Token Sings the Blues

by Joshua Bennett

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Blues

Step 1

Start by watching the embedded video. When it’s done, discuss some of the challenges or burdens one must inevitably face as a “token.”

Step 2

Read “Token Sings the Blues” by Joshua Bennett. When you’re done, discuss the challenges or obstacles the speaker faces as a “token.”

Step 3

Say, “Take some time to think of another group of people (not necessarily tokens) who have an enormous burden to carry. What is this burden? And why is it placed upon them? In other words, why do you think these people “sing the blues”?” Then give them some time to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students write a poem similar in sentiment “Token Sings the Blues” by Joshua Bennett in which they convey the hardships or burdens that a particular group of people carry with them.

Step 5

When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.

The full presentation may be found HERE.

Analytical Lesson

Area of Focus: Various

Step 1

This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one. The prominent literary devices & techniques that this particular poem includes are: diction, selection of detail, figurative language, structure (line breaks), tone, and structure (syntax).

Step 2

Begin by reading the following editorial from The Harvard Crimson to give your students a bit of context behind the poem.

Step 3

Read your students the title of the poem and have them predict what the content of the poem will entail. After a fielding a few predictions, read “Token Sings the Blues” by Joshua Bennett.

Step 4

Have your students open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to have to make associations from the poem to three randomly generated phrases and support those connections with evidence from the text.

Step 5

When your students are done, have them share some of their responses to the rest of the group. Just have them discuss one of their randomly generated quotes and have them explain their association with the poem’s message(s).

Step 6

If time permits, share the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Class
  • Community / Culture
  • Police Brutality / Profiling
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure (Line Breaks)
  • Structure (Syntax)
  • Tone