When Hope Comes Back: A Poem for the 99%

Well, that was fun. Powerful. And #Occupytastic.

Last night, I was out on Sproul Plaza at UC-Berkeley, with over 10,000 people reclaiming the space for OccupyCal. I was there to receive the Mario Savio Young Activist Award, which had been scheduled for the same night across the plaza inside Pauley Ballroom. But with thousands of people outside demanding free speech and equal education on the very same steps that Mario Savio had once stood himself, the two events were beautifully combined, and I was able to give my poem outside with the people, right where it belonged.

Here’s some very rough video of the piece, along with the full text below. Long live Occupy!


When Hope Comes Back
(A Poem for the 99%)

when Hope comes back
he will be more than a campaign slogan
and a face on a poster faded red, white, and blue
he will not come from a presidential palace
bought and paid for like a Citibank stock option villa
he will put not forget to put on his walking shoes
and join the picket lines in New York
the bread lines in Baltimore
to shake the calloused hands
of everyone walking by

when Hope comes back
he might be named Barack
but he won’t be named Obama

when Hope comes back
he will be a Black Panther baby
who speaks Spanglish
and cooks Korean tacos
and does 180 sun salutations
to the soundtrack of Zion I
– yes, Hope is hella Bay

when Hope comes back
he will be a UFW farmworker
who loves his fields and his flag
more than he hates his foreman
he will be a runaway foster child
who forgives his parents
he will be an Iraq war veteran
who returns to protest in Oakland again
without tear gas canisters to his head

when Hope comes back
he will come back from the future
in a DeLorean like Michael J. Fox
and show us all the things we’d won
like people swimming across the Rio Grande
for fun rather than survival
and the only student debt being to our livers
rather than to our banks
and then Michael J would take us
for a ride back to the past
and show us this is not our first occupation
Flint, sit-down strikers in ’36
Alcatraz, American Indian Movement in ’69
Sproul Plaza, Free Speech Movement in ’64
and every semester since then that was worth a damn
and reminded Berkeley what it means
to be called Berkeley

when Hope comes back
he will be one of my students
East Asia meets East Oakland
brilliantly cross-continental
even though he hates the ocean
speaks with the wisdom of Buddha and Mac Dre
really, he is my teacher
and I think he knows it
and we’re both ok with that

when Hope comes back
he will actually be a she
because hey, that’s who actually gets shit done
she will be a librarian by day, a DJ by night,
an Occupy activist in between
she will be thick hair and thick hips
and if you try to touch either one
you’ll get a thick hand to the face
when Hope comes back
she’ll show us to burn down the banks in our
hearts and love without lust or profit or restraining orders

when Hope comes back
she will be an OPD cop,
then NYPD, then UCPD,
refusing to follow orders
putting down their riot gear
and picking up a picket sign
cuz when the cops join the 99% they actually belong to
that’s when the banks will have nowhere to hide

when Hope comes back
she will be a midwife
in tune with the moon and the womb
an ancient healer who knows every herb in the redwoods
ready to help us birth a new world
one without bombs or borders or Michelle Bachman
a planet of peoples free to honor the earth
and each other like the God
in whose image we’re still trying to evolve into

when Hope comes back
she will be here
right here, right now
on the streets and plazas and parks
of New York and DC
Milwaukee and Austin
Portland and Nashville
London and Manila and Cairo
San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, CA
with the people and the hashtags
setting up her tent in the morning
paintings banners in the afternoon
attending ridicously long meetings in the evening
shutting down the port of Oakland
and reminding us all that yes,
Hope still lives here in America
she has always lived here with us

and now she is back before our eyes
marching head high, fist higher
and whispering to the millions amongst her,
“Thank you.
Thank you.
You’re bringing me back.
Take my hand,
feel my pulse joined with yours.
Trust my taste on your tongue,
my strength in your lungs,
and let’s see how far we can go