“I Am Somebody”-speech by Jesse Jackson, performed on Wattstax 1972
“I Am – Somebody” is a poem written in the 1950s by Reverend William Holmes Borders, Sr., senior pastor at Wheat Street Baptist Church and civil rights activist in Atlanta, GA.
The poem is often recited by Reverend Jesse Jackson. According to The Reader’s Companion to American History, the poem was used as part of PUSH-Excel, a program designed to motivate black students.
Jackson recited the free verse poem on Sesame Street in 1971, geared to fulfilling Sesame Street ’s initial curriculum for serving under-privileged city children, as well as promoting cultural understanding. On Sesame Street, lines of “I am/Somebody” or “But I am/Somebody” were recited in a call and response fashion by Jackson and the children. During the segment children of all races were scattered all over the Sesame Street set, on the street, benches, fire escapes, and led by Jackson in the poem.
I Am – Somebody was also recited by Jackson, with the assembled crowd at Los Angeles Coliseum for the famous Wattstax concert in 1972.