(The Root) — In an occasional series, The Root will showcase the talent of spoken-word artists from the around the country. Their stories about race, social justice, community and relationships move us to action, to anger — even tears.
Clint Smith teaches English at Parkdale High School in Prince George’s County, Md. In the classroom, Smith combines his passion for poetry and justice to teach students that using their own stories can be a catalyst for social action.
Here’s what he had to say about his poem “Place Matters”: “As a teacher, every day I see how the battles we fight in public health, education, housing and poverty are so deeply connected. One of the biggest issues we face is food access. Twenty-three million Americans live in food deserts, and those disproportionately exist in communities of color — the community in which I teach. In D.C., wards 7 and 8, which have the District’s highest poverty rates, also have the city’s highest obesity rates. Prince George’s County has the highest concentration of black wealth in the United States but is still classified as a food desert by the United States Department of Agriculture.
“What my kids do or don’t eat affects how they are able to perform when they come to my class. Where grocery stores do or don’t decide to build affects the health of my students and their families. What places accept WIC and food stamps literally plays a role in determining the life expectancies of the people in those neighborhoods. As Ron Finley put it, in our communities, ‘Drive-thrus are killing more people than drive-bys.’ “
Watch “Place Matters”: