Twenty-two-year-old Marcellus Buckley has become known as Ferguson’s poet, using his spoken word to counter the mainstream narrative about the Ferguson uprising
JIHAN HAFIZ, PRODUCER: Twenty-two-year-old Marcellus Buckley is still a regular at the Ferguson protests. During the militarization of the St. Louis suburb in August, Marcellus rode his bike four miles north to the front lines. There he was determined to combat the violence with words.
MARCELLUS BUCKLEY, POET: We, the people of the United States, holds Congress to the words. They should do the same to the officers who are supposed to protect and serve. How can we put our trust in someone who is pushing us down when we are hurting? Instead of lending a hand, they call us monkeys like caged animals, only treating us the worst?
Taking in the pennies that I have, the dimes, the quarters, the dollars that people give me, handed out to me, and just collect the money, and I go and print them up and hand them out to everybody that I see.
HAFIZ: A common tactic: handing out his poetry to the police.
BUCKLEY (READING): To the police who really care, to the officers who protect and serve and do their job well, who believe that no matter your skin color, justice should prevail.
There are police officers were not ignorant, racist, or a bigot. They’re not like that. Not all of them are like that.
(READING) But know that the system is crooked, unjust, uncertain, and unfair. The people know that there are few of you, but we know you are here.
So for the ones that were like that, that did get my poetry, I did it for them too, because the simple fact is you’re going to hate me anyway, and I’m going to give you some words of kindness. So the police officer then was like, oh, I can’t read. You know, oh, you can’t read. Okay, so I’ll recite my poetry for you. How about that?
(READING) The bond of love we have for each other is something we commonly share. But some of your fellow comrades still possess this gift that is so beautiful peaceful and beautiful and so uniquely rare.
But it was so deep that other police officers listening, so they didn’t have no choice but to listen, or other police officers took it. And so it could actually weave out the police officers who actually are hateful.
(READING) Instead, their hatred for us is as toxic as a grenade shooting out of your tanks, flying in the air, hitting the ground, burning our skin and clothes, making us strip bare.
And I went to the next guy, who was a white officer, and he was like, thank you. You know, he was more vocal. I spoke back. Hey, how are you doing, man? I just want to give you a poem I wrote, man, ’cause I believe that all cops aren’t bad. And he was like, wow, man, I appreciate you.
(READING) We see you are there. We appreciate you greatly, and so through this poem we spread peace, love, and harmony for all humanity and let justice be fair. This is a message brought to you by the people from the people to the police who have hearts that really care.
HAFIZ: Have you ever been racially profiled?
BUCKLEY: Racially profiled? Plenty of times. I mean, when I first joined the military [incompr.] across a police officer. He pulled me over on my bike and wrote me a ticket, telling me I don’t have any lights and I don’t have a helmet on. It was, like, three $82 tickets. So it was like, you know, too much to be dealing with. They found my account card on me, so they say, “So you’re in the military, huh? Yeah, they’d let any monkey in nowadays.” And so how am I supposed to feel towards a police officer? You know what I’m saying? At the same time, that’s how a lot of my brothers and sisters are feeling that they never had experienced a good police officer in their life like I had. They haven’t. So all they know is ignorant police officers, corrupt police officers.
(READING) Singing, oh, we got what we deserve, a trainee wannabe with poison from the devil himself is only doing his work. A racist in a disguised uniform, you could see the hatred in their eyes as they shout racial slurs only when they think they’re not heard or when their actions aren’t seen. But when they are caught, they try to cover up everything.
HAFIZ: Marcellus got into poetry when he was a teenager dealing with life’s problems and its blessings through spoken word, eventually shaping his outlook on life.
BUCKLEY: (READING) Mom, you are much more than a father. You are a hard-working /ˈkɛnəri/ woman who nurtured her kids and still found ways to father. You cooked, cleaned, paid the bills. There was no need for a man to bother. You are my inspiration, my mother, my life coach and adviser. What I’m mad, no need for a dad, for you are much more than a father.
Everything’s just heartfelt. So everything comes from the heart. So that’s why I can relate to so many people. Even if I don’t have a great dad, I know what it feels like to have a great mom who was my mom and my dad.
I mean, just a way of expressing myself, having anger issues and knowing how to deal with my anger, and just a way to vent. It makes me feel good. It makes other people feel good. And that’s why I do it. It’s uplifting.
She’s younger than me. I’m the oldest.
HAFIZ: Marcellus comes from a big and close family, allowing him to leave every day, when the police violently cracked down on protesters, was hard to accept for his mother, Macaya.
MACAYA BUCKLEY, MOTHER OF MARCELLUS: I’ve always been worried about him going out there, but he’s always been like, Mom, I’m going to just ride the bus up there, I’m just going to walk, I’ll just go to the bus. And that’s the type of attitude he’s always had. He’s very determined to go out and show the world that you don’t have to be negative, in anger, and in rage to get your point across.
HAFIZ: Like many African-American parents with young boys, Marcellus fears for his two-year-old son, Zaire [spl?], when he grows up, the racism he will face, and how to deal with it along the way.
BUCKLEY: It isn’t after all this. This is going to be a movement for the rest of our life. Like, it’s going to be so powerful. Like, I mean, it’s changing so much already. I mean, it’s not just Michael Brown. It’s Trayvon Martin. There’s a million other people.
It just has to stop. We’ve been–it’s boiling over, reached the boiling point, where we’re just getting fed up with it, even–it’s not even just us that are getting–black people are getting fed up with it, white people are getting fed up with it.
BUCKLEY: Let’s ride.
BUCKLEY: I mean, I’ve met people from Baltimore, people that aren’t even reporters, that have hitchhiked rides to come down here to be peaceful, and still for a good cause and a good reason. So, I mean, that’s just powerful in that sense. So, I mean, it’s not going to be over with.
(READING) But now the word is your voice, and together we sing for you, Michael Brown. Hands up, don’t shoot, no justice, no peace, for a fair trial and a proper burial, for your soul to rest in peace. So hand-in-hand we stand to overcoming these streets, that justice will prevail for the people, by the people, versus the police.
UNIDENTIFIED: Right on.
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