“He has the right to an education, but no longer at this school”,

They spoke through me,

As if my body were a permeable wall between them and my mother.

She sat,

Tongue tied, chained to the chair, forced to look ahead, stay silent and wait for permission to leave.

It felt all too familiar to me.

“He has the right to an education”,

Their words echoed,

And it’s funny, because I believed them.

I have the right to learn,

But only what is taught.

I’m a circle in a square classroom,

Asking too much,

Never doing enough,

Too visible to be contained,

Too different for classrooms to honour me, just as I am.

“Do you want to learn?”

Is this a trick question?

How about asking me if I have dreams?

I’m not sure I’ll answer though,

I’ve become far too comfortable with the right to remain silent.

I keep my dreams hidden,

Like fireflies in my stomach that keep my fears at bay.

I am afraid you will ask me a question, that you know the answer to,

I am afraid that one day you will hear it.

“What is in your bag?” she asks

Telling me “don’t come in here with weapons, like they did”.

I hold my books up, aim them at her and tell her, “these are the only weapons I need”

She doesn’t think it’s funny.

I can’t outsmart her,

My test scores almost match the number of times she’s sent me to isolation,

I’ve started collecting her words to wallpaper this prison cell

Writing myself into the walls I’ve been written off.

Maybe if I’m etched in its skin, the school will have no choice but to keep me.

Or at least keep my scars so I no longer have to carry them.

Every child matters, but to who?

‘Inclusion matters’ ‘diversity matters’ but to who?

Convincing bumper stickers, with no room for imagination

Slogans used on political platforms to get the voters on side

Your telling me education is important, like I don’t know that shit.

Like my mother didn’t work three jobs and average two hours of sleep a night to pay for tutors so I would know that shit,

Difference is education is freedom, school is anything but,

I cannot know what it is like to matter here,

Because my being, is the problem.

I do not know what my voice sounds like.

Because I cannot hear or see me in these walls.

The first time I read something from a Black writer, was last week,

John Agard,

The wind in my chest stood up

It had been 10 years of textbooks, filled with everything but me

And for the first time, my body knew a world that could hold it.

I thought I had no voice because you muted me.

And the surest way to silence a voice, is to treat it as if none had come before.

But I found myself in his words,

Lost myself in its truth,

Cradled each verse as if it were a prayer from my ancestors,

Telling me about mi history.

Telling me what my skin has seen.

I was lonely in your classroom, did you ever consider that?

That I craved to be seen, as more than a manifestation of your fears.

I wanted to learn,

If you were willing to teach.

But you were just trigger happy with those sanctions,

And you never missed your shot.

Telling me everyday, that I have the right to learn,

Just not here.

Recording available here: