Student Blog 2017-2018
By Kelis Saunders, AP Lit Student
As time passes, I find myself increasingly relating to Beneatha Younger, one of the main characters of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. We both are young African-American women, at or near college age, ambiguous in our interests but steady in our ambitions, and are opening ourselves culturally and personally to a side of ourselves previously unexplored. Beneatha, though just a bit more blunt than I, represents the type of woman I can admire.
Beneatha Younger has the life goal of becoming a doctor, bold in her day of even more blatant racism and discrimination, whilst I plan on joining the field of music business. Both goals are difficult to achieve in their own way. Beneatha is undoubtedbly more ambitious than myself, but unlike her I want to make life financially easier on my family, not harder. I’d like to pay for my education myself and my hobbies are much less expensive, bar the passed urge to learn the violin I begged for about four years ago.
Culturally, Beneatha had her eyes opened by an African man named Asagai, and cut her straightened hair as an oath to learn more about her culture. I too was enlightened on how I perceive my cultural identity only a year or two ago. Cutting my hair is not only an act I’ve been wanting to commit for the past four years, but has a personal significance to me. I am African-American, but have only claim the “American” half. I want to reconnect to my history as much as I am able. I want to know where my family comes from and claim a part of my identity I feel is missing. However, unlike Beneatha who took her ethnicity as one or the other, I recognize that I am not an African woman born and raised on the continent with the traditions of my people. I am happy being African-American. My main goal is to expand myself, not change myself as with Beneatha.
What pleases me the most is that I am not alone in my feelings. Many African-American people that I’ve seen personally seem to be exploring their roots, the urge me greater by popular works such is the movie Black Panther and lesser known sources, such as the children series Kids2Kings by indie book publisher Black Sands, both of which to depict Africa and draw inspiration from Africa in positive ways, and inspire others to feel the same.
by Cameron Nguyen, AP Lit, students
Inspired by A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of order, it was the age of chaos, it was the epoch of tranquility, it was the epoch of turbulence, it was the season of faith, it was the season of distrust, people were rejoicing, people were mourning. There was a man with a quick trigger finger and a massive amount of power at the head of the United States; there was a man with a quick trigger finger and a massive amount of power at the head of Russia. In both countries, it was clearer than glass to the heads of the respective nations, that things in general were set in stone forever.
It was the year of two thousand and seventeen. Russia rolled with frightening smoothness down hill, making progress in some areas but retrogression in most others. Under the guidance of her almighty president, Mother Russia entertained herself with noble achievements such as assassinating anyone who dare speak against her, accepting wide varieties of bribes from businesses leading to the corruption of government, steadily consuming more vodka, and cutting back on prisons. It is likely enough that, being produced somewhere in the factories of Russia, there was steel being ready to be manufactured into bullets to fuel the harsh crackdown on journalists and public dissenters.
In the United States, who many say holds the title of being the “best country in the world,” there exists far too much oppression and inequality to justify much national boasting. Casual catcalls by the common man, and alleyway mugging, took place in The Big Apple itself every night; black children were cautioned by their parents not to go out too late at night, especially with a hoodie on, out of fear for their children’s lives; women were being warned by their friends to keep pepper spray in their hands as they walked to their cars at night. Vandals were spray painting racial slurs directly on the homes of multimillionaire celebrities. White supremacy rallies were still occurring in two thousand and seventeen, with no condemnation taken by the nation’s leader.
All these things, and a thousand like them, came to pass in and close upon the dear old year two thousand and seventeen.
by Kennedy Walpus, AP Lit student
There was history that was already made, there was history in the making. Those who had lived through the tough times and those who were learning about said times. It was the heat of curiosity, the chill of reality, an era standing still, an era always moving. We all were heading towards the best of the dreams and also heading towards the worst of nightmares. There was a community full of plain architecture and of plain people in the place called Temple City; there was a community full of plain architecture and of unique people in the place of Rancho Cucamonga.
It was the year of Technology and Rising Tensions two thousand seventeen. Temple City continued to flourish and ooze simplicity from every corner store and the white picket fenced houses. Each day continues to have an increase in population diversity, leading to more relationships as well as cultural diversity amongst all of those who have lived in the same house for decades. Rancho Cucamonga, on the other hand, always had this development of diversity with culture exposure brought daily. She was far more favored than that of her elder when it came to certain matters. She was fair and beautiful, full with mountain ranges and palm trees decorating everywhere one may go.
Her elder was more of one that had respect, with traditional buildings and monuments covering her entire bodice. She not only held the beginnings of new life but stories of past residents whose lives had begun anew, etched into her streets. Rancho, although beautiful, lacked in what Temple excelled. But that is only because she is just beginning to put her feet in the pool of success. Her children that lived amongst her mountains and all throughout, were rewriting the stories Temple’s daughters & sons first published. Rancho was not only a beginning but a light in the darkness and the darkness in the light. There are good days, there are bad days. But no days can compare when spent in either of these beautiful cities company.
By Riley Johnson
Inspired by Maya Angelou's poem Phenomenal Woman
Many people wonder where my passion lies
I'm not rich or secure to risk an acting job's prize
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm quite unwise.
It's in the voice that I make,
The improvised quips,
The lines in my head,
The words on my lips.
I'm an actress
I walk onto the stage
Just as my cue directs,
And to a beat,
The actors perform
And the crowd inspects
Then their eyes are on me,
Watching with all respect.
It's the spark in my spirit
And the feat of my role
The truth in my act
And the spunk of my soul
I'm an actress
Many friends have wondered
Why I dream to be.
They try to plead
But can't concede
What I most wish to be.
When I try to quell them
They say they still can't see
It's in the glow of the lights,
The thrill of the show,
The heart of the cast,
The zeal of the bow
I'm an actress
Now you understand
Just why my heart is set
I don't lie or heave a sigh
Or let myself go fret.
When you see me acting
It ought to make you bet.
It's the skill in my head
The will of my heart
The nerve of my plan
The hope in my start
'Cause I'm an actress
by Christiana DeStefano
Inspired by Octavia Butler's Positive Obsession Essay
For eleven years, I have learned what love and friendship is. I have discovered what it means to be a loyal companion. For years I have continued to discover how important it is to care and love. My father hated the idea of going through with this when I was five years old. Now, none of us know where our lives would have been without her. My dog, Shiloh, has taught me more about life than I ever thought she could teach me. Many may think she is “just a dog,” but she is my friend. Shiloh has been a companion who can sense when we are sad or angry, and can bring us back to a sense of peace.
When I was in kindergarten, my brother and I begged our parents for a dog. We were dying to go to the pound to pick out a furry friend. My parents wanted to be sure we would follow through on our chores and responsibilities when it came to taking care of a dog. My father didn’t think we would be
able to do so. We were able to convince him, especially with the complaining and whining. Finally, we drove to the pound one day, and rescued our sweet puppy, whose mother had come into the pound stray, and pregnant with six puppies. Our Shiloh was one of those furry babies, and was only a few weeks old when we held for the first time. I still have a flashback of the car ride home, when she sat on a single paper towel on my mother’s lap. For the first couple of years, she was definitely hyper, but I became quickly attached to her. Even though she was a bit excited, we were able to tell right away that she had a warm heart, and a fuzzy head. I went all through elementary school with Shiloh, drawing pictures of her in class, presenting pictures of her to my classmates, taking her for walks in the evening, and making sure she is always happy and content. I learned from her to enjoy the simple things in life. I
have never wanted anything extravagant or over the top, because I have learned to love simple joys.
Shiloh taught me to look forward to just watching the sunrise, or the sunset. She loves to lie on the grass in our front yard. I usually read my book while sitting with her, and I enjoy the sky. She loves to look at the clouds and the trees, the birds, and the cars passing by. Every walk we take, Shiloh stops to
smell the flowers. Shiloh’s heart has taught me more about life than I ever thought she would.
Not only have I learned to love the simple things in life, but I have learned to love more. Around five years ago, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. The cancer in her body spread faster than we expected, and we learned her time was coming soon. The night she died, my mother received the phone call just a few minutes later from her step- dad, telling her the news. The call was dreaded, and took place around two in the morning. My mom sunk to the ground and started to cry. She held her head between her knees. In that moment, it’s hard to say or do anything. The only one who did know
what to do, was Shiloh. Shiloh simply walked towards her, and licked the tears off of her face. She continued to lick the ones that would keep rolling down and out of her eyes. That was love. That was an act of love that touched our hearts. In that moment, my dad knew after all those years, the dog has
made a difference in our lives. He too, experienced Shiloh’s love during a difficult time. My dad unexpectedly had to have open heart surgery. It was a very challenging year, and he became depressed. It is scientifically proven that if someone touches your heart you become depressed, and it hit him hard.
On the second day he was home from the hospital, he was in bed trying to recover. My dog hadn’t seen him for ten days and missed him like crazy. Usually Shiloh is not allowed to be on my parents’ bed, but this was an exception. I lifted her onto the pillows, right next to where my dad was lying. She genuinely likes the foot of my bed, but as soon as she laid her eyes upon him, she slowly crept down, and lay sideways so her face was directly looking at him. Shiloh’s love that day, got all of us.
There are nights when I turn down invitations to go out with friends, just so I do not miss my leisurely stroll with Shiloh. There are nights when I do not want to do anything, but put her on my bed and cuddle with her. Junior high school held many difficult days when I would come home crying, and
she would be there to press her head into my shoulder. I barely go out with friends just so I can be home with my dog. My family travels, but only for a limited time, so that we are not separated from our girl. When I go to a family member’s house, I take her with me, and drive very slowly whenever she’s in
the car. Shiloh’s warm heart and fuzzy head brings me peace and comfort, as I have learned to reflect that feeling. Having my best friend around me all the time has become a positive obsession, and a gift from God. Learning to enjoy a simple life, to love more, and to be a loyal friend has been the best life
lesson I could have ever imagined, and I could have ever learned from my positive obsession, Shiloh.
By Ashley Taylor, AP Student
No singular moment had polarized the state of Missouri more so than what occurred on August 9, 2014. To say it was simply an act of police brutality, to say it was protests in the streets of Ferguson, to say that it was just another slaughtering of an unarmed black man would be terribly irresponsible. What happened that day--and what followed for years after--will never be forgotten. The fourteen-year-old me who experienced that Hell will always live inside of my mind.
I remember it all as if it happened yesterday: the killing, the rioting, the tears--my own and my parents. It was strange to experience as a fourteen year old, not because it was a subject that I should have been too young to fully grasp, but because it was a subject I was all too familiar with.
The beginning of high school had just begun around the time of the murder of Michael Brown, it was my freshman year. I remember that, for some reason, every kid at that school became suddenly very interested in politics. At least that’s what they wanted to believe. In reality they were nothing more than faucets spilling out whatever their parents had said around the dinner table. It was horrendous. Suddenly every white child in a five foot radius of me just needed to explain exactly why Michael Brown got killed, suddenly it was so important that I know exactly why that police man had every right to shoot an innocent person. It was at that time that I became the “spokesperson” for every black kid in that school. I couldn’t sit around and let those ignorant children become emboldened because teachers were so impressed by their “grasp of such an adult topic”. Every day in history class for the first three months of that year was a debate, me vs every white kid in the room--so me vs everybody. The amounts of times I got yelled at or name called is too many to recount. While the people of Ferguson were fighting their own battle in the streets, I was fighting in my school. I remember getting so fed up by everything that I begged my mom to borrow her “100% black” shirt to counter against that many of kids who wore their “Blue lives matter” gear. My father didn’t want me to become an even bigger target, he thought me speaking out was enough already. If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t go against his wishes and wear that shirt.
There were very few teachers who liked me at that point in time, of course all of the arguments I’d gotten into with my peers didn’t go unnoticed by the staff. Suddenly teachers and students alike were giving me leery glances as I crossed their path--if you asked me to recount any of their eye colors I don’t think I could. You would think that administration would have at least a bit of moral and intervene when students would take their “political views” too far, they never did. Having an entire class of 26 of your peers all yelling at you, calling you every name from “overly sensitive” to “un-American” was suffocating. It’s a wonder that I didn’t leave most classes crying if I’m being honest. And the teachers did nothing.
I remember around this time that I had started to develope a bit of a fear of walking by police cars by myself, maybe it was more out of self preservation than actual fear. There were three cops who worked at my school, many kids were friends with them, I never even got to know their names. It was a sort of reality I and every black kid at my school began to live in, we keep quiet and to ourselves or we surround ourselves with people who would be some sort of shield for us. I did the latter. Being one of the 200 black kids at a school that held 1600 people meant that more often than not you became the token black friend of a group. I surrounded myself by the best white kids I could; the smart ones, the teacher’s pets, the well liked ones, the ones who would say “sometimes I forget that you’re black, you just act so...white.” Of course that statement drove me to insanity, but when you’re just trying to make it through the year you begin to allow things like that to go. These were the friends who could get me out of any dangerous situation. They were the friends who would say I was the “cool black girl” and suddenly any worriment to my person would disappear. If I was around a group of white girls, suddenly I was no longer a threat. Cops wouldn’t look at me like I was a criminal, teachers wouldn’t have their finger on the security button, I was simply an accessory to an otherwise homogenous group. It was shameful but it was the truth of that time. I, and other black kids, did what we had to do to survive day after day in such a cruel school.
There was a boy in my grade who I liked. He said I was different than other girls. We talked everyday about whatever we pleased, at that time, I thought no one in the world understood me like this boy did. My mother warned me that one day he’d say something or do something that would make me regret spending so much time on him, she said that we would never be a couple because his family would never let him date a black girl. She said he would never understand me fully, that the ability to comprehend what I feel as a black girl would never become him.
The constant blur of violence against my people had overwhelmed me. I texted the boy and confessed my fears. I worried about what would happen in our small suburb of Dardenne Prairie. I worried of protests. I worried about getting hurt. I worried about being killed. He replied, “Don’t worry, those people who are protesting against the cops won’t come over here. And if they do, they’ll have hell to pay.” I had never felt like such a fool. Because in his mind, the biggest threat wasn’t the cops who pepper sprayed protesters, sprayed them with rubber bullets, pulled hoses on them, or killed innocent black people. The biggest threat was black people. Because in his mind, “being unlike the other girls” was really code for “you might be black but you’re I can tolerate your blackness”. Because in his mind, Black Lives Matter and Michael Brown and mothers weeping over their dead sons was nothing but an inconvenience for him.
My mother was right, I was filled with so much regret that night.
“What is the difference between the sound of fireworks and the sound of gunshots” became my most frequent search of August 2014.
The difference being that fireworks echo throughout the sky and paint the dark night vibrant shades of red. The sound of a gunshot ends quicker than an unarmed black man’s life and leaves the sidewalk stained dark red.
If the story of what happened to Michael Brown wasn’t being played--but not the accurate story, instead they painted him as nothing more than your average thug--on the TV then all you saw were stories of cops doing good deeds. They would hug as many black people as their pride would let them of they would talk about how much they love giving back to their community. Of course my classmates and teachers used this as fuel for their “not all cops” narratives. There was one day when I asked, “but don’t you think that the cops have an obligation to report if one of their co-workers might have a prejudice against a certain group of people? If someone had reported that cop then maybe an innocent kid wouldn’t have been kidded.” The amounts of excuses people gave me to try and cover up the wrongdoings of the police force was amazing, there were some real creative thinkers in my class. Somehow, the cops could do no wrong according to them. Everyone saw them on TV acting nothing short of saints.
They ran the same sort of segments on the local news every night; you learn the cops name and face and where they work at, they do some good deed and they hug a random black kid. That’s great and all but what would have been greater is if even one of them showed any sign of mourning or regret for what had transpired in Ferguson. Missouri had become the hub of propaganda in a few short weeks, there was no news station you could turn on that ran the true story of what was going on and there were no stations that didn’t convey the Blue Lives Matter message. The sad part is that the news stations did this every time a cop messed up, they felt absolutely no shame for slandering the name of the dead and making Black Lives Matter into some violent riot. They felt no shame for not denouncing a man who killed a child.
The media painted Ferguson, Missouri in such a harsh light. The fires weren’t started by the citizens of that city, the people who looted didn’t live there. All of the violence captured on film was caused by individuals who cared little for what was going on. They weren’t angry about the death of a young black man, they were just looking for an opportunity to cause trouble. But the only headlines you would see are “BLM Protestors Rioting and Looting Again”. It was all false. The media never showed all of the good the protestors were doing, they never showed all of the tears mothers wept because they could see their own child in Michael, they never showed all of the white people flocking to gun stores and buying all of the ammunition up, they never showed all of the white kids who suddenly were being taught to fire at anything with color or being signed up for self defence classes “just in case” but that was the reality of it all. That’s what you didn’t get to see.
My parents drove me through Ferguson about two weeks after the protests ended. There were burned down buildings and broken glass but most importantly, there was a new memorial in the place of the last that had caught flames alongside the city. There was a picture on the web and it was of three cops who looked on as Michael Brown’s memorial burned but I bet that that photo never reached the mainstream. The new memorial was small--just a few flowers, some stuffed animals, a picture, and a pair of white shoes tied together swinging on a telephone line--but it was made by BLM protestors and the citizens of Ferguson.
Unlike what the national news showed, it wasn’t a dangerous place. It was just a city trying to mourn the loss of a child and trying to understand how the justice system could be so cruel. Truly, the most dangerous places in Missouri at that time were the white suburbs.
I don’t think that what happened in 2014 completely changed Missouri, it was already a messed up place. The majority of citizens had long of history there, generations upon generations. If anything, what happened in 2014 just peeled back a layer of the facade that the people put up, slowly the true ugly head of racism peeked through more so than before.
Last year I was in my government class talking about court cases and one case had to deal with offensive names getting copyrights. The exercise we were doing was based off of a real case, one of a bad called the Chinks trying to get their name copywritten. Everything was going surprisingly well despite us taking about such matter, that was until one of my classmates brought up NWA. It was a downward spiral from there, my teacher asked what NWA meant and of course the student answered. Suddenly the exercise we were doing was dismissed completely and every white kid who ha ever wanted to say nigger in class took the opportunity and ran with it fervently. Even my teacher was saying it too. Perhaps I should have been more surprised or embarrassed or uncomfortable but I wasn’t. All I could think of was back to 2014, it was the same concept all over again--”let’s all see how blatantly racist we can be in front of the black girl until she snaps”. My teacher stood up proudly, as if she had just come up with the most brilliant thought and said, “what if I we all went into Ferguson in 2014 wearing shirts that said ‘I hate niggers’ on them? Would ny of you be offended?” The class went silent. Absolutely no one said anything. I yelled from my spot in the back of the class that it would be very offensive and it was like everyone had realized that there was , in fact, a black person amongst them. She tried her best to convince me that she wasn’t trying to upset me and that there was “absolutely no way she was racist since she helped foster a black kid once”. The room was silent for a few seconds and then I stood up and told my teacher I was going to leave since I obviously wasn’t welcomed there.
Although it was years later, what happened in August of 2014 remained a big talking point in Missouri. Of course, when nothing else happen in such a boring state, people cling on to what they can, even if what they cling on to is the death of an innocent black kid.
Often times, I thought that the people of Missouri wished that another black person would die in their state just so they would have another reason to stock up on guns and say their true thoughts. Often times, it felt like it was me who they wanted dead next.
I do think that all of us think in poems.
-Naomi Shihab Nye
Contributors to the blog are students in Ms. Washington's classes: Seniors in AP Literature and 9th grade ELA.