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Race, rhyme and rumor

A poem published 22 years ago touched off, or perhaps unearthed, racial tensions at Plant City High School last week.

The poem was read by a black student during a Black History Month assembly Feb. 18. Some white students booed at the last line.

Coincidentally, there was a terrible traffic accident near the school the same day. It was unrelated. But some people saw the police cars near campus, heard of the racial tensions and tried to put two and two together. A rumor was born that police had been called out to a race riot at Plant City High.

Nothing like that happened. There were no riots. Students went to class as usual, though a few parents who heard the rumor asked for their children to go home early.

"Tension was high," said Plant City High School principal William Maxwell. "The rumors got out of hand, but I'd be lying to tell you that we didn't have some hard feelings.

"I guess I thought we were farther along in racial harmony these days. Maybe not. Maybe we need more education. We need to work at it more."


One Thousand Nine-Hundred & Sixty-Eight Winters...

By: Jackie Earley

From My Black Me: A Beginning Book of Black Poetry

Published by E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.

Got up this morning

Feeling good & Black

Thinking black thoughts

Did black things

Played all my black records

And minded my own black bidness!

Put on my best black clothes

Walked out my black door


Lord have Mercy!



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