In a time of social unrest, the words of change-makers comfort and inspire us.

Writer Clint Smith offers a heart-wrenching glimpse of our world — with all its beauty and brokenness — in his debut poetry collection, Counting Descent.

He writes in the title poem of the book:

My grand father is a quarter century older than his right to vote

and two decades younger than the President who signed the paper to make it so.

The lines are a powerful juxtaposition of American contradictions and promise.

A former classroom teacher turned Harvard PhD candidate, Smith writes about race, mass incarceration and education in the era of Obama — and stories of growing up as a black boy in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.

“My first moment of being politicized was Hurricane Katrina,” Smith told theGrio in an interview. “We were three days into [my senior year of high school], the hurricane came, my house was destroyed… I saw black people, my neighbors on top of roofs, begging for their lives in a way that you would never imagine to happen in the United States.”

Now more than a decade after that storm, Smith watches another storm brewing: One where Black Lives don’t seem to matter and a new generation won’t stay quiet until they do.

“A lot of people fail to truly reckon with the way that this has always been the reality of what it means to be black in America,” Smith said. “But there have been changes that represent progress — even though it doesn’t represent a solution.”

Smith stepped into the Grio Authors Circle for a Facebook Live Q&A to share the inspiration for his poetry and read from Counting Descent.

Check out the clip and share your thoughts!