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Poet Malcolm London Finds Hope On Chicago’s Streets

From Chicago, a young, new poet gives voice to one of America’s great cities, and its tough streets. Malcolm London joins us.

Poet Malcolm London. (Courtesy Malcolm London)

Poet Malcolm London. (Courtesy Malcolm London)

Tune in to CNN lately and you can see the Robert Redford-produced “Chicagoland.”  A documentary series on a tough city.  Tune in directly to Chicago, and you can hear Malcolm London.  A young poet.  Twenty now.  Just up out of Chicago’s murder-wracked streets.  A poet with a lot to say.  He’s channeling Tupac and Kanye West and Carl Sandberg and all the insights of a Chicago West Side youth.  Making vivid and moving the disenfranchisement he and many others feel.  This hour On Point: “spears for hearts,” and the poetry of Malcolm London.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Malcolm London, poet, educator and activist at Young Chicago Authors and the Northwestern Bluhm Legal Clinic. (@MalcolmLondon)

From Tom’s Reading List

Chicago Tribune: Teen poet thirsts for knowledge — “It is unlikely that any of the people shopping at the Northwest Side Mariano’s grocery store, where London also works, knows that the young man handing out food samples has been compared with two of Chicago’s great writers. Or that he has become pals with Matt Damon.”

WBEZ: At West Side Chicago school, kids go without teachers — “Some of the city’s high schools are shrinking. In fact, some are shrinking so dramatically, it’s questionable whether students are getting access to a basic education. Take the Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy on the city’s West Side, where students have spent much of this year without key teachers.”

CBS: Young Chicago poet gives voice to his community — “London started writing poems in 2009 to give a voice to his community. ‘The idea that poetry is only for dead, old, white dudes who lived in the 1600s, right, but it’s not,’ London says. ‘So for me, the stage was a place for me to have my voice heard.’”

Read (And Hear) Some Of Malcolm London’s Original Poetry From Today’s Broadcast

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  • GarretWoodward

    I’m a 29-year-old writer. Words are my oxygen. I always thought poetry was kind of stale, or at least I wasn’t able to connect to it. But, then I read the poetry of Charles Bukowski and something clicked in my head. Now I can’t get enough of it. Was there a moment for you when you realized a poem could be whatever it wanted to be? And does Charles Bukowski have an influence on you?

  • georgepotts

    Sounds like an excuse for laziness.

    • nj_v2

      Please, disqus, provide an ignore feature for idiocy like this.

  • georgepotts

    How do you see the vanishing of the homicide rate on a bus ride?

    • Ray in VT

      The eyeball test can work well on some things.

  • georgepotts

    He likes to play the fiddle of white guilt.

    • LJ

      He plays the fiddle of the incredible history of racism and inequality in Chicago. But sure, call it white guilt.

  • georgepotts

    If you accept the assumptions in his poetry, you can understand why people who can afford it have moved away from this culture of destruction.

    • The poster formerly known as t

      Isn’t the U.S. military a culture of destruction?

  • georgepotts

    Is Chicago violent or not? Mr. London says that the rappers call it violent, but the violence he says comes from closing empty schools?

    I thought violence comes from the people in Chicago, which is why Mr. London can’t do his homework.

  • Saranne

    Does Malcolm have any of his poetry in print? I would like to read more!

    • georgepotts

      Book publishers are controlled by the cultural elite. They want to oppress him and keep his message from the world.

      • LJ

        Are you trolling just to troll? Or do you have something relevant to say?

        • Saranne

          Thank you! I was hoping for a legitimate answer, rather than troll-speak.

        • georgepotts

          He doesn’t have a book on Amazon yet.

          He is definitely a talented writer. I’d like him to write the truth instead of what he thinks people want to hear.

  • reid rhodes

    These are the episodes that give me hope. Well done Malcolm.

  • georgepotts

    He has no message for the mother who just called in.

  • Anna Bean

    I am a high school teacher in a charter school located in a small city with a lot of poverty. Do you know of any passionate spoken word poets who have subject matter about being white, urban, and impoverished? I know they will like your poetry but sometimes they partially dismiss the “race” factor of African-American and Latino/a poets.

    • georgepotts

      This poetry doesn’t inspire hope. It inspires living in victim-hood and wait for the school to be rebuilt by rich corporations.

      • The poster formerly known as t

        I don’t think you even heard the program. If you did, you’d realize he’s not expecting capitalists or big government to fix anything. According to him, capitalists and big government profit off the problems and help perpetuate them.
        When he said that he reminded me of what someone said’
        America has no idea of what to do with its ex-slave population. ‘ It had no intention of putting them to work because America has plenty of starving people from overpopulated countries to choose from to do its grunt work.

    • georgepotts

      Watch ‘Stand and Deliver’

    • georgepotts

      Read Freakonmics, which has a good story of how teacher incentives in Chicago encouraged cheating by teachers and was caught by the authors.

  • georgepotts
  • georgepotts

    I’m confused. Is Chicago a place to be in fear from criminals? Or is it a area that just needs a hug?

    • TyroneJ

      Chicago is a place that has not had effective leadership in decades. That is why, in contrast with New York City, it has an abysmal track record by every measure. Leadership requires doing what is necessary even in the face of unpopularity. An example is NYC’s “stop & frisk”, which is/was unpopular but had the desired effect of making it very risky to be walking around carrying firearms. Ron Emanuel, like Obama, had zero executive experience (sole & final decision maker experience) prior to his present job, and so never developed any real leadership skills. And in both cases, the results they have produced in their present positions underscores this, as does their excuses when held to account.

      • georgepotts

        The mayor of Chicago was the Chief of Staff for Barack Obama. Did he fail or are the people of Chicago failing?

      • georgepotts

        So, it is the old Democratic excuse. We try to fight for the little guy.

        If anything goes wrong, it is not because we are corrupt (because we are). We are either stupid or incompetent.

      • Human2013

        Chicago reminds me a lot of Baltimore. I’m not sure what happened to these cities. As a native of Boston, I know we have our problems, but nothing like this. I’ve always held our leadership in MA in high regard and only wish these cities had the same.

  • Anna Bean

    Disqus, your community comment monitoring was not happening in real-time during this important show: http://goo.gl/M2jEvh with Malcolm London. No discussion about the young man’s work was possible. He was silenced much in the way his poetry describes. If ON POINT is paying for your service, they did not receive their money’s worth in this instant.

    • georgepotts

      He does not have a lot of poetry. He has a couple of 2-3 minute rants. That works for TED, radio, etc.

      He has a talent for ideas and the music of language, but he still needs development. He is an exceptional young poet who doesn’t have a lot of material yet.

    • georgepotts

      Anna, your post belongs in the Hall of Fame of “passive-aggressive.” statements.

    • georgepotts

      Why didn’t Tom Ashbrook ask about Mr. London’s role at Northwestern Bluhm Legal Clinic?

  • Annabelle Pettyjohn

    Prior to the 1960′s the black youth were socialized. The de-socialization of black youths has created this criminal jungle. Their are 10 million white youths living in poverty and they do not terrorize cities the way black youths do. No one gives a darn about poor whites.

    • Human2013

      I agree, but the media like to highlight woes of blacks and thus, they get all the attention.

      • The poster formerly known as t

        There’s quite a bit of a difference between poor whites and poor blacks. Poor whites don’t see themselves as victims, except for the bigoted ones. Poor whites tend to have better social networks than blacks and tend to be more likely to be accepted into blue collar union apprenticeships because of their stronger social networks. Lastly, aside from the naval-gazing that come from the coastal dwellers, poor white have a higher social status than poor non-whites, at least that’s my perception. They are not being profiled and no one sees their problems as an epidemic. No one calls them animals.

  • Annabelle Pettyjohn

    I enjoyed this interview. You could take “black” out and replace it with “poor white youths living in poverty” and it would be truer. No one cares about white poverty. Before the 1960′s the black youth were socialized. Now the de-socialization of black behavior has terrorized many cities.

  • Coastghost

    Anyone who heard BOTH this show and the program from some weeks back with Alain de Botton will have heard two dissimilar searching interviews conducted by the same interviewer.
    A pity today’s interview did not explore the subject with the analytic rigor displayed earlier. Far too many lacunae were left here, and even London’s good lines were not strong enough to overcome the gaps in whatever argument he never got around to making.
    Someone could argue with whatever plausibility that today’s exercise amounted to rank flattery or unseemly condescension.

    • georgepotts

      When you have the correct view of the world, you are not challenged. Your ideas and words are allowed to fester like the Malthusian catastrophe you are creating.

  • Human2013

    At 20, this kid amazing. So observant, discerning and thoughtful.

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  • georgepotts

    https://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=Ah_ay1zV..q_.nWtVw_HI.mbvZx4?p=looting+trayvon&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&fr=yfp-t-901

  • georgepotts
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