Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Sunday, August 09, 2020


by Judy Juanita


We stood on garbage cans to watch the assembly line
at the Chevrolet manufacturing plant on 73rd ave
See the USA in your Chevrolet
America is asking you to call
Drive your Chevrolet through the USA
America’s the greatest land of all
We paid our parents no mind at all
when they said Dinah Shore was passing for white

Oakland had white-only garden apts. on 66th ave
housing UC Berkeley grad students
young dads in Bermuda shorts 
moms in capri pants
a 99 year covenant kept us out
the little children called us niggers
if we took the shortcut home

Those apts. became the site of the 1980s drug wars
The would-be Coliseum was a swamp
BART was a developer’s dream 
to bring suburban commuters to SF
Oakland be damned
We had to fight to get Oakland stops added
The boys across the street were from Georgia 
Their mother welcomed my brother to peepee 
in their bathroom but insisted he poopoo at home
I thought white people pooped white poops
And we pooped brown 

Wave after wave of Ohlones, Mexicans, Chinese, Portuguese
Oakies and Arkies from the Oklahoma and Arkansas dust bowls
coloreds and whites from Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma 
migrated for munitions and troop movement work during WWI

Our parents and grandparents came in droves
planting their families and dreams 
in the fertile soil called California 


We’re all Panthers now
The Black Panther Party did not backfire
It was an early warning system 
for this entire country/world 
about U.S. oppression
the ravages of imperialism 
the rampant police-as-occupying-force 
in the black community

As the vanguard it did exactly 
it was historically tasked to do
it woke people up 

What people choose to do now
under this near totalitarianism
is up to individuals and groups

We don’t need Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Denmark Vesey
Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Fannie Lou Hamer
MLK, John Lewis, Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver
Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, all our people
who fought to the finish

They came, they saw, they served
It’s up to the living to stand up and be counted

Judy Juanita’s poetry has been published widely. Her poem “Bling” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012. Her semi-autobiographical novel Virgin Soul is about a young woman who joins the Black Panther Party in the 60s (Viking, 2013). She appears in Netflix’s Last Chance U: Season 5, Laney College where she teaches.