“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks (Favorite Poem Project)


My name is John Ulrich, I’m
from South Boston. I’m twenty years old, and I’m a
student at the MA College of Art. -When is your final? -Tomorrow, at 10:30. My family’s just this big loving family. There’s never a day I didn’t
think my parents did 100% for me. They’re just amazing people,
they really are. I come from a family of eight. I have seven brothers and sisters, four sisters and three brothers. Really tight, close family, we’re all a year apart. You know, I was never by myself, I always had this huge family,
I could always go back and they’d always be there with
that unconditional love you know? That never goes away. So that was what kind of saved me I always had this huge backing, that wasn’t just friends or- it was blood, brothers and sisters that- that don’t turn their backs, no matter what. When I was like seventeen, eighteen years old, around like 1997, Two-hundred and fifty
friends and neighbors Tried to commit suicide, tried to take their own lives. Six succeeded. I lost six friends
and neighbors, all under twenty-five
years old, to suicide. And since then I’ve
lost about five, five friends, to heroin
overdoses and suicide. It’s just like this cluster of- of death that surrounds me,
surrounds my neighborhood. It’s kind of a
desperate thing. I formed a group
with my girlfriend, my little sister, and a
couple other friends It’s called South Boston Survivors. What we try to do
is to start programs to distract young kids
from life or depression, just to get their minds
somewhere else. Like into art or creativity, something to spark
a flame in them that might redirect
them from this depression, this like, despair that was just flooding the
streets of South Boston. “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks We real cool. We / Left school. We /
Lurk late. We / strike straight. We / Sing sin. We /
Thin gin. We / Jazz June. We / Die soon. I first heard “We Real Cool” in
a poetry class in high school, and and it was in the middle of the cluster of suicides and
all this like, despair that was going on and it just made sense to me. It just really made sense, how
things started off so innocent and got so drastic so quick,
you know, I remember being in high school, you know,
and we were just having a good time and cutting school was innocent
and then three years later a lot of those kids I went to
high school with aren’t alive anymore. It just made so much sense,
it was like telling my story- a perfect picture of what
was going on in my neighborhood. I don’t think we ever thought
we were ‘real cool’, I think it was just the whole
innocence of the- how innocent we were, you
know, we were just young, and you think you’re
gonna live forever, you know, you’re invincible, and how
quick it just snatched them up. It’s crazy- how drugs just overcame an entire generation,
my entire generation, it’s crazy. “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks We real cool. We / Left school. We /
Lurk late. We / strike straight. We / Sing sin. We / Thin gin. We /
Jazz June. We / Die soon. The Favorite Poem Project is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, fostering America’s creativity and investing in our living cultural heritage. Additional funding has been provided by the John S. and James L. Knight foundation, and by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

9 thoughts on ““We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks (Favorite Poem Project)

  1. Wow, that was amazing. This young man is amazing. Thank you for this story.

  2. In the world that should be, this youtube channel would have an inordinate amount of viewers.

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