Geoffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada was the keynote speak­er recent­ly at a ben­e­fit lun­cheon for Kansas City Freedom Schools, “Saving Kansas City’s Sixth Child – a Recommitment to Reaching and Teaching the Children Left Behind.” A nation­al­ly known advo­cate for edu­ca­tion reform, Mr. Canada is founder of The Harlem Children’s Zone. He is also a poet whose poems par­tic­u­lar­ly speak to us in Kansas City to the respon­si­bil­i­ty of each of us to all of our chil­dren.


Heard the news yes­ter­day,
And today, moth­ers cried.
Our chil­dren by tens of thou­sands
Have died.
And for what?

What will stop this mad­ness?
The eter­nal sad­ness
Of small lit­tle cas­kets
Filled with dreams nev­er had.
Are we mad?

We need a small army of love.
And no thanks:
We don’t need any rifles,
No guns, and no tanks.
Just love, and help from above.

Our army will be small,
Diverse, and unique.
Little sol­diers in braids,
And some with sneak­ered feet.
All march­ing for peace,
And an end to the war,
That has claimed lit­tle sol­diers
As they open their doors
And romp in play­grounds.
Can we stand any­more?

We need a small army of Love.
Start today.
Sentries on guard,
Keeping dan­ger away.
While our young go to school
And play on our streets,
A small army of us
Standing guard while they sleep.
Can it be done?

And the love of our army
Will always sus­tain us.
When oth­ers dis­dain us with laughs,
Our love keeps us fight­ing.
Yeah, we’re fight­ing fools.

So I know what’s been whis­pered
and what some said aloud.
“Those fools with their pipe dreams,
Their heads in the clouds.”

But when you love all the chil­dren,
There’s noth­ing to do,
But start a small army of Love,
Me and You.

February 2007

The girl’s moth­er said, “Don’t blame me.
Her father left when she was three.
I know she don’t know her ABCs, her 1,2,3s,
But I am poor and work hard you see.”
You know the sto­ry, it’s don’t blame me.

The teacher shook her head and said,
“Don’t blame me, I know it’s sad.
He’s ten, but if the truth be told,
He reads like he was six years old.
And math, don’t ask.
It’s sad you see.
Wish I could do more, but it’s after three.
Blame the mom, blame soci­ety, blame the sys­tem.
Just don’t blame me.”

The judge was angry, his expres­sion cold.
He scowled and said, “Son you’ve been told.
Break the law again and you’ll do time.
You’ve robbed with a gun.
Have you lost your mind?”
The young man opened his mouth to beg.
“Save your breath,” he heard instead.
“Your dad­dy left when you were two.
Your mom­ma didn’t take care of you.
Your school pre­pared you for this fall.
Can’t read, can’t write, can’t spell at all.
But you did the crime for all to see.
You’re going to jail, son.
Don’t blame me.”

If there is a God or a per­son supreme,
A final reck­on­ing, for the kind and the mean,
And judg­ment is ren­dered on who passed the buck,
Who blamed the vic­tim or proud­ly stood up,
You’ll say to the world, “While I couldn’t save all,
I did not let these chil­dren fall.
By the thou­sands I helped all I could see.
No excus­es, I took full respon­si­bil­i­ty.
No mat­ter if they were black or white,
Were cursed, ignored, were wrong or right,
Were shunned, pre-judged, were short or tall,
I did my best to save them all.”
And I will bear wit­ness for eter­ni­ty
That you can state proud­ly,
“Don’t blame me.”

February 14, 1996

Maybe before we didn’t know,
That Corey is afraid to go
To school, the store, to roller skate.
He cries a lot for a boy of eight.
But now we know each day its true
That oth­er girls and boys cry too.
They cry for us to lend a hand.
Time for us to take a stand.

And lit­tle Maria’s win­dow screens
Keeps out flies and oth­er things.
But she knows to duck her head,
When she prays each night ‘fore bed.
Because in the win­dow comes some things
That shat­ter lit­tle chil­dren-dreams.
For some, the hour­glass is out of sand.
Time for us to take a stand.

And Charlie’s deep­est, secret wish­es,
Is some­one to smoth­er him with kiss­es
And squeeze and hug him tight, so tight,
While he pre­tends to put up a fight.
Or at least some­one to be at home,
Who miss­es him, he’s so alone.
Who allowed this child-for­sak­en land?
Look in the mir­ror and take a stand.

And on the Sabbath, when we pray,
To our God we often say,
“Oh Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham,
I come to bet­ter under­stand,
How to learn to love and give,
And live the life you taught to live.”
In faith we must join hand in hand.
Suffer the chil­dren? Take the stand!

And tonight, some child will go to bed,
No food, no place to lay their head.
No hand to hold, no lap to sit,
To give slob­bery kiss­es, from slob­bery lips.
So you and I we must suc­ceed
In this cru­sade, this holy deed,
To say to the chil­dren in this land:
Have hope. We’re here. We take a stand!

Share →

One Response to Poems by Geoffrey Canada

  1. Mary says:

    I attend­ed a con­fer­ence in the 90’s and heard a poem enti­tled The Train. All par­tic­i­pants were giv­en a copy of the poem and I shared it with sev­er­al peo­ple and have now lost it. Any help locat­ing a copy would be appre­ci­at­ed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *