Cook: Chattanooga, meet the young men of 2029

Cook: Chattanooga, meet the young men of 2029

Last Saturday, as their parents pushed back dinner plates and settled into their chairs, 66 young men from across this city — nearly all of them African-American or Hispanic — stood shoulder to shoulder near the front of a Highland Park gymnasium at the end of their weekend retreat and recited — no, shouted — one of history's most epic poems.

"It matters not how strait the gate!" they began. "How charged with punishments the scroll!"

The poem is Henley's "Invictus," which helped fortify Nelson Mandela during his years in an apartheid South African prison. Many of these boys, too, live inside their own prison: of poverty, normalized trauma, city violence.

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