Remix: For My People - Video

A crowdsourced poem curated and assembled by Natasha Trethewey
through a project with the American Academy and PBS
Released on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - 2021

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021, the Academy and PBS released a crowdsourced poem written by members of the public, with submissions offered through the PBS American Portrait platform, curated by poet and author Natasha Trethewey, read by members of the Academy and the public, and inspired by Margaret Walker Alexander’s 1937 poem “For My People.” Walker’s poem aligns with the pressing and ever-present need for racial justice, and the commitment to amplify the voices of all Americans.

The project with PBS emerged from the Academy’s Commission on the Arts, cochaired by John Lithgow, Deborah Rutter, and Natasha Trethewey. This crowdsourced poem emerged as a way to advance the Commissions work of identifying and elevating the importance of the arts in America’s diverse 21st-century democracy. Learn more about the Commission on the Arts and its priorities:

  • A report and policy recommendations about the importance of arts education and its impact on individuals and communities,
  • A report and policy recommendations to better recognize the value of creative workers, and
  • An online curated gallery of songs, poems, dances, and more. 

Read the full text of the curated poem here.

To watch the 60-second promotional video, go here.

To watch Natasha Trethewey’s interview with PBS American Portrait, go here.

Natasha Trethewey, former Poet Laureate and Academy member

“Responding to Margaret Walker Alexander’s classic poem, “For My People,” this new poem is a compendium of voices—a collective poem written by Americans all across the country to celebrate and pay homage to our shared and diverse communities—our people.

“At this moment, it can stand as a sober and joyful testament to our tumultuous time—a kind of inaugural poem for this new beginning—written not by a single poet but made up of a representative cross-section of American voices highlighting not only the individual or separate challenges in our communities, but also our shared experience as Americans.”

—Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer Prize recipient, 19th U.S. Poet Laureate, Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University, and Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and Cochair of its Commission on the Arts

Academy Members Featured in Video
Frances Arnold
Chemical engineer and Nobel Laureate
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder
Paula J. Giddings
Writer, historian, and educator
Joy Harjo
Performer, writer, and Poet Laureate
John Lithgow
Actor, author, and recording artist
Yo-Yo Ma
Cellist and songwriter
Indra Nooyi
Business executive and former CEO of PepsiCo
Eduardo J. Padrón
President Emeritus, Miami Dade College
Mark Trahant
Journalist and editor of Indian Country Today
Learn more about the Academy’s Commission on the Arts


Read Margaret Walker Alexander’s 1937 poem “For My People” here.