This poem by Miles Chambers, Bristol’s City Poet, and Edson Burton was delivered at Mayor Marvin Rees’ State of the City Address on 18 October 2017 as part of the Festival of the Future City.
Our City 3
The chocking mill, the boiling liquid
The brew house the ladle and anvil
What hope have they to change their state,
For has not God ordained their fate?
And paradise awaits through heaven’s gate
If they bow and scrape to masters who
Sit on high estate on Clifton and Redcliffe Hill.
Wesley disciples show God’s kindlier face,
Armed with warrior bibles and red banners they lift up their heads. In hunger march, strike and riot they fight a civil war.
In mud soaked trench and blood red beach
A costly victory secured. Slums cleared, education and health for all a new caring state is born.
This is their story; this is their city; this was their right!
Across oceans came the children of Empire
Searching for succor from the Imperial Mother
With bared teeth she snarls rejection
These are not her children
The legitimate siblings spurn their sisters and brothers.
Content of character, skills or income, nor grand accomplishments hold no currency.
In face of repeated proclamation: no dogs no blacks no Irish
Like ancestors enslaved they are condemned to the lowest rung free in mind yet wage slaves. Chains of subjugation firmly placed
Thru protest and boycott
Flames of passion and burning police cars
Emerged our civil rights stars
Thru frustrated tears and collective cry’s they exclaimed
This story; this is our city; this is our right!
From these humble origins emerged our Mayor
A golden son of humble mixed birth
One, which’s many, cursed for being
born into streets that others dammed
Resignation to crime he gave wide birth.
Challenged by the black white divide
He carved a new line
With charm and vigor and righteous might He placed his aspirations in plain site The military would have adorned
their first black officer the BBC’s opened their doors to a charismatic presenter Yale world leaders found a new scholar
Demons of fear and diffident, evoke a negative appetite
Empowered by the bigger story and justice he exclaimed
This story; this is my city; this is my right!
Is he a Paragon of change available to everybody?
A statement of the redefined… We
A rendition of self belief,
that brings into fruition… possibility
Is he an accident?
A freak of aspiration that now has full access to city hall
Or an apt illustration of the potential change available to all
Or an exception of super human will that will never again be seen
Is this our story? Is this our city? Is this our right!
Migrants from inside England and overseas
All searching for new hope come to Bristol city
They meet the bark of brexit and the brutal hand of austerity
The promise of a caring city fades, food banks and tents line streets where once was industry, and commerce cascades
Today the victory won by our city, the rise of a son of humble origins may well a sign of rare mobility
unless we fight and proclaim like never
This is our story this is our right, this is our city.
What demon of fear stand before your inspirational fate?
What actions does change demand you make
Imagine a conclusion of a solution of a different kind
Perhaps the change starts with resifting of our mind.
Let’s embrace the bigger picture let’s open your eyes
I am you and you are me. We may be on different pages
but we all share the same story.
This is our story this is our right this is our city.
As for me Inspired by Marvin’s possibility…
As bright as we may be there still more ways you can shine
Let paint a future of how things should be, a future
where we helping others to realise every possibility
I don’t wanna be the singer, but to be the song weaves into our minds and heart inspires us to move things along
I don’t wanna be the scribe but to be the words on the page words that’s motivate and inspire, words that positively enrage
I wanna to be laughter but for us to be the joy and happiness that resonates with our values to simply be our best.
I don’t wanna be the doctor but for us to a part
of the cure for us ask questions and keep demanding more
This is my story; this is my right; this is my city