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Black Voices Poetry Project

Posted on: March 29, 2021

Punching the Air

Punching the Air

by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

A beautiful and gnawing narrative poem written in verse, Punching the Air is the personal perspective of Amal Shahid, an artist and a poet, who is tried as an adult and wrongfully convicted of a crime at the age of sixteen.

Examining themes of gentrification, anti-Black racism in a biased school system, the criminalization and gross incarceration of Black youth, and artistic expression as a means of survival, Ibi Zoboi, with stirring lyricism, tells the story of a young Black boy who is enduring, and talented, and preserves his humanity in face of all which attempts to strip him of it.

Yusef Salaam's contributions to this story as a member of the Exonerated Five, provide this book with weight and an incredible emotional authenticity, as a man with shared and parallel experiences of the systemic injustices which Amal Shahid encounters.

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