‘In the Business of Rising’ — 2 Uplifting Poems to Start Your Day

For National Poetry Month, three teens from Get Lit – Words Ignite will be guest editors of MariaShriver.com. They’ll be sharing some of their favorite poems and writing their own responses to each of them below. 

[Read more poems from this series]


Million Man March Poem by Maya Angelou

The night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.

Under a dead blue sky on a distant beach,
I was dragged by my braids just beyond your reach.
Your hands were tied, your mouth was bound,
You couldn’t even call out my name.
You were helpless and so was I,
But unfortunately throughout history
You’ve worn a badge of shame.

I say, the night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark
And the walls have been steep.

But today, voices of old spirit sound
Speak to us in words profound,
Across the years, across the centuries,
Across the oceans, and across the seas.
They say, draw near to one another,
Save your race.
You have been paid for in a distant place,
The old ones remind us that slavery’s chains
Have paid for our freedom again and again.

[A Young L.A. Poet Responds to Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird” for National Poetry Month]

The night has been long,
The pit has been deep,
The night has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.

The hells we have lived through and live through still,
Have sharpened our senses and toughened our will.
The night has been long.
This morning I look through your anguish
Right down to your soul.
I know that with each other we can make ourselves whole.
I look through the posture and past your disguise,
And see your love for family in your big brown eyes.

I say, clap hands and let’s come together in this meeting ground,
I say, clap hands and let’s deal with each other with love,
I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference,
Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,
Let us come together and revise our spirits,
Let us come together and cleanse our souls,
Clap hands, let’s leave the preening
And stop impostering our own history.
Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,
Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,
Courtesy into our bedrooms,
Gentleness into our kitchen,
Care into our nursery.

The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain
We are a going-on people who will rise again.

And still we rise.


[Read From Maria Shriver: My Favorite Mary Oliver Poems]


Response: White Fields by Monique Mitchell

Children of God

are in the business of rising.


The voices

of my ancestors


in white fields

and church homes.


I imagine the laughter.


The soul-freeing laughter.


The I-know-a-God-who-rose-on-the-third-day-laughter.

[Read Maria Shriver’s latest ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essay]


We have risen

from pits and dark nights.


And we will rise

and rise



Get Lit – Words Ignite is a nationally recognized organization founded to stem dropout rates and spark dramatically increased literacy among youth in Los Angeles. Through an innovative curriculum that fuses classic, iconic poetry with students’ original spoken word responses, Get Lit places the greatest poets of our time in dialogue with over 20,000 teens each year who transform their lives and communities through art and social consciousness. “Claim your poem, claim your life.” Join the #LiteraryRiot at www.getlit.org!

{Image credit: Pixabay}

About the Author

author image

Monique Mitchell is a South Los Angeles native who uses writing as a tool to beautify her community (her community is the world). She has a Bachelor’s Degree in communications, and she has also extensively studied cinema and creative writing. She currently works as a content creator in for Contend in Downtown Los Angeles, and she is a Literati Fellow with Get Lit – Words Ignite.

Read more from Monique Mitchell

Sign Up for MariaShriver.com's Weekly Must-Read

More Posts from Architects of Change