It is 4 years to the day since Aaron Dugmore took his life, aged only 9. I have written a memorial piece for Aaron and have today shared it online complete with a video.
I remember writing this poem, an anti-bullying awareness piece; I was sat in my room alone mourning the loss of my grandad Roy, who had died a few days previous. My eyes were stinging, I wasn’t sure if it was from the stale tears that sat on my cheeks or the fact my laptop’s light had been beaming directly on to my face for hours. I sat with a blank word document open, I was desperately trying to write a memorial piece for my grandad but the words would not come, everything was wrong, it was misguided and most of all rushed.
Then I remember one of the best memorial poems I have ever heard, it is a piece by Brighton based poet Karen Withecomb and speaks honestly and openly about her mother, it is aptly titled “For My Mother.” I remember the first time she read it aloud, it struck a real chord with me and I could feel the love and adoration radiating from the poem. It may just be one of my favourite poems I have ever heard. Then I remembered another fine detail, Karen stating it had taken her years to complete, and this gave me an overwhelming sense of relief. I stopped trying so hard.
I came away from the blank MS Word document and opened up my web browser, I looked at the news stories and that was when I saw the story of Aaron Dugmore trending. I must have read every article available on the case and it filled my heart with a great sadness. As somebody who has battled with depression and flirted with suicide, seeing a story about a child taking their life is sobering, it makes you see a real irrationality in the act but also a deep empathy resonated in my bones.
The story reminded me of another poem, To Ricky Reel, by the amazing author Benjamin Zephaniah. This poem was an open letter to Ricky Reel, a young man who lost his life in a savage racist attack in 1997. There were stark comparisons that could be drawn from both Aaron Dugmore’s story and that of Ricky Reel from the media coverage and this made me sad, angry and more importantly inspired.
I borrowed Zephaniah’s tone and began writing an open letter to Aaron Dugmore. I was able to channel my grief and work it in to an apology, to say sorry for the ugliness a young child saw in such a short lifetime.
As time goes on, some of the finer details of the case have changed, and some people question the racial elements and what really happened, even suggesting the media furore clouded the cold hard facts, but that does not make my work any less important.
This poem speaks out against bully’s, much like Benjamin Zephaniah’s work. We must teach our children to see everybody as one, to look upon each other with the eyes of love. We must not fill children with fear; we must be disciplined when we teach them to interact with society. We must teach them to accept and not just to tolerate and we ourselves must become more accepting.
I perform this poem every time I step on to a different stage or a new venue so the memory of Aaron is not forgotten. I dedicate this work not only to Aaron but to any child who has hated their existence because others have made them feel worthless, for those who suffer in silence because of fear of speaking out, or that they will be dismissed by those who are supposed to look after them.
Here is the full transcript of the poem;
To Aaron Dugmore
You packed your bag for the last time today,
You reluctantly walked to school amid the cold February air.
Your body shivered but the weather was not penetrating that warm winter coat.
No, today, you shook with fright.
If we believe the papers you were punished for being white,
They cite the fact the school is made up of 75 percent ethnic minorities.
The priorities of the authorities was never your safety,
I’ve lost a lot of faith in humanity lately,
When I heard how another child had taken his life,
I could do nothing but cry.
You were only nine, but your outlook on life was that there was nowhere left to hide.
Even when they threatened you with a plastic knife and told you their parents said white kids deserve to die,
The school just turned a blind eye.
Erdington wronged you.
They said Boys will be boys
or kids can be cruel
but not one single child should fear going to school.
How was the walk home for you?
Did you have any clue what you were going to do?
Or was it merely madness of the moment,
here’s hoping you felt no pain
God knows I have done the same
And no child should experience the way in which a rope cuts off oxygen flow to the brain.
I broke down when I saw your picture,
but if I’ve learnt anything, it’s to wipe my eyes.
So Aaron on behalf of earth