I’ve breathed the stink of slums,
held the thin bones of poverty,
hungry men lined my docks,
I am stained by slavery.
Storms smashed my jetties,
Depression emptied factories,
bombs flattened masonry –
Nothing can crush me.
For every injustice,
I give you someone who’ll fight,
shout for truth and liberty, sing, strike.
Roscoe roared for abolition,
Kitty called for public baths,
Josephine caught the fallen women,
Rathbone fought the rotten votes,
James Clark taught me how to swim,
Rushden how to see –
Idealists, pragmatists, they had dreams –
their dreams made me.
I honour them in bronze, glass,
in social housing, hospitals,
galleries, libraries, schools and missions,
museums, clean water, a string of parks.
Their names are my history
and those of my children who –
quietly, namelessly –
worked extra shifts and donated their pay,
sailed to fight Fascism,
marched for the freedoms
we wear now so easily.
Social reformers, preachers, and teachers,
politicians, comedians, poets and schemers,
playwrights with angry pens,
mothers granting forgiveness, union leaders,
campaigning tirelessly -
These are my people, our common humanity.