Art At the Table
by Kimberly Niemela with the COSACOSA Youth Council

Suppose there’s a party where you don’t belong.
You look inside from outside, not knowing what’s wrong,
voiceless, just one of a crushing throng
of people not at the table.

Suppose you were serving the party buffet:
tempting delights in a luscious array.
But when it comes to eating, you’re just in the way
of the people who sit at the table.

So many pleasures that you’ve always chased,
so many treasures laid open to waste,
never offered to you who have need of the taste
of the bounty that lies at that table.

Imaging barriers you cannot cross,
you won’t take the chance, but you still feel its loss
beckoning you with the glitter, the gloss
and the greed of a seat at that table.

So what is the table? How does it stand
on the backs of the many who do not command
the respect of the few who, with closed heart and hand,
make their place at the head of the table?

O you who are listening, let’s exit this place
with so many excluded in want and disgrace.
Let’s birth a new vision: rise up and embrace
justice for all at the table!

Hungrily, now we must seize the first course:
education, society’s most powerful force
dished up with the fruits of civil discourse
and collaborative work at the table.

Healthcare’s available, accessible, free
served with an entree of full parity.
Economic and social fairness is key
when equality waits at the table.

At a table of equity, nothing compares
to the piece of the pie that everyone shares:
just desserts for each person who dares
make room for one more at the table.

In liberty and justice, the peaceable way
gives freedom to all to sit and to say,
“Let’s toast to the start of a brand new day
of opportunity here at the table.”

At the Table is part of COSACOSA's Common Good project exploring shared needs and assets among North Philadelphia neighborhoods through multiple art forms. The poem was created from intergenerational interviews conducted by COSACOSA youth.

At the Table provides the text for one six Common Good video PSAs created by the COSACOSA Youth Council as part of the National Learn and Serve America/CTCnet Youth Visions for Stronger Neighborhoods initiative.

The accompanying images on this page are details of a 16' x 8' Common Good mural created by COSACOSA youth and artist Hein Koh exploring issues of hunger, opportunity, exclusion, and social justice.

Interdisciplinary artist Kimberly Niemela is Founder and Director of COSACOSA art at large, Inc.

The COSACOSA Youth Council is a select group of North Philadelphia teen leaders from a variety of backgrounds working for the common good of their neighborhoods.

Artolatry bread image after Salvadore Dalí's Basket of Bread (1926).