There were many high points to the 2016 Florida College Access and Success Summit, but one of the most moving was from Marquese McFerguson, spoken word artist and a doctoral student at the University of South Florida.

Marquese delivered an original poem, written especially for the summit, titled “It Takes a Village.”

Marquese’s poem tells the story of how he became empowered to overcome the obstacles he faced to achieving a higher education, and how students like himself have the same opportunity thanks to the knowledgeable adults and supportive communities working together to help them reach their full potential. This was his poem:

It Takes a Village

My mother was willing to do anything to see her son shine
5 am, every morning she was at the bus stop before the sunrise
You see, in my mother’s house
Love came in the form of fourteen hour work days
And most months, she managed to get all of the bills
But most of the time isn’t all of the time
And some of the time I had to do homework by candlelight
And some of the time food was scarce
And some evenings I would make it home from school and my mother wouldn’t be there
Because, remember son, love comes in the form of fourteen hour work days
The community that we lived within was a concrete canvas
Picassoed with pain
And Van Goghed with violence, struggle and death
But each and every day my mother pushed me to see I had the potential to paint a masterpiece within myself
Imagine that, the boy that had a 1.6 GPA and was labeled at-risk
Would go on to be accepted to 4 PhD programs and 3 of those programs would offer him full paid scholarships
After looking back at my life and thinking things through
I owe my success to my mother and people like you

You see, its people like you
The chancellors and directors
My former deans and professors
My former counselors and former teachers
The program managers, community non-profits, and business leaders

It’s people like you who worked together
To help students like me overcome obstacles
And push past problems so that I could reach my full potential

In this symphony called life
It is people like you who are truly instrumental

It is people like you who work hard to make sure more students have the chance to get a quality education
It is people like you who see the education gap and use your talents and resources to fill in the spaces
It is people like you who realize
The educational statistics will not change on their own
There is no such thing as a magical education genie that grants college wishes out of thin air
You realize change in the educational arena only occurs when two things happen
People work together and people care

So, from students like me to people like you
Thank you for working together and thank you for caring

On behalf of Florida CAN we thank Marquese for his wisdom, his artistry, and his willingness to so openly share himself with the Florida college access community.

Marquese McFerguson is a writer, scholar and founder of Art Can Change The World. The mission of Art Can Change The World is to use performing, literary, and visual art to educate individuals from diverse backgrounds about social and cultural issues. In 2015, Marquese conducted the ‘Creativity Across Cultures Tour’, which was a two week Civil Rights History performance and speaking tour throughout Europe. Marquese is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of South Florida. Marquese is also the author of Conversations In Color: Poetry, Prose and Paintings.


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