Justyce’s “I Am From” Poem by Hardi Patel

Cover of “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone, the book that inspired this poem

I am from
a bad neighborhood with just me and my mom
From learning to go right rather than wrong
I am from learning to trust even if their skin is white
From learning to fight with words for my rights

I am from playing video games with my best friend Manny 
From debating with SJ and going to Blake’s terrible parties
I am from being on and off with Melo 
And from me and Jared sharing only a small “hello”

I am from almost always listening to my Mama
And from getting caught up with Jared and Blake’s drama. 
From trying to make it to the top, even when Trey always feels the need to tell me, “Mr. Smarty Pants”, to stop

I am from always knowing I can go up to Doc
And from realizing showing compassion is just one drop
From realizing no matter how hard I try, I won’t be able to let those cold metal handcuffs fly
I am from learning Castillo’s dead, but it never mattered
From the cold metal cuffs still being felt by me in the shower

I am from understanding, there will always be jerks
And from learning it doesn’t matter and not to assume the worst
From late-night conversations with SJ when there’s no need to pretend
And from making mistakes I can learn from in the end

I am from asking Martin for some guidance 
And from not letting my voice rest in the silence 
I am from learning to say my words and fight with peace
From understanding my life isn’t missing a puzzle piece

I am from figuring out, they aren’t trying to be insensitive; based on where they came from, it just comes out. 
I am from learning to forgive just like Martin would
From making it clear that, “it’s aight we good”
I am from believing no one should be alone 
From everyone should have somewhere to call home

I am from finding out that compassion will win again and again, opinions aside  
I am from learning, just like Martin said, we should all be kind and look for what’s on the inside
I am from trying always to look at people and understand 
From trying to answer the big question, “are all men really created equal in the end?”

Source: Hardi Patel, 2023. First submitted as a student project in English class, and then published in the African American Registry, Fall 2022.  Also published on the I Am From website in 2022

Visit Nic Stone’s website

Read the article Niagara Falls teen’s poem tackling racism and stereotypes reaches global audience, by Paul Forsyth about this poem by Hardi Patel.

From Hardi Patel:

Hello everyone.

My name is Hardi Patel and I am the author of the “I Am From – Justyce’s Perspective” poem.

This poem is based on Nic Stone’s Dear Martin novel. I am a first-generation Canadian from India. I am currently a student at AN Myer Secondary School in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I am heading into Grade 11 this September; however, this poem was written by me when I was in Grade 9.

This poem began as a portion of my culminating assignment given to me by my Grade 9 teacher, Tina Chivers. My English class studied many writing pieces throughout the semester. Our novel was Dear Martin by Nic Stone. Throughout the semester, we studied the question, “Are all men created equal?”

For my course culminating assignment, I was given many media options and had to choose one to represent my understanding of Dear Martin. I chose the poem option. However, I was faced with a barrier: I didn’t know how to write another poem other than the “I Am From” poem. So, after looking at different poetry forms, I decided to write an “I Am From” poem. However, I wrote it from the perspective of the main character in the book, Justyce McAllister. The “I Am From” poem was something my Grade 9 class did at the beginning of the semester (https://iamfromproject.com/?s=tina+chivers). When I asked Mrs. Chivers what she thought of my idea, she said, “Amazing” and continued with, “That’s an awesome idea! I’m excited to see it!”

Dear Martin was impactful to my class, largely because the main characters in the book were the same age as we were. We could visualize ourselves in their shoes but felt thankful for a safe and accepting community. I found it easy to see these characters as your friends. Ms. Stone’s writing made it easy for me to understand Justyce’s intentions. I also understood how he felt about everything that was transpiring in his life. Although this is a fictional story, all details are relevant to modern life.

Through my poem, I attempted to convey Justyce’s thirst to be an excellent person even with all of the challenges he faced. I attempted to write about how Justyce didn’t change because of the negatives, but rather, he kept trying because of the positives. I wanted my poem to be a summary of the novel, and reinforce the main ideas of the book for Dear Martin’s readers.

This poem was never meant to reach a large audience.

I sent my poem to Ms. Stone, and she showed me lots of love. Mrs. Chivers encouraged me to send it to the “I Am From” project; I got a lot of appreciation from them as well. I’m thankful for these people. Julie Landsman, one of the women who run the I Am From Project reached out to me about adding my poem to the 2022 Fall issue of the African American Registry which is an initiative that she is also a part of. This offer elated me! Additionally, Mrs. Chivers contacted a local library (The Niagara Falls Public Library) and helped put my poem in their local writer’s section! After that, Paul Forsythe published an article in the Niagara This Week newspaper about my poetry. He interviewed Mrs. Chivers and me about how it came to be. As well, the mayor of Niagara Falls, Mayor Jim Diodati, sent me a handwritten note congratulating me on my achievements!

This has certainly been a memorable experience for me. This simple poem with a message I wrote has had an extraordinary impact on my life. I am extremely grateful for the support I have received from so many individuals. When I sent it to Ms. Stone and Ms. Landsman, I simply took a chance, and I received a great deal of support from them. This is an example of how positive results can be achieved if you try or take something a step further.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *