Spotlight on rising senior, Jamal Woods


When he is not studying, or practicing for three seasons of sports, Jamal enjoys writing the occasional poem – he has written thirty, so far.  A recent spring break trip put a halt to all of that as he and his Riverdale Jazz Ensemble, lead by Jason Curry, toured London! The tour stops included a few schools and an actual jazz club.

RIISE thanks Jamal Woods, a rising senior at Riverdale Country School for taking a moment to share life as an independent school student…

RIISE: When did you realize you had a love for poetry?

JW: I wouldn’t say that I absolutely love poetry. I do appreciate it as an excellent art form and I greatly enjoy using it to express my thought. I would have to say that I started to actually use poetry as a form of self expression at around the end of last year. I had just finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me and felt a sudden urge to express my thoughts of the book in the form of my first poem, Dreamers

RIISE: Did writing your first poem come naturally to you?

JW: Writing Dreamers came extremely natural as many of the lines in the poem originated from sentences I had thought of while reading Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. After reading the book it had only been about an hour before I had written the first 4 lines to the poem:

They sit up on the valley
 Leave the mountain for us
 Built the dream together
 But throw us under the bus

The overall poem took about an hour and a half to complete over the spread of 2 days.

RIISE: Have you performed your poetry publicly yet? If so, how
does it feel?

JW: Surprising at it may seem, I have never verbally spoken any of my poems. I would like to share 1 or 2 of them at the next RCS poetry slam and I am hoping to share one at this year’s DAIS conference. Though public speaking isn’t my strong suit, I’m sure that I’ll be fine once I get used to speaking to an audience.

RIISE: Does your poetry offer a particular message? In other words, what is your poetry about?

JW: “What is my poetry about?” Is often a question I find myself asking as well. Honestly, I feel as if all my poems are written by multiple people, with different views on the world around them. Sometimes the message is clear, other times it’s obscure. But the message usually originates from whatever ideas happen to be in my head at the time I start writing. There have actually been times where I change a poem completely simply because I started it one day with one idea, and ended it another with a completely different mindset.

Keep writing poetry, Jamal!

by Jamal Woods

They sit up on the mountain
Leave the valley for us
Built the dream together but
Throw us under the bus
Now they want us to believe
That what they’ve done is just
They’re blinded by the dream
Being brainwashed by lust
The love of having power
To believe themselves white
They let their dream prosper
But they block out the fight
They want us all to shine
Yet keep killing our light
And they know this country’s built
Off of our ancestors might
Slavery made us into currency
And let it pay the price
The price to live in America
Only bodies will suffice
But not the body of a dreamer
Not a body oh so nice
But when it comes to our black bodies
Just simply roll the dice
It’s their habit to forget
It’s a must have for the dream
They forget who they are
Forget we are on the same team
Forget that they are still human
Cause it would ruin their scheme
Cause the dream is not just being rich
It’s protecting your regime


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