Kevin Coval's 99 percent-er anthem

Kevin Coval's 99 percent-er anthem

We recently sat down and spoke with Kevin Coval, Chicago poet and author of the new book on race and art, L-vis Lives. Here's his newest piece, a reflection on the Occupy protests--99 percent-er anthem.

we, the 99% have known for too long its time for a new dream
the signs explain it all. hand-written
or on computer paper: tax the rich, feed the poor.
this seems reasonable.
we, the 99% are inter-generational
those who occupied the 50s, 60s and 70s are here
those who tried and did push the country out of war (for a moment)
into integrated lunch counters     (for a moment)
grannies are here with their girlfriends, old comrades reunite
in these the camps, 90 years to 9 months.      and there is a brand new generation
in the streets. young and weird and industrious
art student dropouts, nurses and teachers, small business owners
and entrepreneurs. the unions are here of course in matching jackets
sweatshirts in primary colors. unions, big-city small-
minded mayors keep trying to bust, but whose union is too strong
cuz the will of the people is too strong. the republic window workers
and history teach us that
we, the 99% are young and vibrant, fly and fashionable
look at the haircuts, the infinite
variations. peep the sneaker game
we, the 99% are fly and too fresh for pinstripes
and boring blazers. no white haired white men
with dandruff and death
we, the 99% are tatted and pierced and ironic mustached
most of us are well-groomed and some of us
for real need to shower    but
all of us are funky
not board room boring. we wild
and lovely and well disciplined in the streets (for now)
we, the 99% are all documentarians with phones and flip-cams
the technology should look like the democracy.
so post and post and tell and capture the moments here
wide and far, see this smoldering heat. we are connected
and here and queer and allied and emerging in cities
across the planet
we, the 99% are a growing body, an undeniable mass
a cancer on capitalism’s decaying carcass
we, the 99% are socialists, communalists and beyond ideologic definition
we, the 99% are dorks and gamers, hip-hop heads and queens
graffiti writers and skateboarders, lawyers and parents
we are just like you         cuz we are you
we, the 99% are overeducated and underemployed
we, the 99% are misunderstood and overworked
we, the 99% are the workers and lovers
we, the 99% are midwestern beauty queens who wanted to study
design but couldn’t afford four years at The Art Institute
and now slang drinks in Toledo or Grand Rapids
we, the 99% are single mother magicians
making miracles, jugglers in a wedding-ring less circus
of debtors and suitors and bosses and law suits and alimony
money and wall-mart. two car seats in the back of a ’99 mini-van
we, the 99% are fathers and mothers, family therapists and sages
backbones and warm hands that deserve a hand and a break
someone to have their back, some help, some health
and childcare, like the all the presidents of every country
and corporation get and never have to worry about
we, the 99% are back in city college trying to get more education
for a better job. cuz we need a job and better jobs that will affirm
life and locale and community. jobs that will restore parks
and clean water streams and tread lightly on the ecology
and economically fuel small and equitable growth plans.
jobs for the people from all sides of the track, investing
in education and infrastructure, in health care and culture
we, the 99% need a new dream
a new deal
we, the 99% are not eating enough and eating too much
processed plastic food. we mono-crop and mono-culture
but we need small farms again and vegetables coming from earth
close to us, we want whole foods in all hoods but with unions
and other versions of freshness in the bodegas and food & liquor
corner stores where organic is as common and affordable as common
cents is. the census sense this
we, the 99% kid
want dollars equitably distributed on the kanye west side
a fair share of stuff. it seems only right at this point that a country
built on free and forced labor, on stolen land, on slave labor, all the labor
we, the 99%
put in, need to see some back. all this labor, this making and inventing
for all this reaping we should see fruit too, sow more than need. insure
our backing, which is busted and badly curved. my father’s
discs are deteriorating. he needs shots and rehab and medicare
and is in great pain. he is 69 and can never retire
and still works 60-hour weeks
we, the 99% need to have each others backs
we are bigger than democrats and republicans
who are millionaires anyway     and though
we, the 99% don’t get along
ourselves, all the time        or at all
but for this to be real
to translate and transcend
to resonate and resound
to be as undeniable as the need
for something to change drastically
we, the 99% need to build
bridges between the gulfs, the coasts
the rural / urban / suburban / blue / red
north/south side / segregated split
we need to build bridges
to use the word and
a bridge, a way
to include
we, the 99% in order to be the 99%
need to do the work of inclusion and expand
the growing center and organize and always create the mix
put more in the mix, we need to mix, to build a movement
that is undeniably mixed and looks like the city country
world we live and want to live in. not a scattering
of a few, not just white and young and educated
but an intentionally all-city polycultural miscegenated mass
we, the 99% on some radical mix shit
on some yes and shit:
we are pro-life cuz we are anti-war and death penalty
and we are pro-choice cuz we are pro-women’s right
to determine what happens to their own bodies
and that means we are clearly anti-rape
and will no longer let cops wreak havoc in the lives
and bodies of women who are our sisters
and mothers
our articulate leaders
our slut walk survivors
we are Scott Olsen
we are Troy Davis
we, the 99% on some Marcus Garvey and Harriet Tubman-type shit
one aim, one destiny
one collective, growing
undeniable mass of bodies and beauty
we, the 99% are marching

Photo credit: uvw916a



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  • And I thought the Star-Spangled Banner was hard to sing!

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