Pamoja (As One)

Poem chronicles msu's campaign with a message of unity

Alumnus William “The Poet” Langford (’11, College of Arts and Letters)a modern-day poet, teaching artist, PhD student, and Fulbright scholar—performed the original work, Pamoja (As One), at the Empower Extraordinary campaign celebration on October 19, 2018 at the Breslin Center. The poem, dedicated to campaign donors, conveys a message of unity for Spartans across the globe.


When translated from Kiswhili to English, the poem’s title Pamoja means as one. Langford draws inspiration for his creative work from his time in East Africa, and through roots in Detroit and East Lansing. He is the lead language arts instructor for the Michigan State University/Marshall Mathers Foundation project VERSES: Exploring Literacy Through Lyrics and Song.


Watch the Pamoja video

Photo of Alumnus William “The Poet” Langford

Listen to an interview with Will Langford 

Pamoja (As One)

Our impact can’t be packed and shipped
and moved by freight
it’s not bought and sold and
loaded in crates,
it’s not in a crest
laden with gold and old age.

It’s weighed in scores
of lives and
the possibility
to change
for the better
just one,
and another…

Another chapter unfurls
like petals
in our rose garden.  
A task stands before us
there’s loam to till

we harken
to seeds
planted in this land
the promise to flourish,
to manifest
the rarest dreams of
isotope beams and
trilling strings
in a sprawling pavilion.

Our carillon’s calling
Spartans to new missions:

Bringing to fruition
from a hill of thorns
the key to reach our apex:
to invest.

From the steps of Beaumont Tower
to Tanzania
tunaitwa (we are called)
kunatengeneza maji safi (to make clean water)
to Dar es Salaam
we are called
to every echelon

To empower the extraordinary,
spiraling skyward,
that takes root here

To empowerHER
confidently reaching for resilience
in the ascent toward
her purpose,
driven by her brilliance

by the sun
rising on a day
with 7,000 hours
by the power of the crowd,
endowed inalienably
with the faculties
to seek degrees,
to see the forest
for all the trees.  

by those who decreed
a promise,
progenitors, adorned with tools
for the harvest

Who know
that what is given today
meets impossible
with plausible,
gives pause to doubt
where the footing is
when the shore is especially far

We dive in
for the way is forged
by the next ranks
in this Spartan Phalanx.

We will go forth,
thus adorned
in armor
that harbors hope,
clothed in fabric
that binds us
to a truth
that reminds us
that we would reach back.

So too we reach forward,
ever forward,
for the arts
for the letters
for the words to say
that what we make—citizen scholars
fills coffers with riches much greater
than silver pieces:
tunajenga barabara kwa kesho
we are building the road to tomorrow
for the journey is long
and the trials are many
Lakini tutatembea pamoja

But we will walk it
as one
to inscribe a legend
written today
in the rumble
of our 50,000 footsteps.

Who will?
Spartans Will.