Malcolm London is young, black and talented, and that is a guarantee of nothing these days. But he says, “I do not do what I do for money. I come from a place with no money and don’t expect I will ever have a lot of it. But I think that being a teacher and poet can be a viable career.”
We shall see. London is only 19, one year removed from Chicago’s Lincoln Park High School and not yet enrolled in college. He plans to go, because “society places great value on that diploma, and I am a great believer that learning can be a beautiful experience.”
He is a child of and still lives in the Austin neighborhood, a harsh section of the city.
“Every day I walk home from the bus stop and I see defiled vacant lots, buildings boarded up and decaying,” he says. “And I see men and women who are decaying too.”
But he is able to see beyond the damage.
“There are a lot of kids like me in places like this, places kind of pushed into the shadows by the people who run this city,” he says. “We have stories to tell, stories not told in the news and media. I am getting the chance to tell mine, and others can too.”
Poetry has been his salvation.
“When I was younger I tried to be a rapper,” he says. “I carried around a notebook to write things down, things I saw, things I felt,” he says. “I wrote what I would call my first poem when I was 12. It was called ‘The Last of My Tears,’ and I honestly can’t remember a word of it.”
During his sophomore year at Lincoln Park, he heard about the annual youth poetry festival called Louder Than a Bomb.
The creator of that festival, comprised of teams from various area high schools, and the head of Young Chicago Authors is poet/educator Kevin Coval. He says: “I first met Malcolm when he showed up at Louder Than a Bomb three years ago. He was there by himself, not affiliated with any school. He read a poem about Black History Month. It was so well-written and remarkably well-researched for such a young writer.”
Coval told London that he liked the poem and that was it. “I was so inspired by those few words,” says London.
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