“Scream” (mixed media) by Leron McAdoo

…reflecting on oppressive politics, educators and the power of music by Stacey James McAdoo…

Memories are funny. I find it interesting how certain words, images, smells or current experiences can invoke them.


When I was a child I was terrified by the thought of war and of the world ending. A vivid image of my nine-year-old self remains etched in my mind. I’m standing in the middle of the street. Behind me is my Uncle James’ chalky white house. And in front of me, counter corner to my left is a big two-story structure that over the years has been many things — including a residence and a place of refuge ran by nuns.

Anyway, I’m literally dancing in the street and bobbing my head. Inside my head, I see George Clinton’s head. Colorful, yarn like tresses are flowing out of it. They are rocking and swaying both violently and gracefully.

My coils, on the other hand, don’t have that freedom. But my heart does. And I’m trying desperately to match his cadence. My eyes are closed tight, cheeks are lifted, mouth is elongated and I’m singing at the top of my lungs.

“The whole world 
is on red alert.
Believe me when I say
No one has to get hurt..."

Lately, that song (“Bulletproof”) has been stuck on repeat in my mind. And headline news constantly shares stories of absurd things that serve as supporting evidence for it. Each time I read, watch or hear about those things, I roll my eyes, take a deep sigh and start singing.

"The whole world
is on red alert.
Believe me when I say
No one has to get hurt.
I ain't bulletproof,
I won't wear the ball and chains..."

Conflict has never been my friend. I typically try to avoid it because my body can’t take it. I get physically ill. My emotions go haywire. My primitive lizard brain takes over. And when the “what if’s” and the “it won’t matter anyway’s” that accompany my fear won’t allow me to flee, I simply retreat deeper inside myself.

I don't want your war /
I don't want your war
I don't want your war /
(pause music)
I don't want your war
I don't want your war

However, when I think about the thousands of educators who put their life, license and livelihood on the line to protect their students and to stand up for their convictions, I sing my the chorus a little differently than I did 34 years ago.

Just as George, a funk music innovator and rock and roll hall of famer, said throughout the song that he’d rather be in a band playing his funky music as loud as he can, I’m positive the educators out front and center on the battlefield would much rather be in the classroom teaching than fighting policies, the man and the system.


Although it’s too late for me, I hope that the next time a nine-year-old is standing in the middle of the street that war and oppressive politics are no more…and may the song that she sings be one of unity, love and triumph instead.

*Stacey James McAdoo, the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year (affectionately referred to as 2019ATOY), is a 17 year Oral Communication instructor, AVID Coordinator and sponsor of the spoken word collective called Writeous Poets from Little Rock, Arkansas. She teaches at the historic Little Rock Central High School where she is the living embodiment of her ATOY platform of using passion and poetry to close the opportunity gap.*

1 thought on “Bulletproof

  1. Music has a way of speaking for us and to us. I, too, would rather be doing what I love, teaching. I don’t want this war, but I’m prepared to fight in it. My students deserve every bit of fight in me.
    Thanks for always having the words to express my (and other’s) feelings.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close