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About that poem

Much has been said and written about the poem New London poet laureate Joshua Brown delivered at the July 14 swearing-in of Police Chief Brian Wright.

Police officers in attendance and many members of the public have called it unsuitable for a celebratory event. It was certainly not traditional. Brown’s poem presented the state of policing in America, and New London, through the eyes of a Black teen who just received his driver’s permit.

Obtaining that permit should also be a celebratory event, but for a young Black man it is also a cause of concern, contended Brown’s poem. Statistics show that a young Black driver is more likely to be pulled over, searched, and must be more concerned about doing anything, saying anything, which could turn the encounter into a tragic direction.

That is not acceptable, appeared to be the poem’s central message.

“I charge you to be a Police Chief of honor and dignity. I charge you to be a Police Chief of ALL of the citizens of New London and not just those in power,” concludes Brown’s poem.

It was inappropriate for the occasion, say the critics. And they have that right. Just as Brown had the right to deliver the poem that he felt needed to be delivered. It has generated discussion, that is for sure. And isn’t that what an artist — or an opinion writer — wants to do? Better that than being ignored.

Brown could have leavened his message with a bit more optimism. But, again, that’s just another opinion. Absent seemed to be an acknowledgement that any progress has been made, when the occasion itself — the swearing-in of the first Black man to be appointed the city’s police chief — was a sign of change.

On that point the poet himself seem conflicted.

“It has become painfully obvious that the state of policing in America is beyond repair,” stated Brown.

But then, in the next line: “There is no simple fix…”

So, which is it, “beyond repair” or “no simple fix”?

“Beyond repair” is absent of all hope. “No simple fix” is a challenge, an invitation for hard conservations.

Chief Wright strikes us as a fixer and Mr. Brown as a man who wants to make things better. And there is hope in that.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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