Images not displaying properly? Click here to view the online version.
Walter B. Hoye II

A Weekly Column By Walter B. Hoye II
Conflict Of Interest
In the abortion debate, is there a "Conflict of Interest"
within the Black community and among her leaders?
Subscribe Unsubscribe Forward Archives Issue No.: 2012.009
Share this page

Personhood: I Am Somebody

William Holmes BordersWilliam H. Borders ·

"I Am Somebody." is a poem written in the 1950s by Reverend William Holmes Borders, Sr. (1905-1993), Senior Pastor at Wheat Street Baptist Church and civil rights activist in Atlanta where he campaigned for civil rights and distinguished himself as a charismatic spokesperson for the city's poor and dispossessed. 1 In 1971, a bold and unapologetically Pro-Life Jesse Jackson 2 recited his version of the poem on Sesame Street to emphasize the individuality and significance of all people, regardless of size, appearance, race, or economic status. The scene took place on the stoop of 123 Sesame Street, involving a large group of children of different colors, who together and in chorus joined in on the now legendary "I Am Somebody." portions of the poem. 3

Here is the poem as we take a walk down memory lane:

William Holmes Borders"I am Somebody! I am Somebody! I may be poor, But I am Somebody. I may be young, But I am Somebody. I may be on welfare, But I am Somebody. I may be small, But I am Somebody. I may have made mistakes, But I am Somebody. My clothes are different, My face is different, My hair is different, But I am Somebody. I am Black, Brown, or White. I speak a different language But I must be respected, protected, never rejected. I am God's child!" — Reverend Jesse Jackson recited this poem on Sesame Street in 1971. Yasmin Brown was featured in this episode.

Personhood: Understands I Am Somebody

PERSONHOOD IN BLACK AMERICA is not simply a Pro-Life strategy or tactic that establishes legal rights for all human beings at all stages of our development. There is a much deeper desire within the hearts of the disenfranchised to be accepted, approved, acknowledged, affirmed and have the attention of the supreme and highest law of the land as a person than there is a desire to overturn Roe v. Wade.


PERSONHOOD IN BLACK AMERICA speaks to equal treatment under the law that without compromise or prejudice, recognizes all of us as human beings entitled to an equality, a freedom, a brotherhood, a type of justice that ensures access to entrepreneurship, full and fair employment opportunities, decent housing, integrated education and culture, health care, child care, clothing and three meals a day.


PERSONHOOD IN BLACK AMERICA speaks to a day where men, women, boys and girls are "not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" 4 and "the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free" 5 can look to a brighter future as they walk through the "Golden Door" of the American dream.


PERSONHOOD IN BLACK AMERICA speaks to the heartfelt need for the highest and supreme law of our land to be amended with words so clearly defined that they are absent of "interposition and nullification" 6 so that a person is a person "regardless of the means by which they were procreated, method of reproduction, age, race, sex, gender, physical well-being, function, or condition of physical or mental dependency and/or disability" 7 unto death.


PERSONHOOD IN BLACK AMERICA speaks to the need to have the words "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" 8 apply to all human life and not just some human life.


PERSONHOOD IN BLACK AMERICA understands that "the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me" 9 and because we "think that is pretty important," 10 seeks to ensure all human beings, from the child in the womb, to the senior citizen facing end of life decisions, to the disabled war veteran are protected by love and by law.


I hope the Pro-Life movement is listening.

It's not just about an "all hands on deck" effort to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Personhood: Acknowledges I Am Somebody

"I am a true Christian, for indeed, I practiced the religion of Jesus at points better than my master from whom I learned it." — Reverend William Holmes Borders. This is the last sentence in his poem "I Am Somebody" introduced in 1943. ·

1963 March on Washington WomenWomen in the 1963 March On Washington

Personhood is a movement working to respect the God given right to life by recognizing all human beings as persons who are "created in the image of God11 without exceptions. Personhood brings to light the internationally recognized and well documented truth regarding the beginning of our biological development, 12 and by definition and design sets the stage for a complete victory. Personhood defines "winning" in a way that meets the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of men, women and children everywhere and for all time. Personhood understands I Am Somebody. Personhood gets it.

1963 March on Washington WomenWomen in the 1963 March On Washington

It's time the Pro-Life movement stops fighting Pro-Lifers, recognizes that there are different Spiritual Gifts, but only one Holy Gift Giver 13 and stand together united for the greater good of all humanity. For one, I believe the Pro-Life movement can work together as we stand for life. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., "I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him." 14 I may be poor. I may be young. I may be on welfare. I may be small. I may have made mistakes. My clothes may be different. My face may be different. My hair may be different. I may be Black, Brown, or White. I may speak a different language than you, but I Am Somebody. I must be respected. I must be protected. I must never be rejected. I am a child of God!

Brothers, we really need to talk.

· William Holmes Borders, first penned "I Am Somebody." He introduced his poem to the world on Sunday, January 10, 1943. The African American Lectionary provides both the history and the full text of his original work (
01. William Holmes Borders (1905-1993), (
02. "How we respect life is the over- riding moral issue," by Jesse Jackson; Right to Life News, January 1977 (
03. Although the Reverend Jesse Jackson did not write the poem: "I Am Somebody" it became almost a calling card for him. He has recited the line in movies and other individuals in movies and songs have used his recitation of the poem. The full text was included in the book Sesame Street Unpaved.
04. "I Have a Dream" (1963) is the most widely known of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches and was delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 at the March for Jobs & Freedom, generally referred to as the March on Washington (
05. The Message of the State of Liberty inscribed on the tablet that the "Mother of Exiles" is carrying (
06. op.cit. Dr. King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech.
07. The language of the California Human Rights Amendment (
08. In Congress, July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America (
09. Martin Luther King, Jr., "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important." Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 13, 1962.
10. Ibid.
11. Genesis 1:27 (KJV): "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (
12. Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development (
13. 1st Corinthians 12:4(KJV): "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." (
14. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964, (

Donate NowClick Here To Support Our Work. The Issues4Life Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax deductible. To send a donation via U.S. Mail, please make the check or money order payable to the "Issues4Life Foundation" and send it to the address below.
Issues4Life Foundation
1684 Decoto Road, Suite 261
Union City, California 94587-3544
California Civil Rights Foundation
1684 Decoto Road, Suite 251
Union City, California 94587-3544
Copyright © 2012 Issues4Life Foundation | California Civil Rights Foundation. All rights reserved.
To ensure our newsletter always reaches your inbox, please add the above "FROM" email address to your
address book. If you prefer not to receive news from us in the future, you can unsubscribe here.