“Ode to the Cameraman” by Alora Young

Alora Young joined us for Poets Respond Live on Sunday. Watch the full episode here.


Alora Young


This is an ode to the cameraman

for the poet
and the pastor

and the speeches that redefine legacies.

It’s the lens that takes history and makes it art,
the art that makes wrong into revolution.

The gun the knee
we can never unsee       the bodies
of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.

—To Emmett Till

to all the faces painted on every memory.
We were wrong.
This revolution is live in living color.
We are dying in HD.
I had a dream that our lives went viral
and that Twitter somehow set us free.

The last four years
have been etched into the flesh of progress
B u r n i n g

I can’t help but reminisce
about all the moments that Martin lost—
you see martyrs,
those who die for a cause,
we don’t often think about their families.

His legacy is infinite,
but I’m sure Bernice must just miss her daddy.

Every black man who dies in the street
lies on top of the last
four hundred years of combat.
Call me a hysteric
or a heretic,
but all I know is I want my God back. My God.
Not the one who stands
hand and hand with MAGA malice,
who they say wants us to stop counting ballots
to keep this new age toupeed Nero in an all white palace.

The only way out of the belly of this beast
Is       Through.

We keep marching towards a freedom, but freedom’s a concept
… I don’t get where we’re marching to.

This is an ode to the men who know how to win a war,

to the men who take martyrs and make movements human—
it’s funny how 2020 looks just like 1965.
I wonder what wisdom Martin would give me if he were still alive,
if peace is still the best option,
if we are headed towards his vision,
… are we going fast enough to stop them?

This war is televised.

These cameras have put the truth before our nation’s eyes.
My father taught me that God lies in the darkness as well.

The plans of a holy man are often impossible for even him to find.
We can never know the future God has woven

inside of Martin’s mind,
but as we wander blind
toward tomorrow
know that there is more in heaven than the roadmap.

This is not a poem, it’s a playbook.
It’s laid out in 24 frames—look:
the same stage has made the difference on every battlefield,
because the camera I swear is the weapon victors wield.

These men have made God a tool of their war—
I ask you to tell me was he not used as such before?
It’s more than shooting or violence—
progress moves in a silence—
that makes it so we can’t shake the feeling that change is made to come.
In this non-poem lies the markers on our map to freedom,
because I’ve shown you where we’ve come from.

Martin made change not because he was made changed,
but because the same stage holds the ghost
of all its past plays,
seeing the future is much the same as seeing the past,
my God
has made the answers,
long before we’ve asked.

The camera is the difference between
Armies of Radicals and Protests Sabbaticals
Whether X’s are Kisses
^ or Graves
Whether we were kings
^or slaves
Martin’s method of protest
made true progress because the script was just too hard to flip.
In God, he found the processes he made sure that we didn’t slip.

Peaceful seats at counter sides
do no wrong in cameras’ eyes

that’s why he changed so many minds:
he changed a narrative.

The first mission of Trump’s modern fascism
is to lose the “fake news”
he likes multi-takes with camera crews
making merch for propaganda crews
so the people will abandon who
actually has their best interest at heart.

I dare to say a narrative is what split this country apart.

When you want to change the world,
first, change a child’s mind.
Martin preached a life in words that had a joy like children find.
When you start on this next battle call a cameraman
because war is in
the people’s minds.

Kingdoms rise and fall, but the camera sees it all.
Memories live past the trials that decide the truth of abuses,
and the phantoms that live in the call.

The first time you see change
I promise
is never the beginning.
Because for eras before the prophets of yore
had minds that had long been spinning.

God gifts the words for the battle-winning narrative.
Prophets just sing along.
That’s why in the streets people scream
I have a dream
that’s Gods music—
we’re just singing along.
We have our actors and our cameramen,
we have God’s script and our stage
on the lights

send the artists and wrights
and hope our revolution makes
the Front Page.

from Poets Respond
January 26, 2021


Alora Young: “With the combination of the Martin Luther King holiday and the inauguration, last week has been monumental for our country. We have survived a year of division, we have survived a year of revolution, and when I saw the photographs in this NPR article, I realized something. We aren’t fighting a war with fist anymore. We are fighting a war with cameras. We are fighting a war with art. And I feel that now we understand this we can win the struggle for a kinder world.” (web)

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