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.
Oakland Youth 6th-12th