Three Fearless Girls Tell The Devastating Truth About Growing Up In Republican America (VIDEO)

“Somewhere in America, there’s a child holding a copy of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and a child holding a gun,” Rhiannon McGavin, Zariya Allen, and Belissa Escobedo chant with biting precision from the stage of The Queen Latifah Show.

“But only one of these things had been banned by their state government, and it’s not the one that can rip through flesh.”

Somewhere in America, “we were taught that it is better to be silent than to make them uncomfortable.” Somewhere in America,

“They build us brand new shopping malls so we’ll forget that we’re really standing on the bones of the Hispanics, on the bones of the slaves, on the bones of the Native Americans, on the bones of those who fought just to speak.”

There’s more where that came from. The teenage girls’ award-winning spoken word poem, “Somewhere in America” is chock-full of scathing observations and incisive commentary on public education and the issues facing their generation. “Somewhere in America” touches on income inequality, fat-shaming, rape culture, racism, cultural appropriation, and censorship of America’s brutal and blood-soaked history.

But mostly, “Somewhere in America” focuses on a public school system that cares more about forcing children to shut up and comply with our society’s injustices than about educating future generations to dream big and transcend them.

“Somewhere in America” may have some of the details wrong — states haven’t banned “Catcher in the Rye,” although plenty of school boards have — but the overall theme still resonates.

Watch the girls’ stunning performance of “Somewhere in America.”

McGavin, Allen, and Belissa live in Los Angeles, CA — ground zero for the dismantling of America’s public education system. In mid-20th-century America, California’s public schools, colleges, and universities were among the best in the world. But in the 1970’s — as reported by Andy Kroll from Salon — conservatives and neo-liberals began starving their public education system with regressive tax measures. Now, Los Angeles’ public school system ranks among the worst in the state of CA, which ranks the 10th worst in the US, which in turn ranks among the worst in the developed world.

Despite the disastrous results of CA’s experiment with conservative economic policies, the rest of America has followed suit with similar outcomes. No wonder the authors of “Somewhere in America” feel so angry.

Luckily for these talented girls, they discovered Get Lit, a Southern California nonprofit that seeks to inspire literacy by getting kids involved in spoken word poetry. “Somewhere in America” won third place at an international competition last summer and read to over 17,000 people while opening for John Legend at the Hollywood Bowl.

Queen Latifah interviews the teenage spoken word poets of “Somewhere in America.”


Featured image: Composite with video screen grabs from The Queen Latifah Show.