.  The high comes from taking very large doses of OTC medicines that contain dextromethorphan, an active ingredient in more than 125 cold and cough medicines, including Robitussin.  Kids also call the practice Dexing, Skittling, and DXM-ing.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says high doses of dextromethorphan, or DXM, affect the same parts of the brain targeted by ketamine or PCP.  These are considered “dissociative” drugs, which make people feel disconnected from their normal selves.  The effect of DXM is similar.

Click here to listen to teens describe their experiences with Robo tripping.