Words of Wisdom

A poem from Lenny Bell

Lenny Bell. Photo: Janae Gray

As co-founder and host of the soulful and thought-provoking open-mic show “Say What! Poetry,” Leonard “Lenny” Bell III has been sharing his take on the world for nearly 20 years. He published a book called “Finding My Place” and has shared poetry and the spoken word throughout Iowa and across the country in Omaha, St. Louis, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

In addition to his poetry, Bell directs Des Moines Area Community College’s YouthBuild program and serves as board president of Hip Hope Inc., which works to reduce incarceration rates for young people in Iowa. He also serves on the board of I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa, the state’s largest festival celebrating the arts, culture and accomplishments of African Americans.

Bell believes in leading by example and approaches each day as an opportunity to do his part to make the world a better place. “God willing,” he said, “I’ll be able to continue to be myself for a very long time.”

The following excerpt comes from a poem he shared at the Inclusion Summit the Greater Des Moines Partnership presented last fall in Ankeny.

Is It Brave of Me

Is it brave of me to say I love you
Or is it bravest of me to just love you all the same
I could think of a thousand reasons
Not to seek a deeper meaning
Within the depths of our exchange

Traveling light years in between the lines of space and time
With visions of hate crimes attempting to press rewind
And make America great again
Every time I turn on the TV There’s hate again
Chilling with Uncle Ben and Mr. Roark
Fantasizing about the good ole Jim Crow days
Political figures from both sides
Collide like pillars on high
Yet they all fall down eventually
Surrounding society with tainted history
Motivational killers inclined to kill me
As I meditate just as much as I pray
Seeking to be spiritually free
Unlike so many who still blame their dad
Who was cast away and just passed away
No answers to be had today

And I ask

Is it brave of me to say I love you
Or is it bravest of me to just love you all the same
I could think of a thousand reasons
Not to seek a deeper meaning
Within the depths of our exchange

As it was written thousands of years before
When laptops were made of bedrock
Producing love and hip hop on pyramid floors
We were destined to move in the direction
Of wanting more than just the story
Of a serpent and a rotten apple core
Our fates slated to the rhythm of nations
All fighting for the right to pass down their creations
Before their genocidal tendencies begin to creep in
Which always starts with propaganda
Preparing the masses with libelous slander
Absent of Miranda
Who at least attempted to guarantee me some rights
Even if only to pander
Histories now buried
with the bones of those who carried
the weight of so much hate
all the way to their graves
whether master or slave

And I ask myself

Is it brave of me to say I love you
Or is it bravest of me to just love you all the same
I could think of a thousand reasons
Not to seek a deeper meaning
Within the depths of our exchange

In this brave new world we are all trapped
Cornered into little boxes with remote controls
Bought and sold everywhere on the map
Social Networking for likes and praise
Trapped in a maze as preachers claim the last days
Social norms keep screaming for me to be honest and true
To be honest and free
As long as I’m not too honest or too true
When it comes to what society won’t admit freely
Even when it is seen on the TV
Or the Internet

And yet with my last breath I am asking myself the same damn question

Is it brave of me to say I love you
Or is it bravest of me to just love you all the same
I could think of a thousand reasons
Not to seek a deeper meaning
Within the depths of our exchange

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