tell me your names, tell me your bashful names, and I will testify
Writes Lucille Clifton in her poem “at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, South Carolina, 1989.”
In this poem the author visits an old plantation, and as she is on this tour, she realizes that the tour guide never mentions the slaves, as in their existence, their impact, or the work that they did for the plantation. In fact, only 10 slaves were listed in the inventory and there were only men on the list. I reflect on this poem and think about all of those voices and lives that were lost to history. There are scary parallels of that same situation today. Black voices are lost, Black women's voices are silenced, and Black youth’s voices are discarded. Lucille Clifton’s words inspire me to shape my own life to take the position of a megaphone. I ask myself How can I amplify silenced voices? How can I be a megaphone for youth? How can I use my voice to amplify the names of the forgotten, the issues of the present, and the solutions for the future?
Lucille Clifton impacted my decision to serve in AmeriCorps as a VISTA member with the Detroit Police Athletic League because she used her platform as a poet to advocate for Black people, women, and social justice issues. Her legacy inspires me to use my own voice through poetry for activism and she helped me to realize the power of my own voice. Through poetry I tell the stories of people who are silenced and forgotten to testify on their behalf and to celebrate them. With my voice, I connect with youth in my community through my service, instilling confidence in their own voice. I serve them as a resource for academic, athletic, and personal growth, while also serving as their support system in times where they feel like their voice is being silenced. In my role, I specifically recruit, connect, and train volunteers that dedicate their time and talents to help the league run like a well-oiled machine.
I was once a Detroit PAL kid. It has been my honor and a beautiful coincidence to return and serve. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to do for others what the program did for me: expose them to amazing opportunities, resources, and experiences that will help shape them to be great in every area of their lives.
I will continue to serve after AmeriCorps. I will provide platforms for youth voices. And, I will strive to provide services for youth as a mental health consultant, to help expand their knowledge of their mental health, how to nurture their mental and physical health, and how to create their own multi-dimensional story on who they want to be in life.
I believe that our youth today have so much untapped potential. Programs like Detroit PAL help give life to that potential.
Kira Borum is an AmeriCorps VISTA Member finishing her year of service with the Detroit Police Athletic League as a Sports and Resource Volunteer Coordinator. She earned her BASc in psychology and creative writing and BS in psychology from Central Michigan University.