What's Going On? Caitlin Clark's powerful poem about Ferguson

One month ago, Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri. That an unarmed black teenager was killed by a police officer charged to keep the peace is a tragedy. That tanks and tear gas were used to quell protests against the shooting in the democratic United States of America is a travesty.

Listening to radio and TV reports, I felt as though I was living through the civil rights movement of the 60's. The incident, and subsequent suppression of citizens' and journalists' rights, were dismaying. Then I heard Caitlin Clark recite her powerful poem about the crisis. It moved me to tears over breakfast.

Listen to Caitlin Clark recite her poem to Marvin Gaye's civil rights anthem, What's Going On

As Caitlin so eloquently said, let's imagine ourselves to be somewhere else - somewhere where people are judged by the content of their characters rather than the colour of their skin. Somewhere where confrontations are resolved by diffusing violence, rather than condoning state violence. Somewhere where white police officers don't feel so threatened by blacks that they kill two of them every week. Somewhere where the idea of citizens owning guns doesn't even enter our imaginations.

As a poet and blogger, I deeply empathise with Caitlin's frustration that the only weapon she wields against injustice is a pen. Compared to pistols and tanks, it feels very powerless indeed. But we must continue hoping that history will prove that the pen, the spoken word, the rallying cries in peace marches, the courage to stand up to tanks armed only with placards will prevail over those who fight against peace with weapons.

It is a travesty that 50 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., blacks still are fighting for the right to life in the USA. It is a travesty that in 2014, adolescent girls like Malala Yousafzai have to risk their lives to go to school in Pakistan. But if those on the front lines are willing to put their lives on the line, the least we can do is put our principles into lines, or online, or on stage, on in conversations. Michael Brown is counting on us to.