by Nalli 10th
We’re running in an open field, leaving behind us nothing but a black sky, big enough to swallow us whole, big enough to make us feel like we are insignificant specks of dust.
I wish the Milky Way would come down and scoop me up,
“Will you pick me up from school today? I feel sick.”
I want to float, be cradled by the stars.
Will the universe do me a solid?
I know people won’t always be around to hold my hand, even when I am scared, because there are things you just have to do all on your own with no one to hold your hand.
And there is this relentless voice in my head that is always telling me everything is going to be just fine, and even looking up at the sky the smoke practically spells out “YOU'RE OK.”
Yet I still struggle to believe.
From the tip of your head, to the heels of your feet, you are made of particles and stars, a cosmic milkshake. You matter. I can see the significance in even the tiniest things that you do.
And I'll always want to hold your hand.
I had a nightmare a few winters ago, I was floating in the middle of this pool, my body full of peace. I could hear the water moving around me, crashing on the concrete. Then all of a sudden, I felt every feeling, person, everything I have ever known slam into my chest.
It took the form of a shark right before my eyes, this giant mess of a shark, all teeth and fins. Floating right in front of me.
Then with this crazy speed, he bit into my stomach.
And all these butterflies spilled out as he started to laugh.
He said “You taste disgusting.”
My stomach hurts, bring me a butterfly net and, please, try to catch everything that escapes my body.
Put it into a jar and label it “You’re Ok.”
by Bortybo, 11th
It’s clear that the generation raised in the 2000s is filled with mental ailment, but why? David Brooks attempts to answer this question in his New York Times article, “A Generation Emerging From The Wreckage.” He uses perspectives on the current status of The United States from students attending college. The answers given by the students reveal many negative notions surrounding the world we live in from how our government is run, to the threats against democracy. Basically, people aren't having a good time. But is it harder now than it was before? When examining common circumstances for America’s youth, it is more difficult to grow up in the 21st century because the worsening wealth inequality, death of the “American dream” and lack of faith in the government due to its obvious corruptions.
In today’s society most would agree that a lot of anxiety and frustration is situated around money. How are you gonna get it? Do you have enough? And will the ever-haunting lust to acquire it ever subside? People are getting annoyed and angry with the continuously growing feeling that their financial success is stagnant. American political commentator, Robert Reich, explains in an interview that people feel that they are “not getting anywhere…[they] are working harder than ever and [are] getting nowhere, and [are] getting annoyed, and the game feels rigged against [them]” (Team Coco). Reich illustrates how the growing difficulty of reaching economic success sets people into negative mentalities and ultimately depresses our population. This makes people think of America as anything but the land of opportunities and good fortune. Prior generations were observed to be steadily doing better off than their parents. This phenomena has ceased, and economic success is becoming harder and harder to obtain as the years go on.
At one point, America was mainly viewed as a promised land, home to opportunities, a country to show gratitude for living in, but this perspective has diminished today as the generation growing up in this century has a view of their nation painted in guilt. This feeling is derived from the U.S being deemed “the greatest country,” but this statement is actually a contradiction due to how immensely flawed it really is. Brooks interviews students about their perspectives of the country, and most respond with very negative notions of society and their government. The taught history of America becomes a rounding point for how guilt is an added factor into the rising youth’s perspective: “The U.S. doesn’t have a unified culture the way other places do,” one student says, and a second student laments, “I don’t have a sense of being proud to be an American” when asked about their observations of America (Brooks). Generation z, as referring to the most recent generation, and millennials are being brought up having little to no faith in what’s considered to be the “American ideal.” In fact it's a common theme for these generations to feel guilty for being American and consider the place they live filled with imperfection due to discrimination, inadequate human rights, and corrupt power. This lack of appeal to their own country leads many youngsters to question why the government hasn't made strong enough efforts to fight these predicaments.
Lowered expectations run rampant throughout today’s youth because most are living through times where institutions fail to provide basic security. With muted conjectures among the rising generation, it’s no wonder why Brooks receives the response he does when encountering them. Through an attempt to communicate a commonly felt frustration of our political establishment, one young Yale student declares, “I don’t believe in politicians; they have been corrupted. I don’t believe in intellectuals; they have been corrupted” (Brooks). This reduced trust in American establishments steals away any sensation of solidarity in being an American citizen possibly felt by prior generations. The youth of this country are pushing themselves harder than ever before, yet they are struggling to see a reason why.
It’s clear that the 21st century has not been merciful to those growing up in it. An ever-augmenting financial inequality, a fading American ideal, and distrust in large organizations has made certain of that much. The disproportion of wealth creates a harder to obtain lifestyle for the average citizen. The stigma and negativity surrounding what it means to be an American forbids a sense pride and induces one of guilt in its place. Incidents where large-scale U.S operations, such as government programs, elections, or military, fail to provide insurance to its people, leaving them with broken trust and lack of faith in the government that regulates them. If these problems continue to worsen, so will their symptoms: increased depression, harder to obtain healthy lifestyles, economic collapse, and the perpetuation of this cycle.
by S.T. 8th
It was Passover and I was in 6th grade. The sun had set not too long ago, (most Jewish holidays happen after the sun goes down) and I sat at my Aunt’s grand table feeling out of place and uncomfortable in the harsh light of the living room. My Mom sat across from me, focused on looking through the Seder book. I remembered the story of Passover while I sat. A short summary would be that the holiday retells of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
“Here comes the drinks!” My Aunt called from the kitchen as she expertly balanced four glasses of wine. She also brought a cup for grape juice for me but hesitated when she set it out in front of me. “Actually… Sarah, would you like some wine?”
“I’m eleven!” I exclaimed, shocked. “I'm too young to have alcohol.”
“I know… but I will water it down for you… It will be fine.” My Aunt always talks like she is relaxing in a hammock, worry-free. “Only if you want to.” She added with an inviting smile.
I looked up at my Mom, asking for permission. My Mom nodded her head encouragingly and said, “Its Passover.”
I wasn’t really confident in my answer, but I shrugged and said, “sure”, It can't hurt to try.
“Look at you, doing grown-up things.” My Aunt said as she poured half water, half wine into my glass.
After a little while, we said the blessing for the wine and everyone took a big sip. I smelled the drink first and the scent of cleaning supplies wafted into my nose. Then, I tentatively sipped and held the drink in my mouth to savor the flavor.
I still don't know a lot about wine, just that it is made from grapes. That is why I prepared myself to taste a flavor similar to the grape juice I would have been having. It did not taste like grape juice. It tasted sour and bitter. I remember feeling as if I was drinking something so old and awful it had lost all of its original flavors, just leaving the rotten, gross taste behind. Almost as if, as it moved down my throat, it would corrupt my mouth with rancid flavors. It was bitter grapefruit, old, raw broccoli, chocolate without sugar, and a smidgen of vinegar all in one drink. It was disgusting, disgusting, and disgusting. This is the time I discovered, there is nothing nice about wine. Adults always look so calm when drinking wine but in reality, they are tasting this! Why do adults like wine? I guess I will know when I am older. I cringed and crinkled my face up, disliking the liquid in all ways possible. I must have looked like I had smelled a skunk.
“I guess you didn't like it.” my Aunt said and everyone chuckled at my odd face.
“If this is what being an adult tastes like, I never want to be an adult.” My words received an uproar of laughter from the adults in the room.
“No one does.” My Aunt laughed like it was the most hilarious thing in the world.
Later that night, when the lingering aftertaste of the wine was finally gone, I sat, digesting the whole experience. I had said that I never wanted to be an adult but in truth, I did not have any control over that part of my life. After all, the wine was for adults and grape juice was for children. The fact that I had been offered wine meant that I was growing up. A year ago, I would not have had the opportunity. Not just the offer of wine mattered, also the fact that I had accepted meant something. Some part of me wanted to grow up faster and do grown-up things, or at least try them. At the same time, I wanted to be young and enjoy my freedom. I had to remind myself that this is something everyone faces in their own way and that I don't have to figure out now. This was just a part of growing up.
by MCM, 7th
O, white rice
The taste of nothing yet everything
Indulging in a huge pot for every meal
Savory, sweet, salty, you can be anything you want
Eating it with soy sauce, falling right out of my chopsticks
Warm delicious god-like creature
Looked over by everyone
But small and steady steps taking over all food
Who cares if it is “peasant” food it rules over me
I smell your non-existing smell
So high above everything
even my dog is named after you
Fluffy, soft, gooey, little pebbles
Food so easily accessed but I would keep you in a safe with all of my money
From the bowl right into my mouth,
Fate, your fate is with me
Food you are, loved by most
Loved by me
by Chuleta, 6th
People in Santa Rosalia and in sweatshops are having a hard and suffering time. Workers are being exploited and dehumanized in sweatshops, and they get unfair pay. If people keep working in the sweatshops, they will soon be in poverty and won’t be able to survive with a few dollars any longer. This is why people in Santa Rosalia should apply to microloans. It is a good and resourceful way to get a sufficient amount of money for people’s needs. If people that work in sweatshops apply for microloans, they wouldn’t have to suffer any longer.
In Santa Rosalia and other places in the world, people buy things for really cheap, while not knowing workers in sweatshops put their blood, sweat, and tears for the low prices. Another thing to know is that the United States is the number one user of sweatshops. Although the sweatshops exploit and dehumanize the workers, they have no other options but to work in these sweatshops, for they need their daily resources. For example, the workers need their food, home, clothes, and personal hygiene products. In this small town, people are practically forced to work in unhealthy conditions for many hours and with low wages. The companies that own the sweatshops know people rather pay low prices. The companies lower prices, for they want workers to work longer for quicker paychecks. This causes more and more people to be exploited and dehumanized in sweatshops.
In “Uncovering the Truth: The Real Cost of Mexico’s Squid” Kate Foster states, “Companies know consumers would rather pay $10 for a shirt instead of $25, so they do everything they can do to reduce the costs of production. They set up factories in countries like Bangladesh, El Salvador, Indonesia, and Mexico, where labor is cheap. In need of a paycheck, many people have no choice but to work in unhealthy conditions for long hours and low wages” (15). Sweatshops in Santa Rosalia are torture. Nobody should have to go through this just to make a small amount of money.
Microloans are a way to help the exploited workers in Santa Rosalia and other people in sweatshops suffering. Microloans are a loaning system to help entrepreneurs and help people out of poverty with a small amount of money. There are different websites that allow you to loan money to people in need. Kiva, Accion, and Microdreams are some of the most popular websites to help a person in need. People in Santa Rosalia can use the microloans in order to start their own business or use it for daily resources. Microloans may be a very small amount of money, but it can really change a person’s life. It can help them start or improve their business.
This can be seen in “Microloans: A Little Means a Lot” Nancy White states, “Grace tried to support her large family by making peanut butter. The peanut butter sold, but she couldn’t afford a refrigerator, so she could make and sell only a little bit at a time. With a $475 loan from Kiva, Grace bought a refrigerator and packaging materials. Within six months, she was selling so much peanut butter that she hired an assistant to help her.” (14) This shows that only with a small loan from different people, it can help improve a business to make it successful. Overall, microloans can be a really big help for those in need and are the best way to improve people’s lives. Just by using the opportunity of skill and talent, people can do great things in life. There will be more jobs in Santa Rosalia and other places worldwide if people apply for microloans. People won’t have to live in poverty. A small amount of money can make a big change in life.
by Dani, 12th
I’m sorry I could never build up the courage to write about you. I tried my best to dig deep into my heart and soul, but all I could scrap up were a couple of words describing how visiting you felt; magical, terrific, beautiful. Even with those words, those experiences I brought back with me are inexplicable. You showed me that my heart could still flutter with a small greeting, my mind could think happy thoughts and my confidence could keep growing. The empowerment that I brought home with me couldn’t have made it through Miami or San Francisco without you. You’re incredible. I apologize that I have done nothing but break our ties; I can’t say that my busy schedule is to blame, but I felt that I was hanging onto you and refused to let you go. I saw the world moving on, but I kept lingering around the photos I took and the people I met. You were my life.
My emotions plummeted and I felt like nothing could make me smile again. Your beautiful landscapes and people made me regret ever coming back, and even with familiar faces, the U.S. made me feel empty. She simply could not fulfill the void that is rather ubiquitous. My languid mentality made it hard to move on with the U.S. and ultimately made me forget you. Over these past 5 months, I have been able to cultivate a stronger and more positive mentality and in the end made me acknowledge that you were not a loss. The ability to remember the beautiful people living with you and your impeccable scenery has made me realize how lucky I am to have met you. It’s still a bit hard to remember every part of you, but through photos and conversations, the feelings of contentment and love continue to rush to my heart and cheeks. I hope that I am able to fully repair the bonds we once had, and to see you in the future.
You’re forever in my heart, Guatemala.
by H, 11th
Dear Representative Lee,
I attend Met West High School as a junior in Oakland. Am writing to you because you represent me in Congress and are a champion of civil rights. I have been studying slavery and reparations, and I have concluded that reparations are long overdue. I have read what you think about reparations and I agree that the Congress needs to pass H.R. 40. I really appreciate your support of H.R. 40, but passing H.R. 40 is only a start. As a person in your district, I hope my ideas for reparations, set forth below, will be considered in future attempts to provide reparations.
As you know, reparations are necessary because beginning in 1619 slaves were brought from Africa in slave ships to Virginia. Slavery quickly spread, especially in the South. Black people were enslaved, beaten, tortured, and killed by their masters, as people in the South as well as the North benefited economically from their labor. This horrible treatment of African Americans lasted until 1865, when the 13th Amendment freed all men after the Civil War. Even after the 13th Amendment was passed, white terrorists used violence against Africa Americans to stop them from voting, holding office, and pursuing a meaningful education. Plessy vs. Ferguson guaranteed segregation in the United States for all public accommodations and areas. Even after Brown vs Board of Education, racist housing policies disadvantaged black people through the use of contract selling and redlining. These racist policies created the wealth gap we have today between blacks and whites.
The reason I chose to write to you now is because of the recent hearing about reparations in Congress. I have read many articles proposing plans that inspired me to write to you. All of these articles were written because there have been no reparations for the harm slavery has done to African Americans. We can't just move on and be blind to the fact that black human beings were tortured and their lives essentially taken from them.
Senator Mitch McConnell has declared that reparations are not owed because no one alive today took any action to promote slavery and its legacy. He missed the point because the responsibility to eliminate the legacy of slavery should not be determined by the claim that no individual living today participated in the horrors of slavery. We as a nation, governed by a central government in Washington, are responsible to remedy the legacy of slavery. We can’t let the federal government off the hook for its actions in tolerating slavery and Jim Crow, and later for its inaction in failing to recognize and remedy the legacy of slavery. Until the Civil War, the government was the central entity that allowed African Americans to be enslaved. It also didn't stop white terror when it could have after the end of Reconstruction, a period during which racism continued to destroy black families. All of this, as I stated, played a big role in the wealth gap we have today in the United States.
I have some concrete ideas for reparations. These involve monetary allotments to be granted by Congress, and I hope they draw your support.
Award three billion dollars in cash reparations to African Americans who are descendants of slaves. That money will help close the wealth gap we have today by providing funds for better housing black people. That money will also help African Americans start businesses, which will provide better jobs for blacks.
Award 100 million dollars for public schools and education. That money will be used to build better schools in black neighborhoods. It will also be used to help send black kids to college in order to create a better future for themselves. Funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities should also be increases by ten percent.
Award one billion dollars for retirement and home care for all black people who are descendants of slaves. This money will be used to give elder black people the opportunity to retire and enjoy the rest of their lives with home care.
In total the reparations money is about three billion, 100 million dollars, not counting grants to HBCUs, to be used exclusively to repair the harm America has done to African Americans as a result of slavery.
I am aware that my proposals may appear costly, but keep in mind the U.S. has already spent two trillion dollars in Afghanistan alone, and it seems the fighting is not over. We as a country can certainly spend the modest amount I propose to eliminate the legacy of slavery.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I would love to hear what you think of my reparation ideas.
by Nalli, 10th
You are what my mother saw when she stood on the balcony of my childhood home looking across the way at the pink and purple sunset.
When she came to the United States she brought with her all these stories: stories of fertility witches and red bracelets and how her mother asked her what she saw when she looked at me for the first time and how she had said; LOVE. Love, in the brown eyes and brown skin, she had found you— Your full name— made you a reality, in her eyes. And she told her that what she saw in that brown was what would be carved in her bones. And it was true.
Summer’s almost over. The pollen that fell in the Spring is still making its way into my lungs. Leaving an itch I just can’t get rid of. My parents keep talking about moving. Just like every year, but this time I think they mean it. And every day the smell of smoke reminds me that we have always been moving, always coming, never fully belonging anywhere.
But love, can you hear me? I’ve been meaning to talk to you for years now, about the way my hands don’t feel like they belong to me in the mornings, or about the ashes I leave in my absence every time I leave my house, or how sometimes even looking in the mirror is enough to make me cry, and I think maybe you have given me the wrong number, but love? I think I finally found you. And love, I want you to know I will always be here. With these small hands and tiny wrists I have held onto you like my life depended on it and love, I want you to know that I believe in you like I believe there is goodness in everything, with the same intensity nine year old me used to try to convince herself there was some sort of good in her father, and love? I am here. With every corner of my heart. Because love, you come and go as if my body is a revolving door, and I am too tired to be tired of you.
by Unbasic, 12th
Arriving in the United States from Yemen at age 11, I faced many difficulties. As a young Muslim girl in a country very different from Yemen, I was completely out of step. The U.S. was one of the most advanced democracies in the world, while Yemen was about to experience the outset of the Arab Spring. Although fluent in Arabic, I knew very little English, but quickly got up to speed in my new language. As a Muslim, I was expected to accept the role of females very different than expected by other families in the U.S. The political climate in the U.S. was not favorable for Muslims. My path to attend College has included a constant struggle to resist stereotypes. which I face repeatedly in the broader community in which I live.
My journey as a Muslim female in the U.S. cannot be described without considering the presence of Islamophobia. Depicting Muslims as anti-American is just plain wrong. A professor at —— College asked me if I would be getting an “arranged marriage” before I turned 18. I remember this moment well and thought only of his ignorance and how offensive his comment was in front of the class. I recall the hurt I felt when I saw my father and brother, dressed in thobes on their way to pray at the mosque, confronted by angry white men asking “why are you here”? And I am deeply offended when, out of ignorance and lack of respect, a white person questions fasting during Ramadan. I could go on.
In my Sunday Arabic School, I learn the true teachings of Islam, which are to live in peace and respect others. In a hadith (words of the Prophet Mohammed), even the manner in which one should eat a meal teaches respect for others. In these classes, I easily get immersed in the Quran, which teaches how to live peacefully in the world and serves as a form of meditation for me. In high school, I also read widely in literature to which I can relate, such as Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. In my experience, solutions to life’s problems are frequently found in fiction and the Quran. In Exit West, a character named Nadia wears the "black robe" not as a symbol of oppression but of freedom and protection. I intend to use my experiences to play a role in society to convey to the community that the Islamic religion and its rich culture are multi-faceted and in line with a peaceful life. It is only through knowledge and understanding of our differences that communities can live in harmony.
As a daughter in a close-knit Muslim family with three brothers and two sisters, I have met the responsibilities expected of me as a result of my gender. This was no easy task. I have served as a “second mother:” cared for younger siblings, performed household duties, and cooked, all while excelling in my school work with the goal of attending college. I am lucky to have supportive brothers and parents who have taught me to be independent and work to achieve my goals. My family is unlike the typical Middle Eastern family, where male children are free to do what they desire while female children are saddled with responsibility and overly protected from the outside world. I reject the thinking of Muslims I know outside my family, who ask: “Why go to college, you’re only going to be a housewife anyway?”
My journey to Mills College is not typical in any way. My religion and culture have played a significant part in my development. I am interested in the sciences, especially where they intersect with my faith. My studies in integrated biology; especially DNA, have created a curiosity to further study these areas. My goal is to explore the possibility of working in the medical field. I am more than my religion or my headscarf.
My path so far has included some difficult times and a variety of accomplishments: leaving Yemen at a young age in the face of the Arab Spring, learning English, playing a central role in a strong and supportive Muslim family, adapting to a completely new country and culture, navigating the tide of Islamophobia, and finding passion and curiosity along the way My father wanted an education but never got it because he needed to work to help support his family. My mother wanted to be a teacher but was sidetracked by the demands of a woman in the Muslim culture. They wanted a better life and education for me. I want to continue on that path and make Mills College my next stop as the first woman in my family to attend college.
by Unknown, 8th
It has hidden in the shadows somewhere where it is dark
It has nested a home inside of us
We’re SCARED to watch the news AFRAID to watch as the next tragedy unfolds
When will the next gun be picked up
When will the next bullets be shot
When will the next bomb be set
The bomb is already ticking, it has been set
Within me, I’m ready to explode
One day my words will blow up
They will shake the world with all its power
And shock the country with all its courage
But the bomb isn’t only in me
It’s in all of the youth’s mind, ready to go off
When the time is right we will stand
We will use all of our ability to change the ways of the past
Because the only thing left to change the future
Is the future
Oakland | East Bay, CA