Seoyoung L., 12th - Millburn, NJ
Emma held the baby closer to her heart as the winds grew stronger and raindrops intruded through the unstable umbrella. She wrapped her flimsy coat around Mia tightly, willing to transmit any heat she could spare. Or maybe she was just doing it to huddle closer to a source of warmth; Emma had always been a selfish girl.
During her thirty-minute trip to this alleyway, Emma had encountered so many people in the bus and on the streets. If she had been herself a year ago, dressed in a neat school uniform and giggling with her group of friends, she would’ve not even noticed the people sitting around her. They would not notice her. But with this thing inside her arms, people’s indifference glimpses transformed into disapproving and pitying glances.
“Look there mama, a baby,” a little girl sitting across from Emma pointed.
Emma instinctively tugged Mia closer into her breast and lowered her head, wanting to disappear into the scratchy fabric of the seats.
“Look away,” the mother tugged down the little girl’s arm and whispered, “That’s what happens when you stop studying and start hanging out with boys.”
The bus had reached her stop. Emma’s thin legs wobbled under the weight of her baby and the weight of the chilly air cinching around her skin. She struggled to balance a tottering umbrella on the crook of her neck and embrace Mia protectively at the same time.
“Do you want me to hold your baby for you?” A man had asked when he noticed her struggling to lift her umbrella.
Instinctively, Emma had paled and backed away from the generous offer, shaking her head violently and strengthening the grip on the warm body.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the man seemed to be offended as he walked away, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
But it wasn’t the man that scared Emma. It was herself. She was afraid that if the man touched the baby, he would know what Emma was thinking-- going to an alleyway, dropping her sleeping baby inside a plastic box, and closing the lid. He would be disgusted at her. But the words of the man, short and sweet, had ignited a transient warmth inside her stomach. That was the second match lit. But when the man walked away, it created a gust of wind that blew out the warmth in an instant.
Emma stared at the man’s back, remembering when the first match was lit. She was with Harry. Harry’s eyes were the waters of the lake, and his voice was the steady splashes of water calling out into a peaceful night. When she was with him, she felt serene like she was on a calm rowboat, relishing his voice, flesh, and bones encircling her form. When he made love to her, she felt like she could trust him; she could sit back, close her eyes, and let his waves carry her to a beautiful place.
“I’m pregnant,” Emma whispered.
Harry’s eyes were shadowed as if a whale intruded into his pristine lake. But he soon recovered. He let Emma fall into his strong arms and smiled calmly. His warm palms rubbed her stomach, and he began to whisper the familiar steady splashes again. He put her in his rowboat.
“We’ll get through this together,” he said, lighting the first match inside Emma.
When Emma went to school the next day, Harry’s family had moved away.
The red bricks of the building were fading into a color of brownish mud. Old help wanted posters, torn from the rain, clung onto the walls with glue and gum. To Emma’s relief, nobody was there, except for some ugly potted plants and a delivery truck parked in front of the building. Emma hurried into the alleyway and to the sign, The Baby Box. The plastic box was placed inside the wall with two hatch doors that could be opened from the inside and the outside.
Emma carefully took out Mia from her arms and kissed the warm cheek. The girl stirred, clenching her eyes in distress. For months Mia and she shared the same life and the same breath. She was what kept Emma alive like a piece of her heart or her lungs. Emma slid open the small door and pushed the small creature inside.
“I’m so selfish...I’m so selfish…”
The muscles of her face started to tremble and a stinging sensation shot up her nose. Emma could almost imagine herself on a rowboat with Harry and her girl, riding the mild waves of the lake. But absentminded sailors do not prepare well for the tumultuous storm. And when the turbulence smashed the boat, Harry abandoned them to drown. And now, she was doing the same to Mia.
Emma closed the door shut, and a loud bell rang from the inside of the building. Ding! Frightened, she dropped her umbrella onto the cement floor and started to run out the alleyway. Sweet raindrops swam down her face mixed with sweat and tears. Rivulets streaked down her body and dirtied her shirt and soaked her shoes.
When Emma heard the voice from the building, she turned around. A middle-aged woman had swung open the door, hair disheveled and face bloated. She was bent down over a small baby, feeding it a bottle of infant formula. Another baby was strapped to her back with an intricately-tied piece of clothing that had old coffee stains. She looked silly, trying to rock one baby and feed another.
“Miss, what’s her name?”
“I...I…” Emma wanted to flee the scene, “I...I don’t know. She’s not...she’s not mine anymore.”
“What’s her name?” The woman’s voice grew softer, as if she was calming a crying child. A young, distressed child. The young girl peered into the woman’s eyes. A small flickering light was ignited inside Emma’s chest and started to grow. It blazed wilder and hotter until her whole body was engulfed with flames, and she couldn’t notice the chilly wind.
The final match was lit.
The baby box (or the baby hatch in the U.S) is where a struggling parent can place their baby to be taken care of. Parents don’t go there to abandon their babies, they go to save them.
Naren, 6th - Stamford, CT
Life is precious
People are equal
Treat with kindness
To make this world a better place.
Life is like a river
Flowing from its highest peak
Sometimes it's rough and rocky
But changes course to a calm lake
Life is like a rollercoaster
The ride goes up, and down
It might be shaky so hold on tight
You will always get a landing that is right
Life is like a tree
Useful in many ways
Not taken care of
Will fall and wither away
Life is like a journey
The travel seems interesting
Which teaches us values
While social distancing
Don’t lose hope
In this hard time of need
Things will get better indeed
Daisy A. 12th - Oakland, CA
In Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Transformation of Silence into Language,” Lorde analyzes the concept of the power one’s voice holds and the repercussions associated with one’s voice being taken away. Lorde argues that breaking silence and helping free the voices of those who have been oppressed and marginalized by society is the responsibility we hold as an interconnected community. Alice Walker’s essay “Am I Blue” describes how we are all interconnected through a horse that represents the oppressed groups/people in our world. Walker uses this metaphor to convey to her readers that we should all treat each other as equals because we are all human. Walker fights for equality, and Lorde fights for an outlet to accomplish this, our voice. Lorde writes that “your silence will not protect you.” Lorde is opposed to keeping ourselves trapped in a box where we are incapable of speaking our mind and our truth.
Throughout Lorde’s essay, we see this view on silence being explained more thoroughly: “the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out.” Lorde explains how women are marginalized by society because they are perceived to be inferior to men. Women stay silent out of fear of being judged by men. Lorde uses “in the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear [. . .] fear of [. . .] judgment” to convey this to us. Women are forced to live in silence out of fear, unable to say or express their true feelings. This is demonstrated in Jamaica Kincaid’s short story titled “Girl” which is about a mother preparing a girl for society’s expectations and the consequences if she doesn’t live up to them. Kincaid writes, “this is how to behave in the presence of men who don't know you very well, and this way they won't recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming.” Through her writing, Kincaid demonstrates how the actions women take and their behavior needs to be approved by a man. If women do something men don’t like, they are labeled “slut[s].” Women are forced to live in silence and limit themselves due to the fear of how men might respond.
Lorde believes it is our responsibility to break the silence women live in and let them out of the box they have been trapped in. We are connected to these marginalized groups and individuals through our very being; we are all human. People seem to forget this when they pay more attention to the barriers that separate us, but we are all interconnected.
“Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” This is a saying most children are told when they begin to learn empathy. Walker’s main message is that we should treat others with empathy, and Lorde agrees with this. Lorde believes that empathy will allow us to feel like those who are voiceless, and with this feeling in mind, we will help them find the confidence to use their voice. As children, we learn about empathy and oftentimes practice it, but as we grow older we forget it. As adults, we are independent. We have nobody to guide us in what is right or wrong. All we have is our values and beliefs, and it is a struggle to defend them when they are challenged. Lorde reminds us of this throughout her essay. She ends this text, leaving us with this last statement: “there are many silences to be broken” reminding us that it is our responsibility to break them. We must bring a counter narrative to our society.
B.Loza, 9th - San Ramon, CA
Luis was patiently waiting for the day when his life would turn for the better. Everyday he lost little by little, but he never lost hope. There was no point of holding on to the past, but how could he not. It seemed like just yesterday he had been a young man. That spark in his eyes had vanished and each day he felt his hours tic on by; wasted. He felt numb, confused, but not lost. He had found his purpose a long time ago on the night his mother had died. Only one word stood up to him on that fateful night. Regret. He could have said “sorry” and told her that he loved her with all his heart, but he didn’t. Whatever the reason he only cried and held her hand as the sun dawned. He remained speechless as he felt the warmth of her body leave slowly after dark.
All of these demons and thoughts were so overwhelming and complex that it would cause a contradiction in a large crowd until it tore apart, and yet all of it was crumpled up in his head. A poor lonely vessel like many others walking down and up the streets. So many emotions, and yet no one could feel them. So many pleas and screams of desperation, and yet no one could hear them. No one noticed.
In the end Luis just kept waiting and waiting. He waited for good news or perhaps for a miracle to happen. After all it wasn’t him who needed to change. In his mind he had always been a good man; free of malice. Always the victim. All he needed to do was stand still and let the world reward him for his suffering. It was only fair for the world to repay its debt to him. As the sky turned dark and quietness settled, Luis pocketed the change in his worn out hat and laid his head against the hard cold floor, hoping.
Students 6th-12th Grades