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Spoken word Poem
by Renata Burnette
Transcript by Rosaliene Bacchus
We have 15-year-old girls being gang raped; boys being
caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just children
running away from their homes because the ones that are
supposed to be protecting them, they’re now physically and
sexually abusing them, forgetting that they, too, are
children. So the minute one of them gives us attitude, we
assume that they’re rude. So we label them as being
juvenile delinquents; put them in the system and forget
them. Let the magistrate decide what he does with them.
Either he sends them to some place that’s worse than juvy
or he signs their rights over to the same persons that were
abusive. These children, they have no faith in us because
we have failed them. So tell me, how do we help them if our
system is broken while we’re up here promoting something
that isn’t even ours, like…like carnival? How much did you
pay to buy another man’s culture?
One People, One Nation, One Destiny: That’s always been
our mantra, our motto. But our country has become a dog
eat dog type a country. Survival of the fittest. See, the rich
gets richer off the labor of the poor. Some Karl Marx text fits.
We have no culture but yet still we as a people
wholeheartedly refuse to talk about it as though it’s
tabooed. But the only thing that we as Guyanese associate
ourselves with is food. Not music. Not art. Not even
language. Funny how our deejays prefer Patwa over
Creolese. Ask yourself this question again: What do we as
Guyanese associate ourselves with?
And while the politicians are asking for professional public
servants but refuse to invest in entrepreneurship, I know a
few friends that could pitch you a good business idea, but
they prefer to work for the Man. At the end of the month
their salaries are guaranteed. I guess that’s the price we’re
being paid to stifle our creativity. So you better be careful.
You better be careful of the way these politicians can sway
your decision with their rhetoric, making you feel all
important but when the vote done, you ain’t minge. So fool
me once. Now fool me twice. Politics is nothing but a magic
So how do we fix the system, the same system that’s
putting away our young men for selling or smoking weed?
But we’re yet to curb the increase of lung cancer disease
that’s mainly caused by tobacco smoking, also known as
cigarette smoking. So what do we do? We put a warning
label on the pack and just hope that it stops. Can’t fight this
disease. So UG has once again increased my facility fees as
though I get my money from these forest trees: Bai Shan
Lin, these foreign fiends. And even when I graduate from
one of the highest institutions in the land, they cannot
guarantee me a job…with or without this degree. And you
want to know why our young people are out here selling
weed. Food for thought. Stay woke. See, plugs make more
money than teachers make on their government salaries.
And if you’re a woman in today’s society then sexual
harassment is something that you’re almost guaranteed. It’s
like a rite of passage, so be careful. Don’t wear anything
loose, don’t appear to be too revealing, because when the
man across the street shouts for you, calling you every
single thing except your name, you better look. And when
they make sexual advances to you in the dash without your
permission when asking for your number, you better give
them cause you just might turn up missing. These men,
these men are hissing at you, demanding your good
mornings, demanding your good afternoons, demanding
your hi’s and your hellos as though we never had a choice,
as though we never had an option. But really and truly all
our tongues burn to say is just stay away from me. But we’
re too scared because our system is broken; it’s backwards.
Kind-a like the way we deal with sexual and domestic
violence cases. We’re not our brother’s and our sister’s
keepers. So even when we see things, we don’t say it, until
after the fact. Kind-a like the way the Guyana Police Force
shows up until after the attack. And even though she’s the
victim, there would be no justice for he knows people in high
positions. You know, that can make a police report
disappear regardless of how he acts. Those kind-a people in
authority that have a knack for sweeping every single thing
under the mat.
Fun fact: Our country has one of the highest suicide rates in
the world. So what do we do about that? We make memes
about people in Berbice as though death in that way is
somewhat funny. And what bothers me is the way these
journalists portray domestic violence and suicide cases in
the media. They kind-a have a way of blaming the victim.
Our system is broken because of our ignorance. But, I bet if
I withheld my vote and convinced 50,000 people to withhold
their own, I’d have the attention of these politicians. For
they know, they know that the power lies within the people.
So tell me: Why are we preaching Burnham’s ideologies
along with his strategy to a 21st-century generation that
were equipped with different tools. These are different rules
and even though they tried to silence David Hinds, if history
has proven anything it’s that the truth would always survive
and, if needs be, it would bleed through crooked lines. So
why, why do we continue to elect these middle-aged men
into parliament to rule over a nation whose population is
predominantly youths? Food for thought.
My name is Renata Burnette. I’m an activist. I’m not a
politician. See, the difference between us is my job is to tell
you the truth. And Gandhi said to be the change you want
to see. So, that’s why I’m here…on behalf of our youths.
Broken system. Happy Independence.
SOURCE: Broken System, Spoken word poem by Renata
Burnette, Video presentation featured on her Facebook
Page, Guyana Independence Day, May 26, 2018.
Transcript by Rosaliene Bacchus.
RENATA BURNETTE is a
Guyanese spoken word
poet, living in
Georgetown, capital of
Guyana. A second-year
undergraduate at the
University of Guyana
(UG), pursuing a degree
in Communications, she
aspires to later qualifying
Renata began reciting
her poems as a senior
high school student
(17-18 years). Her
spoken word poems are
reflections on the daily
struggles and issues of
especially those in their
late teens and twenties.
She finds inspiration in
the work of poets Maya
Angelou (USA, 1928-2014)
and Martin Carter
In August 2016, after
posting videos of her
spoken word poems on
her Facebook page,
Renata gained national
attention with her
spoken word poem,
"Dear Mr. President,"
struggles in attending
university and finding a
Renata is a member of
Jazz & Poetry on a Stool
Public Group, a
platform for performers
and fans of Jazz and
poetry in and around
VISIT & CONNECT WITH
NOTE: Words in italics represent Rosaliene's interpretation of unclear diction
in the poet's video presentation.
for poetry intended
spoken word poetry
may also be
published on the
page, the genre
has its roots in
oral traditions and
Spoken word can
of rap, hip-hop,
theater, and jazz,
and folk music.
spoken word poems
frequently refer to
issues of social
Related to slam
spoken word may
draw on music,
sound, dance, or
other kinds of