For James LeVan, a 16-year-old Cleveland student at Glenville High School, police brutality became top of mind early this year.
He witnessed an uncomfortable interaction between a young Cleveland man and a police officer. LeVan said he did not know the victim and didn’t feel comfortable getting involved, but the incident stuck with him. “It seemed like [the police officer] was harassing him for no reason,” LeVan said. “It didn’t make sense.”
A scholar in the Fatima Center’s Summer Institute, Le Van channeled his confusion into a poem, “The Mind of a White Cop,” in which he speculates about the thinking of a hypothetical white police officer on his daily beat.
Poetry writing was part of the Summer Institute, said Director Apryl Buchanan, with an emphasis on the works on Langston Hughes. The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards arranged for guest faculty to speak and teach on Hughes, and on the writing life throughout the six week program.
“Students needed to consider current events, not only in their lives, but things that would affect their generation,” Buchanan said.
LeVan recited his poem, from memory, at the summer institute’s closing ceremony. He said he was nervous. “It was hard getting up there in front of everyone,” he said. “I hoped everyone would like it.”
The Mind of a White Cop