Malcolm London performs at TED Talks Education

Malcolm London, a Chicago poet, performs an excerpt of his poem, “High School Training Grounds,” at TED Talks Education.


“High School Training Grounds,” by Malcolm London

The excerpt, as performed on TED Talks Education

At 7:45 a.m., I open the doors to a building dedicated to building yet only breaks me down.
I march down hallways
cleaned up after me every day by regular janitors,
but I never have the decency to honor their names.

Lockers left open like teenage boys mouths
when teenage girls wear clothes that covers their insecurities,
but exposes everything else.
Masculinity mimicked by men who grew up with no fathers,
Camouflage worn by bullies who are dangerously armed,
but need hugs.

Teachers paid less than what it costs them to be here.
Oceans of adolescents come here to receive lessons, but never learn to swim,
part like the Red Sea when the bell rings.

This is a training ground.

My high school is Chicago,
diverse and segregated on purpose.
Social lines are barbed wire.
Labels like “Regular” and “Honors” resonate.
I am in “honors,”
but go home with “regular” students
who are soldiers in territory that owns them.

This is a training ground.

Just sought to sort out the “regulars” from the “honors,”
a reoccurring cycle built to recycle the trash of this system.
Trained at a young age to capitalize letters,
taught now that capitalism raises you,
but you have to step on someone else to get there.

This is a training ground,
where one group is taught to lead and the other is made to follow.
No wonder so many of my people spit bars because the truth is hard to swallow.
The need for degrees has left so many people frozen.

Homework is stressful.
But when you go home everyday and your home is work
you don’t want to pick up any assignments.
Reading textbooks is stressful.
But reading does not matter when you feel your story is already written,
Either dead or getting booked.
Taking tests is stressful.
But bubbling in a scantron does not stop bullets from bursting.

I hear education systems are failing,
but I believe they are succeeding at what they’re built to do,
to train you
to keep you on track
to track down an American Dream
that has failed so many of us all.

Malcolm London performing spoken word at TED Talks Education
Malcolm London
Speaker, TED Talks Education

Malcolm London, called the Gil-Scott Heron of this generation by Cornel West, is a young Chicago poet, performer, activist and educator. Malcolm has recently shared stages with actor Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt and artist Lupe Fiasco as a part of the “The People Speak, Live!” cast. Malcolm appears on Season 2 of TV "One's Verses and Flow."

Winner of the Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Festival 2011, taking first place as individual performer and with his team, Malcolm has performed on stages all across Chicago, including Chicago Jazz Festival, Du Sable Museum, The Vic Theater, The Metro, The Chicago Theatre, Steppenwolf Theater (where he was a member of their Young Adult Council), Victory Gardens Theater, and in venues across the country. Malcolm is a member of UCAN’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a city-wide board. Malcolm is a passionate teaching artist on staff at Young Chicago Authors. He visits schools introducing their work to hundreds of students through writing workshops and performances.

PBS WNET New York Public Media CPB Corporation for Public Broadcasting TED American Graduate