Sometimes it takes the wisdom of a child to shine a light on racism and inequalities. Jazlyn Elmore is 10 years old, going on 50, and a fifth grader at G.E. Massey Elementary School. She plans to be the president and a poet when she grows up. Jazlyn wrote her first poem when she was in third grade.
“I used to have a really good friend and she said that I couldn’t go to her birthday party because of the color of my skin and that made me upset,” she said. “I told my mom and she told me to write about it.”
To deal with her hurt, Jazlyn picked up pencil and paper and wrote her first poem, “Momma, Why They Mad?”
“Momma, Why They Mad?
My name is Jazlyn Lanise and I'm only eight, and all I want to know is why the world is filled with hate.
But the real question of the hour is mama why are they mad?
Is it because my hair ‘lil nappy does that make y’all unhappy.
Is it because skin color is like no other or is it because name a little strange.
Well, those things I cannot change.
Yeah my eyebrows a ‘lil thick, I bet that makes you sick
But… I still wanna know... mama why they mad?
Our ancestors were the ones who were used and abused.
Dr. King fought for peace which ultimately led to his decease.
They made a big fuss cause Rosa sat on the bus.
Well, I guess I'll never know why they really mad, which kind of makes me sad.
Were supposed to love one another….
sister, friend, or mother
And again, and again I'll ask... mama why they mad?”
Jazlyn writes approximately two poems a month because it helps her express her feelings on paper. Two years after she put it on paper, she can still recite “Momma, Why They Mad?” word for word. Her expressiveness while she recites brings to mind another now famous Black poet, Amanda Gorman. One day, those that she’s touched here in Lincolnton may be able to say that they knew her back when she was an elementary, middle or high school student.
Of course, she’s a good reader and said that when she reads, “it plays pictures in my head.” Math is not her favorite subject. In addition to poetry, she writes stories for her little brothers and reads them to help them fall asleep. It’s no question that Jazlyn is a proponent of reading.
A child of a single mother, when her mother’s then boyfriend (who “used to lie to her a lot”) broke up with her and left her mother to pay all the bills, Jazlyn wrote another poem, “Because of You.”
“Because of You
Does it make you feel like a man when you lie?
‘Cause all I ever saw was you make my momma cry.
She gave and she gave and you took and you took.
It kind of reminds me of an old dirty crook.
You lost concentration because you needed validation and couldn’t stop the anticipation.
That my friends, is an abomination.
I ask you again, does it make you feel like a man when you lie?
Because you’re going to have to answer to God when you die.”
Whenever anything happens in Jazlyn’s life, she likes to write about it. She keeps a daily journal in addition to writing poetry.
“The thing that’s remarkable about Jazlyn is that not only is she smart and a wonderful student, she’s also kind and helpful to her fellow classmates,” Leigh Davis, Jazlyn’s science and social studies teacher said. “I’ve witnessed her in my class on many occasions stopping to help classmates when they needed help and celebrating things when they’ve overcome their struggles. She has a sense of empathy for her classmates which I find is above and beyond her years as a fifth grader. I really appreciate that about her.”
Jazlyn will be going on to become a Wildcat at Lincolnton Middle School next year.
On morning announcements this past week, Jazlyn read this poem:
Your insecurities and downfalls are steppingstones into your future.
Fall down, get back up, and let God use ya!
It's time for a change - even though things may seem a little strange.
I refuse to be another black statistic, and I'm trying to make life realistic.
United we stand and divided we fall, but never forget …
that at first, we must crawl!”
Sarah Araya is proud to be Jazlyn’s reading teacher said that she knew she was special but had no idea she could write poetry like she does.
“Her assignments are always outstanding,” she said. “I had no idea she could write from her heart like this.”
Another one of Jazlyn’s poems addresses the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Do Black Lives Really Matter?
Say it loud I’m black and I'm proud hold up, hold up, hold up.
If we black and we proud why we killing one another.
Knock knock at the door got to tell another black mother.
Babies are dying and mamas are crying.
We pray for world peace, but we take the violence to the streets.
When will this stop were already being gunned down by racist cops.
So, if we black and we proud then let’s stop the madness cause in the end there’s going to be a whole lot of sadness.”
Jazlyn started a YouTube channel where she reads her poems. Search for “Jazlyn Elmore” to find it.