Dear Mr. Gaddafi by Danielle Bennet

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Click To Listen, full text below.

Dear Mr. Gaddafi,

Congratulations.

You’ve managed to receive more attention from our government in six months than my students have in six years.

My 12th graders hardly know the names and situation of our 50 states

Or where your country is on a map

but they know your name

know that they shouldn’t like it

but do not know why.

My students heard our government sent a task force after you

Hunted hard to protect people against you

Have you heard that there are people here

that do no feel protected?

Did your faux royalty afford you an education of our country, sir?

If so, could you define segregation?

If so, could you explain why a recent report from one of our most prominent universities

found Latino and black students attend schools more segregated today than during the civil rights movement forty years ago?

In case you have not picked up on it, sir

The faces I spend the majority of my days with

Are all shades of coffee darker than mine

Like the ones in that report

Our country came after you so quick

But there is so little that is so immediate about the way education is handled in our country

Why is taking down dictators so easy to stand behind

While building up our own future leaders is not?

Tell me what the cry of the rebels sound like in Libya

I’ll tell you what ours sound like,

Like hope in disguise

Now the things that are killing the hope the once wore

Get stuck in stories at the fold

While your name won’t rub off A1

While they are young and under resourced,

they are not stupid.

They are cracking into the age of realization

Where they start to notice things their country is saying to them

Are hypothesizing why Kobe, their president, and you

Are rotating turns on the front page

The last time my kids got national attention is when

we treated their graduation rates

like a death toll

And you may know that better than I think

You may have already seen that the faces representing our best

Are often the best representation of our worst flaw:

Take King,

Take Clinton,

Take Woods,

Proof that we try to take on the world

without taking care of our own home

We are bleeding nurses,

Shackled freedom fighters,

Broke bankers,

Slave-owning, well-intentioned abolitionists

But I don’t want to give you the wrong impression

I love my country, sir

I politically socialize its youth every day because I believe what we’ve got

Might be the best that we get in a world as broken as ours

When I first started this job

I promised myself I would never use my students’ stories for poems and letters

Their stories are their poems

But this

Is about my story now

About how sick I am of hearing your name on the radio

On my way to work

A subliminal message that there are more important things than the graves we’re digging in our backyard

For the young men and women I give my everything for

Mr. Gaddafi,

Because I cannot shake your name from our news corps

I will not be able to avoid you in my classroom

So what am I to teach them about you?

They have already labeled you “bad,” sir,

Tossed you in a bin with Mussolini and Hussein,

But what else?

I am writing to solicit your help

Because I imagine neither of us care for your news coverage anymore

I just pray

That my students

Don’t have to adopt your tactics

To gain back their country’s

attention.

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Profile photo of Natalie Patterson

In 2002, while seated on a beanbag in a crowded poetry venue Natalie knew her life would be far different than she envisioned. She had never shared one of her poems and even writing outside of a journal was new. With a few poems, dedication and a bunch of passion Natalie went on to make the Los Angeles Slam team, get accepted to NACA and book a full college tour and run a monthly poetry venue, The Siren Collective. Natalie soon began developing her own curriculum and her love of teaching emerged stronger than ever. At the recommendation of a fellow poet, the legendary Stan Lathan asked her to facilitate a poetry based educational event, after a job well done he followed with an offer to join the cast of Debbie Allan's Def Poetry ALL star show. The spirit of contribution always extremely central to Natalie’s life work she continued to support Da’ Poetry Lounge nearly every week since 2003. As a result of that commitment and dedication in 2010, she become the first female producer and host in the 15-year history of Da Poetry Lounge (the nations largest weekly poetry venue). That same year, Natalie developed and facilitated innovative poetry programs for under-resourced youth as Director of Poetry for Collective Voices Foundation, teaching eight classes a week at five different schools. Natalie is currently teaching her private workshop, Reconnecting: Vulnerability and Integrity, as well as in high school classrooms throughout Los Angeles. From April-December 2013, Natalie has committed to releasing chapbooks to further push her creativity and release some of the poems that would otherwise stay on her external hard drive. Natalie seeks to spend more time creating, collaborating and teaching in the years to come. She currently lives in Los Angeles. She enjoys love notes, working in the middle of the night, black tea, and spending Sunday’s in love.

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