for John Lewis 1940-2020

They rode out of the
dark end of fifties America
through Eisenhower’s departing
mouth and squashed Jim Crow
beneath the wheels of their
Greyhound buses.

Brave pioneers
crossing a new frontier,
they were soon called SNCC (Snick) —
the Student Non-violent
Coordinating Committee —

but for their Boomer peers
student was the key word,
the opium of identity
and the umbilical cord of the

Youth Movement
which brought them all,
Black White Asian Latino
to a new world where peace and
love, freedom and equality, were
the garden flowers they planted
and picked like poppies, drunk with the
heady fragrance of change.

When the Fab Four invaded
the ground had been prepared,
plowed, fertilized, primed for seeding,
and white American conveniently
(once again) forgot where it all began.

This ode is for all those brave blacks—
John Lewis, Alice Walker,
Stokely Carmichael, Nikki Giovanni, and
Bob Moses too, who rode the freedom
train to the future and distributed a
ticket to each and every contemporary as

they freed the nation from the
chains of the past. They opened the
door to the twenty-first century and
Barrack Obama strode through,
and for a brief, hopeful moment
the amber waves of grain
swelled across the horizon

until the angry thunder of racism
boomed ominously beyond the majestic,
purple mountains. But storms always
pass and people of color are the
wave of the future and

America is a better place because the
freedom riders had the courage to say
with Woody Guthrie,
“This land is my land,”
and the time, the time is now!

Chuck Kramer has an MA in Writing from DePaul University. He’s works on the editorial staff of the Chicago Quarterly Review and served as the cohost of the long-running Weeds Poetry Open Mic until its closure. His poems and short stories have appeared in many publications. More at