STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

"Flint," a piece by two young poets from, yes, Flint

Sarah Alvarez

At the beginning of our recent special on violence we did something we've never done before. 

Usually we begin those shows with music signaling that what you're about to hear is a State of Opportunity production, and then you hear a familiar voice, usually Jennifer White's.  That changed when we asked Raise It Up!, an award winning arts organization in Flint, if the young artists they work with would like to contribute a poem for the show. 

JaCquell Price and Yazmen Brown wrote a piece we thought was so perfect, we opened the show with it. Price and Brown call this piece "Flint." The words are below but really, there's nothing like hearing it. 


Nowadays, we walk these streets like zombies

Wearing dead faces on t-shirts like jerseys

This year 32 teenagers have been killed 

And James was number 5.

Young blood.

But these tears are getting old,

They don’t even cry anymore.

Just hope the dead can make it to Heaven alive.

Thought they said you couldn’t die in Hell?

They’ve never been to Flint. 

We play tag with shanks.

Double dutch between bullets

Monopolize the streets.

So we hide and seek through hustles.

Freeze at barrels and lose at life.


Another t-shirt


Another number


Another tear drop from the sky

Cause all that seems to cry around here is the Earth

Hurt that we pollute her womb with tombs. 

Too bad you can’t recycle souls.

Cause James could’ve used another chance.

Take a trip down the back alleys of memories when the streets 

Were paved with fresh brick

Instead of people selling it.

When children’s games were just games,

When tag was just tag,

When we could hop scotch on anyone’s block and not get shot.

When choosing a favorite color wasn’t choosing a lifestyle.

When our biggest worry was catching up to the ice cream man,

Not living through this neighborhood.

It’s killing us,

Hoping the death of our failure revives its success,

But we give birth just in time 

For us to kill our mothers,



And brothers.

So the cycle starts again.

And again, and again.

Same game new target, same experience old tears.

See it’s because of the cycle

That I will never hear my brother’s voice again.

Gun aimed and fired,

Gun aimed and fired,

Until the sound of a bullet and a cracked skull rained the night,

Almost as storming as the blood pouring

From the back of his head.

This is Flint.

He was James.

This is how he lived,

This is how he died.


Another bullet


Another number


Another sad tweet, 

Another empty seat at family functions

The cycle took my brother from me.

Leaving behind abstract memories,

But see we have become immune to these stories.

As if our emotions have developed antibodies

Towards death.

We don’t cry at funerals anymore. 

Just hope the dead can make it to Heaven, alive.