Sabrina, 12th - Sunnyvale, CA
I. Livid taste buds in a world beginning to open
I am developing new habits. Like being flexible with pens.
Writing full poems in the empty space of a book. Not crying
whenever I please. I’m in Town & Country seeing a world waking
and reading my first Hemingway; writing a poem in it too.
It’s June; it’s loud; I feel it being loud. It’s June, which is to say
poetry has made the dynamic world a different thing. I mean,
the world has made the dynamic world a different thing.
The whiteness of Palo Alto, heat of the real summer world.
I mean, anything we do now is shrouded with the contents
of this year’s spring. New life in summer. Paella, a living thing.
II. On Sibelius: tilt your chin skyward, light through the window blinds
All we have ever done is for beauty. Heaven come down
and strike us all, lowly bodies grasping for permanence,
grasp for intervals, grasp for goodness. I will be ebb,
you will be flow; we are earthlings; we name everything
the wheel, do not reinvent. True story: I have turned my
bed into a desk. I split my time between wanting to be
prodigious and wanting to be loved. But honestly
Saint Francis has better desires for my heart than I do and
I very much trust him so at the end of the day I’m lifting
up his prayer; who knows, maybe it revises my heart.
III. My new period cup
There’s a learning curve when it comes to putting it in,
I mean, this is a violent, serious act. I am interested in being
sustainable in hosting this blood fount but more interested
in suppressing the fount, or rather, gathering it. Cranberry
jam under my fingernails. No one likes cranberry, and
it’s only tolerable in cranberry white peach juice which
my mom mixes in her sangrias. We cope with today’s world
by celebrating something every week, it seems. Today’s
celebration: inching along the learning curve, spotless,
my cup full, womanhood continuous, poetry restorative.
J.Sperling, 12th - New York City
When my bones give way to gravity, buy me new ones (keep the change),
from CVS, or maybe Walmart.
It is cheaper there;
I hear you can steal
and nobody will say a word.
When my lips shed like snake skins turn them into jackets
and sell them on the street.
Replace my fingers with straws
and sip my insecurities away.
Wrap my arms in double sided tape;
thin my legs to hold my weight;
make my nails paperclips;
make me useful
like I wasn’t before.
Leave my brain, will you please?
You always said
A Smart woman is Sexy
And I always said
Nothing (did you even listen?)
Put me in your window display when you are finished,
I still need sun to survive
and perhaps a bit of water.
I will live next to your dead chrysanthemum and pray I don’t end up the same,
And when a customer arrives, complimenting you on your collection, show them my way.
I will spread my petals for them.
Put a price on me.
I’ll give you the receipts if you need
7.99 for each tibia
14.99 for the bigger bones.
Check the revenue from my lips.
I’ll sit here and tap B U Y M E in morse code on the windowsill with my plastic fingers while you do the calculations.
Then you can really know my worth,
in all its dollar signs.
Sarah, 12th - Oakland, CA
The huge ovens warm my back as I inhale a slice of soft chocolate babka, a sweet braided bread popular in Ashkenazi Jewish communities. The bread is perfectly tender and nutty, marbled with earthy chocolate dough. At eight years old, I am standing in the kitchens of the Grand Bakery, a kosher Jewish bakery in my hometown of Oakland, California on a field trip with my after-school synagogue group. Black and white cookies, sticky coconut macaroons, deep-fried jelly donuts, heat kissed challahs - and, of course, shiny bagels - make eye contact with us behind glass. With excitement skyrocketing, our group is offered a plate of freshly baked babka in the back. We descend on the table like locusts, reducing the plate to a dark chocolate smear with our buttery fingers. This day fit into my wider Jewish consciousness and fascination with food, which appeared to me everywhere in my Jewish education.
Early on, I was fascinated by the myth of pomegranates holding 613 seeds corresponding with the 613 commandments in the Torah. I once tried to see if this was true, but did not have the patience to count and ate a few seeds along the way.
Bread, specifically, seemed to star in every story. Matzoh was central to Passover; when the Israelites were fleeing Egypt they didn’t have time to let bread rise, so they let dough cook on their backs in the sun and created Matzoh, the cracker-like bread Jews eat each spring at Passover. On Purim we made hamentashen, triangle-shaped cookies filled with jam and poppy seeds that mocked the triangular hat of an anti-semitic tyrant named Haman. Dough was also present on Chanukah with fluffy sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts that celebrate a small amount of oil lasting eight nights. Learning these things even came with a distinct flavor. In Judaism, learning is literally supposed to be sweet; after learning a new part of the alef bet, the Hebrew alphabet, we would be rewarded with a stick of honey or a piece of chocolate.
At Grand Bakery, I ended up learning about another slice of history for Jewish bread. One of the bakers told us about the story behind Noah’s New York Bagels, a popular West Coast chain. In 1989, Noah Alper saw that the Bay Area needed bagels. Hailing from a Jewish suburb of Boston, Alper opened the first Noah’s New York Bagels shop in Berkeley, specifically opening it as a kosher kitchen. A 2016 Berkeleyside article quotes Alper describing his plans: “Noah’s wasn’t just going to be a bagel shop. It was going to have a set of values... I wanted to create a place where all kinds of Jews — secular, ultra-Orthodox, Reform, gay, straight — could feel comfortable eating. I had been learning with [an Orthodox] rabbi; I wanted this to be a place where he could eat as well.”
This ethos of inclusivity is certainly inspiring, and representative of the Bay Area embracing a modern approach to being Jewish. As Noah’s expanded around California, however, it struggled to keep this up. Going bankrupt from overexpansion, Alper sold Noah’s New York Bagels to a larger company in 1996. With this consolidation, stores stopped being kosher one by one, starting to serve the popular bacon and cheddar bagel sandwich - something that has never made sense to me (I believe pillowy schmear belongs on bagels, not gluey cheese and oily bacon). Serving bacon and cheese or pepperoni pizza bagels at Noah’s meant appealing to American tastes, but it also made it unavailable to those who eat kosher. In Jewish dietary regulations, eating pork is not permitted, and neither is consuming meat and milk together. Noah’s has always been a great place to get a bagel, although I never thought of it as distinctly Jewish food there. European Ashkenazi Jews share many dishes with Middle Eastern Mizrahi and Spanish Sephardic Jews, but bagels began in Poland. As Jews flocked to New York in the 19th century, bagels became popular in America. With Noah’s, they became a hit on the West Coast too.
The stores eventually excluded observant kosher eaters, but Noah’s delicious classics were introducing many non-Jews people to the magic of a good bagel. Along with the olfactory imprint of butter and honey, the dichotomy of kosher versus Jewish food stayed in my head after Grand Bakery. I have been tempted to label Noah’s as a sell-out chain - or a representative for Jewish food - but maybe that’s not what the story is about.
There certainly is a futility to kosher kitchens; there are no kosher Noah’s left out of 58 stores, and the beloved Grand Bakery closed in 2016. However, kosher food embodies the attention and quality many are currently seeking when they eat.
To sit at a Jewish table always means that you will be fed love. Memories of the Jewish kitchens of my childhood are filled with garlic and screaming and overwhelming heat, but each moment was steeped in deep care. Fish heads, crispy latkes, and matzo balls were all made by my family’s loving hands the way they have been prepared for years. Markook flatbread, baklava, and rugelach were traded between kitchens. Msabbaha hummus and falafel said: we care about you.
Just like the people they feed, foods evolve over time. The history of our people can be seen in every layer of baklava and twist of challah, in the same way it can be viewed in the journey of Noah’s Bagels. In fact, adaptation is perhaps what is most fundamentally Jewish about Noah’s, not its schmear. From baking Matzoh on tired backs to surviving on bread from Moses during 40 long years in the desert, Noah’s fits into a wider story of change for Jewish bread. Even Grand Bakery participated in inevitable transformation; they ended up re-opening and adapted to wholesale selling. They don’t sell babka anymore and you have to eat at home, but you can still buy their macaroons- and they taste as sweet as ever.
Anonymous, 11th- Oakland, CA
I will not pause my world from orbiting
Or stop the sun from rising
Simply to announce
Whose hand I want to hold
And whose eyes I will not be scared to look into
Because the world will orbit
The sun will rise
And so will I
I am learning to love myself
I don’t know if this learning will ever stop
Or if it should
But I will learn to appreciate
Whatever love I have to give.
It’s not always brave
It’s not always bold
and it's not always loud
But it caresses my skin
And lets me feel the sun's warmth
Every time I carry it in my arms
Until it fills the empty spaces
I’ve gotten used to creating.
It makes my voice roar
Every time it feels like silencing.
It opens my hand
When I’m scared about who it’s going to reach out to.
It appreciates the stretch marks that paint my thighs
The way they do on the trees that make each breath easier to take.
I am not always brave
I am not always bold
And I am not always loud
But I am here
and I am learning how to love
Dani, 12th- Oakland, CA
My mom always told me that her favorite color was white.
The purity reminded her of everything Holy and of everything that is right with the world. The white fluorescent glare removed stains of suffering, loss, fear and harm. All things that she tries escaping as a Mexican mother living in Neverland. But let us bless God for the endeavors and successes obtained in the gray world. White reminds her of the doors in her impossible house. It excites her when looking at pillowcases and soft blankets that keep her warm during cold winters and rainy days. And she asks me, “How can you not desire being surrounded in all things white? The white doors, the white sweaters, they’ve led us to where we are now.”
But even with beauty in all forms of white, I cannot imagine living in the selective world that’s white. She frowns.
My father always told me that his favorite color was black. It rejuvenated him to think of the black oil stains he got when fixing a car. It reminded him of Sundays when he picked up a black pen and designed drawings that fascinated his daughters. Without a sale for such beautiful creations, my father traded those moments for a gray world, but in return, earned more black pens with limited use. My dad couldn’t be bothered by any other color in the world, perhaps gray, but the color itself brought him luxuries of hard-work, desire and success. Leaving the gray world in Mexico felt like a win because the home he lives in now allows for much more. My father did not realize that they were the same gray regions with different stamps. So then he tells me, “Mija, this black world is what I came here for.”
But even with all the luxuries in all forms of black, I stop myself from succumbing to an exploited black world. He frowns.
I always tell my mom and dad that I do not have a preference in color. I tell them that the majority of gems are not one, but are multiple colors. I explain to them that it couldn’t be possible to fall in love with a single color of the world. I am reminded of the places I go and the liberties that hold every color from a paint palette.
And so I tell them, “How can you live in a bland world when all the colors of the world make up true beauty and true happiness?”
But even with grandeur, I am their radical daughter wanting more than one colored world. I frown. Then I realize that my eagerness of redirection could be frightening. The lives lived by my parents weren’t socially, emotionally or systematically wired for rainbows, but for a sole color. Their compliance to a black and white world was programmed. So, I reassure them that no matter how deflective I get or how eager I am to splash color onto their canvasses, I will respect their worlds. Because just like my parents did, I also have to learn to accept the gray world and find ways to paint its canvas with all the colors I have.
M.G. 11th - Oakland, CA
Since its creation in 1996, Proposition 209 has faced both harsh opposition and great support making it a highly controversial policy. During the nineties, affirmative action which is the practice of favoring individuals belong to previously discriminated against, was a debated topic with many arguing for or against its necessity. Proposition 209 was initiated onto the California ballot in response to this controversy beginning with Joe Gelman, Arnold Steinberg, and Larry Arn. The main goal of Proposition 209 is that it, “prohibits public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity.” (Ballotpedia) Additionally, Proposition 209 works to reverse affirmative action in that it also prohibits public institutions from making preferences towards particular groups. Over the years, this policy has faced opposition through lawsuits, in which groups cite that this policy has led to the decrease of minority enrollment rates and reduced outreach towards marginalized groups within California public universities. However, supporters of Proposition 209 argue that affirmative action policies in the past allowed for the discrimination of minorities in pubic employment and universities. This leads me to believe that Proposition 209 is overall a beneficial policy but serves an impactful role in a public employment but harmful role within California public universities.
Since Proposition 209 eliminates the possibility of discrimination within public employment, contracting, and universities, it is a helpful policy. A supporter of Proposition 209 writes, “Job applicants are turned away because their race. It must not give a job, a university admission, or a contract based on race or sex. Government must judge all people equally.” (Vigarchive). This part of Proposition 209 is why it is known as the “Civil Rights Act”, because it protects minorities and women from being unfairly targeted within public institutions. Under this policy, marginalized groups who apply to universities and jobs can be considered without bias and prejudice. Employers and universities are legally held to the standard that they will not turn away or unfairly judge someone due to their race or gender. In a study conducted by Caitlin Knowles Myers that examined diversity rates indicated that, “...the rates at which people of color were employed in the public sector in California may have increased, rather than decreased, after 1995.” (Myers) After Proposition 209 was passed in 1995, the increasing rate of people of color employed in the public sector proves that the protection of minorities from discrimination has led to higher employment rates. It also disproves the idea that Prop 209 is a harmful policy which opposers believe that the reversal of affirmative action within public sector employment would have led to decreased minority rates.
An aspect of Proposition 209 that makes it a harmful policy is that it reverses affirmative action within California public universities which creates even more racially disproportionate student demographics. The detrimental impacts are shown when Proposition 209 was approved in 1996, and ever since minority enrollment rates in public universities have seen a decrease. Using the black student population as an example, The Sacramento Bee reports, “At UC Berkeley, African Americans have fallen from 6.3 percent of freshmen in 1995 to 2.8 percent this year ” (Editorial Board). Decreased minority rates have also been shown through, the number of Hispanic applicants to UCLA and UC Berkeley which have “[...] increased 350 percent, but the number admitted has remained relatively constant” (Editorial Board). The issue at hand with the lack of affirmative action is that California public universities are not maintaining diversity. Since Prop 209 was put in place, racial diversity has plummeted which is harmful because diversity is an important factor within California universities. This means that the student enrollment at California public universities is not reflective of the racial demographics of the state. Proposition 209 proves harmful to minority students shown through race-neutral admissions into California public universities not resulting in representation of Latino and Black students.
Proposition 209 is a beneficial policy when addressing public employment but harmful when used in California public universities. The stated goal of this policy was to put an end to discrimination or preference in public institutions on the basis of race, sex, and ethnicity. In theory, the outline of Proposition 209 is something that I support because it gives marginalized groups equal treatment within public institutions. However, the idea of giving equal treatment when discussing affirmative action shows the faults of this policy. A supporter of Proposition 209 claims, “... by making sure that all California children are provided with the tools to compete in our society. And then let them succeed on a fair, color-blind, race-blind, gender-blind basis.” (Vigarchive) My issue with Proposition 209 is that inequality of opportunity can not be addressed by suddenly taking away affirmative action which supports marginalized communities. Before letting Californian children succeed on a system that is blind to their identity, it has to ensure that the resources exist in the first place. Proposition 209 can only serve as an effective and helpful policy once the root issue of inequality among underserved communities is addressed.
Unknown, 8th - Oakland, CA
What is hope
Where can I get it
In times like these people say “don’t lose hope”
But I can’t lose something I never had
I’m drowning in my own sorrow and losing my breath running to find peace
I need hope
I need to feel again
I need to be reminded of the endless joy I once relished in
I do have hope
Is that why I feel the need to run to the light at the end of the tunnel
Is that the reason I take a million steps a day to find happiness
We all have hope, no matter how helpless we feel
The belief that we will one day rise to our feet is that hope
We need to cherish the memories we made in the past and anticipate the ones to come
We need to stay inside and work to heal the wounds we have
We have hope
Liya, 11th- Oakland, CA
The land of the free
Think about it how free can we really be
People blinded by the fact we not really free
People crossing countries and sailing seas
Just to see
And to be judged by skin color, race and the way you eat
This is America "the place to be" ain't no place can beat
A country that's divided by multiple sides
And everyone stuck up in their own
We searchin' for bones
We need to do better
We all been through stormy weather with hopes it will get better
We kneel down we pray for those whose bodies hit the ground
Shot by supposed protection
How am I suppose to feel safe
When the ones that "protect and serve" got the nerve to be loud and disturb the peace but
But there was never peace
The ones that stood up are deceased
Very little violence we just spoke
Yet our number one leaders were smoke
We came a long way from being captives
America's history has long chapters
But it doesn't stop the fact most prisons are filled with blacks and it's wack
I'm tired of being a statistic
Because of my color, I'm considered a misfit so if you have the time just listen
Just listen, please
There are things we need to work out
When you speak they close your mouth
Filling your mind with nonsense
Hiding the true facts
Our education is trash, bring the culture back
The war on is being swept underneath the map
While there's big facts being shown behind a colored glass
Corruption is such an assumption but only truly a fact
Born to have a number slapped on my back
We have to win cause they don't expect us to pass
They time is slow because it moves fast
Open your eyes the best way you can survive in this country is if you're white
The unfairness in this country isn't right
I want to fight
I want change
But America loves fixing problems with bandaids
Rip them off
Let's heal these wounds
I wake up every morning wondering if things will change before I meet my doom
We say we want change but never take that step
If we don't work together, how are we considered the best
I get it
We have fresh food and water
But ourselves and other people we slaughter
Killed by the guns we love
Agitated by the clouds we make
"In God we trust"
Murdered by people of the same faith
The clock is ticking its time for change
If we don't get it
It's us to blame
emoney, 9th - Oakland, CA
Darkness lurks and like light it beams
I learned that one day while I was at a stream
All that meets the eye isn’t as it seems
He said good day and I said okay
I think I kind of like him but
Darkness lurks and like light it beams
His looks were stunning
Like he’d been sunning but
All that meets the eye isn’t as it seems
When I told my friends
They laughed coldly and said
Darkness lurks and like light it beams
Oh how I longed for his love but
He broke me to pieces and left me alone
All that meets the eye isn’t as it seems
How I wish I’d have listened
When it was once told
Darkness lurks and like light it beams
All that meets the eye isn’t as it seems
A, 8th- Oakland, CA
Remember just a couple of weeks ago where you might’ve been actually happy. When you could interact with people socially, and literally be alive. When you looked forward to seeing your friends because you knew you would be happy and have fun with them. Fun. You’d have fun. You’d laugh with your friends in person, and see them smile with you. You’d be able to feel so good knowing that you were around people that cared about you, and you cared about them. But, now you’re alone. Probably stuck in your room, craving the feeling you had with others. Fun.
You can’t rely on other social people to be entertained by, so you’re stuck on a screen all day. And honestly, it’s the only thing keeping you sane. Or maybe, it what’s driving you insane, too. I don’t know really, maybe both. But in reality, it the only thing you can and will do. The only thing that’s bringing you “fun”, or an idea of it. And remember that feeling where you knew you’d be happy? You’d go to sleep and then wake up everyday knowing that you’d see who you made you possibly happy, or maybe someone who made you excited. Either way, maybe you’d look forward to it. At the same time, you’d know what to expect. You’d see them. But now, we’re only playing one game, the waiting game.
We can only wait every moment of every day to see what will happen next. It’s so frustrating to not know what will happen next, unlike before. We knew, or we thought we knew, what would happen the next day. Up until these past couple of weeks, you were able to be with others. Now, you can only imagine it. Crave it. Maybe you’re imagining plans you had with your favorite people. Of course, now, you can only imagine what it would be like. Maybe they were canceled. All you can do, all everyone can do is wait. Wait for fun to come back, or whatever fun was, anyways.
Students 6th-12th Grades