Ellie Smith, 12th grade, 1st Place:
I watch a girl step into my class with long black braids.
They start at the top of her head and wind to the end of her waist.
I can see where she has pulled each strand into the single braid that bares on the back of her head, but comes forward to lay on the front of her shoulders.
I want those braids.
I long to have what she has:
Her moxi and her grace
Her brains and her charm
I look up from her and it seems like every girl has braids in their hair.
Short braids, long braids, thick braids, thin braids, dark braids, light braids
Dutch braids and French braids worn by what seems to be
What seems to me
As the perfect American girl
But I have short hair, not meant for braiding,
Maybe, on a special occasion, a small braid across the crown.
But even when I had longer locks
My hair would never stay.
You could twist and pull
And pull my scalp until I was blue in the face,
But my silky brown hair just won’t stay.
I don’t have her moxi
I don’t have her charm,
And I feel as though everyone else can pretend they can.
But I don’t need those braids in my hair
I don’t need every hair in place
I don’t need hair that can perfectly frame my face
To out pace
The chase on perfection.
Because people don’t understand what I’m weaving within.
Because they can’t even begin
To imagine what
I’m twisting and pulling in this twisting and pulling world so that I can bring
My ideas of new into reality.
I twist and pull inside to bring together what I know as hard work, dedication and education .
I twist and pull inside so that I am no longer a girl, but a young woman
Who doesn’t need to identify
Or take side
Between the words feminist and feminine,
Who does not need strands of HAIR to make her world possible,
But stands that I weave everyday are
So much better than social status or any pay
Are the strands of respect, love, and living strife
That I braid together in my living life.
Alexis Shanks, 12th grade, 2nd Place
By Alexis Shanks
I live in a life untitled.
I don’t know the group in which I belong.
That’s why I have to do things unbridled.
I have to find a way to sing my song.
But I don’t always have the courage.
Even now I am unsure.
I know that I want to flourish.
I know I can’t worry anymore.
I think I’ve got what it takes,
To find my home;
For me to stop taking breaks,
No longer will I need to roam.
My life is untitled and unclear,
But I’m jumping in and making the moves.
I’m starting to see the direction to steer.
What is there to lose?
Octavia Sleek, 10th grade, 3rd Place
These racist words
These acts of hate
Is it my fault?
Am I too late?
You say it’s nothing
You claim it’s a joke
I don’t understand
Why the blood in your hand
Differentiates yours from mine
Or my mind
Or my soul
Or my time
You have no remorse
You have no regret
Otherwise you’d say my name with more respect
I love who I am
I love my skin color
Or whatever you call it
I am of color
And a color to be proud of
You will not shame me
You will not blame me
Nor will you judge
Or try and rename me
I am who I am
No if, and, or, buts
Somehow with these racist names
I’d rather be called a mutt