Poetry Friday — Belated edition; Meet Malcolm X. London

By Charlton Stanley

Recent events in the news make this young poet/storyteller/activist’s words even more meaningful. At the Louder Than a Bomb competition, teenager Malcolm London was the top individual performer for 2011, selected from over 700 competitors. His team Youmedia also won the team competition, a first for the LTAB competition.

Malcolm London was an 18-year-old Senior at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago when he made this video two years ago. He speaks of inequalities of the public school system when he says, “The educated aren’t necessarily the educated.”

He says, “My high school is Chicago, diverse and segregated on purpose. Social lines are barbed wire. Labels like regulars and honors resonate. I am in honors but go home with regular students who are soldiers in a territory that owns them. This is a training ground.”

More over the flip.

Malcolm has a part time job at the Young Chicago Authors, located in the Noble Square neighborhood. He says he spends about, “Five times that, because I love it and it’s important.” He travels to area schools to run poetry workshops with students. He also makes public appearances, giving talk at a wide variety of venues, ranging from high school classes to TED Talks. He says it is not for money He does it because it needs to be done.

Malcolm London also works at Northwest Side Mariano’s grocery store. Few customers who see him handing out food samples realize the young man with the bright smile has been compared favorably with some of Illinois’ greatest writers, including Carl Sandberg, Gil Scott-Heron, and Gwendolyn Brooks.

His customers probably have no idea this young man with the food samples is a close friend of actor Matt Damon. London and Damon first met at an event called, “Let the People Speak Live!,” at Metro. This is part of a project called “Voices of a People’s History of the United States,” based on the work of historian Howard Zinn. Let “The People Speak Live!” seeks to further history education and civic engagement through public readings of primary-source materials.

This is called, “Wake Up Call.”

You can find more of his videos on his web page malcolmlondon.com

Below are links to a few news stories about Malcolm London:

CBS News with Dean Reynolds

Chicago Tribune article by Dawn Turner Trice

Huffington Post

About Chuck Stanley

Dr. Charlton (Chuck) Stanley is a board certified forensic psychologist, with interests in aviation psychology, peace officer selection and training, ethics and communication skills.
This entry was posted in Education, Education Policy, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Poetry Friday — Belated edition; Meet Malcolm X. London

  1. Mike Spindell says:

    I feel privileged that you’ve made me aware of the art of this brilliant young man. His two poems do more to explore the planned hopelessness of Black life in America than all of what I’ve written on the subject thus far. He exposes the hypocrisy behind the “American Dream” held as a unattainable standard for most Black youth in this still segregated country.

  2. RTC says:

    Wow, this kid really nails it.

    I’m particularly impressed with his ability to combine traditional poetic rhythm with modern “rap”-style rhythm. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone do that before. One of the things I dislike about the poetry slams is that everyone sounds like rap artists rapping a capella

  3. pete says:

    when our board of education is driven by lawyers and businessmen,
    only one teacher sit on that board
    now tell me
    what does that teach you

  4. This YouTube video was posted about an hour ago. Malcolm London speaking at Daley Plaza in Chicago on Thursday. He takes on the meme of “black on black” crime by pointing out that most crime is “white on white,” but it is never expressed that way.

  5. po says:

    Thanks, Chuck. Inspiring! Inspiring!

  6. Joy of Fishes says:

    Very impressive young man. Thank you, Chuck.

  7. Mike Spindell says:

    Malcolm London is a very impressive young man with the intelligence to cut to the heart of the issue of American racism. May he be safe in his life as his stature continues to grow, because the truth of his words represents a danger to our country’s racist status quo.

  8. DavidMS says:

    His words are both beautiful and challenging. Giving words to what he sees and experiences allow the rest of us to start to understand through someone ease’s eyes. My hope is I will be able to listen to and read more of Mr. London’s poetry and they will broaden my horizons as any good writing does.

  9. Thanks David.
    It appears we have a new literary genius. A young man with formidable intellect and a big heart, using words and language like a surgeon uses a scalpel.

  10. Elaine M. says:


    Thanks for introducing us to this talented young poet. Instead of weighing our children down with ever more high stakes testing in school, we should be providing them with more outlets for their creative talents.

    I just read the following article in the latest issue of School Library Journal:

    The Author, the Poet, and the Librarian
    By G. Neri, Kimberly DeFusco, and Raequon P.

    In 2009, Kim DeFusco, the media specialist at Young Middle Magnet school here in Tampa, invited me to come to her school to give a talk. She told me about one particular student, Raequon, who loved my first book, Chess Rumble (Lee & Low, 2007), a free-verse graphic novella about a troubled boy whose life is turned around by the game of chess. Raequon was dying to meet me. But like many kids in his situation, come the day of my visit, he was not to be found.

    “He’s been suspended,” Kim said, as if it were a common occurrence. It was. She was such a believer in this kid, though, that she kept sending me updates about him because my books seemed to be having such an impact on his life.

    I’ve been lucky to hear stories like this from librarians and teachers all over the country. Many times, I’ve even seen first-hand my books help turn nonreaders into readers. Literally. I’ve seen boys in the back of the room who’ve never read a book in their lives pick up one of mine (usually illustrated by the bold art of Jesse Watson or Randy DuBurke), and by the end of the day, I hear from the librarian something like, “Remember that disruptive kid in the back? He just finished your book.”

    That kind of reaction means a lot to me. It happened to me back when I was one of those kids in fifth grade. I was a visual person who loved to draw, but once pictures were no longer part of the books I was seeing, text became a wall I could not overcome.

    That is, until my teacher put The Phantom Tollbooth (Random, 1961) in my hands, and my whole idea of what a book was went out the window. It was a revelation. That teacher had recognized who I was and matched me with a book that would speak to me. That was the start of a long, powerful journey into reading, and eventually, writing.

  11. James Knauer says:

    So inspiring to see young people want to continue the verse. So necessary, and he is so talented. He has huge potential.

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