Still i rise
table of contents
As a society, we often judge people based on how they look. She looks smart, she looks nice, she looks healthy. We make these assumptions within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone, and we use these assumptions to guide our future interactions with them. I hope that through my personal anthology you will realize how flawed this ideology is, and make efforts to change your thought process in the future. "Still I Rise" is the theme of my anthology, and I can't think of a better phrase to describe what I've done my whole life, but specifically since September of 2020. When you see the yellows, I want you to picture the sun that I wanted to kiss my Vitamin D deficient skin, the icy blue to symbolize the shivers that would dance across my body due to anemia, and the brown of my eyes as tears threatened to escape into puddles on my collarbone. Life is not about the struggles we endure, of course, they influence our actions in the future, but how we prevail and defeat the obstacles thrown at us. Here's to my colon and anything that will try to knock me down: Still I Rise.
tied up at the hospital
While trying to find art that I felt fit the theme of my project, I kept coming back to Daniel Leighton’s work. To someone that doesn’t know his story, his work comes off as something a five-year-old could draw, but to me it just makes so much sense. The bio of this painting on his official website includes the text, “Did you ever have an experience where you felt helpless and detached from your emotions in order to survive? What was the precursor to this moment and what will be the expression and how do you find your feelings again and reconnect? Who are you without the past? Who are you without the search? Who are you without the reconnection?”
After leaving the hospital, I became emotionally detached. I felt like a rusty robot, in pain every day, but using school work to detract myself and not face any of my emotions. All my days were the same wake-up, eat, go to school, eat, then go back to sleep. I was really cross with my siblings, part of this was a side effect of Prednisone, but the other part of it was me being emotionally unavailable. That was really new for me because usually, I’m a very expressive person, hint, hint I’m a theater geek and writer.
After long crying sessions and heavy conversations with my mother, we came to the conclusion that I should start therapy. I had been through something that was pretty life-changing and keeping everything inside was going to help me heal, it would only create unnecessary stress.
After several sessions with Terea, my therapist, we came to the conclusion that I can’t expect others to feel and act emotionally the way that I do, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t care about me, they just have different ways of expressing themselves. Also, I reconnected with my passion to write, I had stopped during the peak of my flare because I felt that everything I wrote was too painful.
My relationship with God is a rocky one. I believe, but I’m highly critical because there’s no definitive proof. But at the peak of my flare, while I was running to the toilet eight to ten times a day, God was all I could count on. “If you take this pain away, I promise I’ll be a better Christain.” was a common chant over and over again as I cried. While I'm aware that what I was asking was a flawed request, I’m used to reading stories where people “found God” at their lowest point, but it was such a cliche that I never thought it would apply to me, until now.
Lines from the last stanza “Only she on her knees, peeking into her clasped hands” are the most notable for me, because when you;re reading the whole poem it is very unexpected. It’s a tonal shift from depressing to hopeful, which I could identify with. Right now I’ve been on Entyvio infusions for roughly four months and I’m on a successful steroids taper, and other than my amazing team of doctors (who are all brown women, if I may add), and my family, the only other “person” I can thank is God.
Doctors still don’t really know the cause of ulcerative colitis. Five to ten years ago they thought that it was caused by stress, but due to cases in younger children and other varying factors this theory was later discredited. The strongest theory there is now in the simplest term is that your immune system is attacking itself. If my body was a robot, I'd practically be in self-destruct mode. That’s why I really resonated with the lines “ I am always begging my body not to be so broken but my body just laughs because it knows who started this war,” I know it might sound silly, but in my moments of heightened pain I would “talk to my colon.”
Another line that I connected with was “on days like this I am ashamed to look in the mirror so I lie in bed and pretend to be someone else.” When I got out of the hospital I looked like a completely different person, with my lack of eating before and while I was in the hospital I lost over twenty pounds from my previously 116lbs stature. At first I was really embarrassed, and I didn’t want to go out, I could only fit my leggings and even those slightly sagged. After I took pain medicine I would go to my room and look through my Photos app, swiping endlessly through pictures of my “old self.” That didn't really help either, because I had been suffering with UC for a while.
a substance called understanding
I was really nervous to announce that I was sick on social media, at first I was going to keep it to myself, but as a person who believes in social media transparency, I felt that it was my duty. During the BLM protests, I used the platform to keep others informed by watching live streams of people at the protest. The main point in my Instagram caption was that people who are telling their stories don’t need you to sympathize with them, they just want you to understand, and educate yourself. Specifically, for me, I told people to educate themselves on invisible diseases.
People with invisible diseases are often overlooked and disregarded. At the beginning of my flare, before any pain, I was experiencing chronic fatigue and people disregarded it as me “staying up at night on my phone” and “being in too many after school facilities.” I wasn’t able to receive medical attention because my symptoms were severe, and now it’s taking longer to decrease my inflammation.
The author of this painting was misdiagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, got his colon removed at eleven years old, and then was later corrected and diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
don't watch me cry
When people first found out I was in the hospital there was a constant influx of messages and calls, but the ironic thing is, being in the hospital wasn’t even the worse part. Of course there was the constant threat of COVID-19, but when it came to my condition, in the hospital I didn’t feel any pain because I was heavily medicated. I felt worse when I left the hospital because the pain medication they prescribed for me at home was lower dosages.
After a while people started to check on me less and less, which is only natural, they have to move on with their lives and become occupied with other things. I found the chorus of this song really relatable, the first verse is “ I wonder if you're thinkin', is she alright all alone? I wonder if you tried to call but couldn't find your phone. Have I ever crossed your thoughts because your name's all over mine? A moment in time, don't watch me cry. A moment in time don’t watch me cry.” Primarily because you get the context that Jorja was “abandoned” but there isn’t any malice in her voice, just sadness and genuine curiosity.
One of the hardest parts is being in virtual-school, but still not being able to hang out with any of my friends because they go to school or work and my immune system is actively being suppressed by biologic infusions. I make a joke to my friends now when I tell them “I’m experiencing my senior year through you,” but to a certain extent it’s the truth. That brings me to the second verse in the chorus “I’m not crying ‘cause you left me on my own, I’m not crying ‘cause you left me with no warning, I’m just crying ‘cause I can’t escape what could’ve been, Are you aware when you set me free, all I can do is let my heart bleed,” Well, my colon was bleeding, but I just craved human understanding and for the people that I was around 6+ hours of the day to be genuinely concerned about what was going on.
my hands are tied
As a part of my treatment, I have begun weekly therapy sessions. Through my sessions we confirmed that I have a tendency to give too much of myself to relationships, not necessarily romantic relationships, but just my relationships with people in general, and when people disappoint me I blame myself even though I didn’t do anything wrong. This behavior is not abnormal in people but it becomes destructive when it is a repeated behavior. Another tendency was my defence mechanism of acute dissociation and becoming withdrawn from what’s going on around me, during this time I’m constantly beating myself up about things that are once again, not my fault.
On the topic of dissociating, I recently discovered Kim Noble’s work looking at artists that struggle with mental health. Ms. Noble was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, and as a therapy mechanism to eventually integrate her personality she began painting. When you look at her painting, because the paintings were created by her different personalities, each sub-collections look drastically different.
This specific painting is made by her personality “Patricia”, I often feel like the girl trained to the wall when it comes to my thoughts, especially when I’m going through something and I have writer’s block at the same time. I desperately want to get all the negative and unproductive thoughts out of my head, but they seem stuck. I’m stuck.
the heart is a lonely hunter
There is an excerpt from The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter that begins with “At first he had not understood the four people. They all talked and they talked....His hands were a torment to him. They would not rest.” To summarize the text Singer, the main character is expressing how he is always listening to these people, basically these “friendly strangers” drone on about their lives, but he wasn’t able to fully express himself to them, so much that his hands began to ache from the lack of being able to communicate with them.
In most of my “friendships” I felt like Singer. I was constantly there for my friends, giving them advice, helping them in their lowest point, but I didn’t have anyone that really listened to me. And people that I did find that would listen, we were often separated geographically, so that added a different strain to the friendship. I felt like I knew everything about them, but they didn’t know the real me, they just knew me on the surface.
These feelings were heightened during and after my flare, now I really feel like the people that I formed “relationships” with at Prince George were really just warm bodies in a sense. Now, I barely talk to anyone.
If I’m being completely honest with myself the only relationship I really regret pausing was one I wrote about in my book (the poem is titled “jackie _ _ _ _”. A part of the “high” I was experiencing in my junior year had a lot to do with our budding friendship. He took me on my first date, and after weird encounters with teenage boys in the past, he was the perfect gentleman. Whenever I talked to him I literally felt like I was the only person in the room, he really did listen to me. I ended up calling it off because I was really busy with the school and extracurriculars and I felt that whenever I made time for him, I was neglecting my responsibilities. Maybe regret isn’t the best word to use, because I made the decision that was best for me, but I wish I would’ve found a way to make it work. Or maybe it wouldn’t have ever worked because I got really sick afterwards. Even though we’re still really close friends, I feel really embarrassed when I think about bringing the past up.
the misadventures of awkward black girl
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is hands down my favorite non-fiction book. I was heavily inspired to be a writer by Issa Rae, and reading her “autobiography” There’s a particular chapter that features an essay where she gives the different definitions of black people called “A Black Guide'' in the book it’s supposed to serve as a guide to help the awkward black (Issa Rae and the assumed reader) connect with other types of black, and I find it hilarious.
Subconsciously, throughout my rereading of this book, I began to place different black people in my life into these categories, and when I read the chapter, pictures of these people float through my mind. Admittedly, one day while I was supposed to be reading Mice of Men, I was rereading The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, and when I got around to the definition I assigned myself, “Awkward Black Girl” something felt different. It didn’t feel the same now that I had IBD, but none of the other definitions fit me the slightest.
I’ve always found myself a lot less sympathetic to people that cause their own illnesses versus the opposite way around. I’m not sure if that makes me heartless or cold, I still have empathy for that person, but if you were doing something that you know is going to make you sick or sicker, it shouldn’t be a surprise or public outroar, when your situation gets worse.
I talked to my therapist about this complex a few weeks ago, she tried to compare my experience with the experience of others, specifically when I ate foods that I knew would cause my colon to cramp or make me feel sick. My response was that I was surprised when those things happened to me and I didn’t expect for my family to come to my rescue at times like that, I knew the outcome, and most times (they don’t happen often), when they do happen I just suffer alone in the bathroom, because I don’t tell anyone what I’ve done. As one could probably guess, that opened up another can of worms.
What I liked about this piece is that it almost captures my ideology. What’s the point of making someone feel worse about a terrible situation or making other people feel terrible because you feel bad? It doesn’t make sense to me. So I like that Henry gives the guy positive words before he dies of suicide, what’s the point of making him feel like crap? How would either party benefit from that?
the yellow wallpaper
This entire story is so captivating and brings up a lot of topics including a woman’s role and mental health. After reading fiction things of this nature I always look up the author and try to understand their point of view and inspirations for writing the story. One interesting thing I found while researching was S. Weir Mitchell’s “resting cure”.
In a way I feel like quarantine has been an endless “resting cure” for me. I absolutely needed rest and stillness to combate my inflammation, but after a while it drove me crazy, in a way I still feel like I’m going crazy. I grew apart from a lot of the “friends” I had at Prince George, and if I’m completely honest with myself I’m not sure if most of the people I considered friends were actually my friends, or just acquaintances due to proximity. But even with that being said, without the now- meaningless conversations I had with those people, I feel really trapped socially.
Those I still consider friends are harder to communicate with, because I feel like most of the time we’re on completely different wavelengths. I guess this is just something I just have to get used to with “adulting”. It still sucks though.
This poem represents my current state of body health and image. I know how I’m supposed to feel, I know that the doubts and fears I had before were not accurate, I know that my body is my God-given vessel in which I’m supposed to love and care for. Reyna Biddy says “I used to wonder used to wonder what it was like to be loved for me, I felt like if I were to lose all the acne someone would see me, I thought that the prettier I could become the more options I'd receive years later, and I'm still just as lonely.”
It took a long time for me to come to this realization, and I’m not going to lie, doubts still creep in, but I have to remind myself that I’m not perfect, I will never be perfect, and if someone wants me to be perfect, that person does not deserve to be in my life. “These bones have been bruised, broken, and cut, these bones could never give up on me.” My body has been through absolute hell this past year, and I am so thankful that it didn’t give up on me.
flowers for algernon
The situation between Algernon and Charlie is much more drastic than mine, am I selfish for being thankful for that? I couldn’t help but think about this story, specifically a beautiful version I saw of it while competing for VHSL last year. During this time I was experiencing U.C. symptoms but I wasn’t diagnosed yet, I just remember deciding that I wasn’t going to eat anything that morning because I didn’t want to deal with the extreme urge to defecate while I was supposed to be helping my team. It was my first time directing a play, along with my co-director Maddison Shawkey.
Taking the chance with starting biologic infusions was a huge risk for me, there isn’t a lot of information on them, and most of them are still being clinically tested, even though they are being used on patients with IBD. They’re used to manage the symptoms of IBD, but they don’t really prevent flares, you could still be on the infusions, go into a flare, then completely regress. Similar to Charlie’s regression in Flowers for Algernon, but in a way, more life-threatening, because it deals with your internal organs, the process isn’t a slow regression, everything happens fairly quickly.
It’s crazy how so much has changed this year. I’m still doing the VHSL competition but I went from a serious dramatic interpretation performer to a co-director, now I’m directing my own play that I wrote-oh, and my symptoms are in check on most days. That’s God’s work right there.
a message to women
Adulting is hard. I don’t see how you all have been doing it for so long. I’m reading to buy in my two week notice, and quit. Having to call my doctor’s office gives me so much anxiety. With trying to get used to all of this I can’t even imagine starting to date. I don’t have a rulebook, I don’t have any experience with having to start from a rock bottom and build myself up again. How do I rise?
My family’s romantic relationships have a LOT of toxic traits, and they have undoubtedly contributed to my lack of enthusiasm to seriously enter the dating world. So, one standard I’ve set for myself is to constantly remind myself how I want to be treated. This poem perfectly does that.
Technically, BTS is a South Korean boy band, but this is their English song that has recently propelled them to even higher fame in the States. This song was also "released" and promoted by an American record label. It’s not really my favorite song by them, but I had to use it in order to fit the project qualifications.
It’s funny how I’ve found the things that I love the most, when I was experiencing lower points. This particular time was close to the time I made the decision to leave Appomattox Regional Governor’s School. I realized that I didn’t want to pursue musical theater full time, and I wasn’t really given the opportunity to fully embrace what I wanted to do. So I did what was best for me.
Even though I knew I made the right decision, I was still really sad that I was leaving all my friends behind and entering a school with over three times the student body size at ARGS, I felt like an ant. During this time I heard “Lie” by Jimin of BTS. Basically in the song he talks about a period where he was very depressed because he felt that he wasn’t perfect for ARMY (that’s what BTS calls their fans), South Koreans have really strict beauty standards, this led to him developing an eating disorder. K-pop Idols have to train 16+ hours a day, so him not eating and overworking himself only made him feel worse. In the chorus there is a line that has the English translation “give me my smile back”. Listening to them, even though I couldn’t understand the language, made me feel like I had someone that understood me.
During the process of me just discovering my purpose again, they released a song called “Love Myself”, a song to ARMY. One of the main lyrics is “you showed me I had reasons, I should love myself”, that’s what BTS has done for me. I’m glad they are finally getting the attention they deserve with Dynamite, even though the Grammys snubbed them.
Knowing that my life has completely changed, and will change again in a few months has caused me to reflect on things I idolized as a little girl. For days I’ll sit back and listen to One Direction and watch Barbie movies, trying to capture the thrill these things brought me as a little girl. These things still make me happy, but more in a nostalgic way. After the song ends, I just remember that I’ll never be that carefree little girl anymore. I then open my computer and do homework that I neglected in the process.
I “discovered” Van Gogh in a second grade art class. I remember my teacher Mrs. Stump (she later changed her name to something that sounded like a sneeze) telling us about his mental illnesses in connection with his art. Like many artists, his story completely captured me, and until my freshman year of high school I felt so sophisticated when I told people my favorite painting was Starry Starry Night. Later, you could imagine how aloof I felt when I learned that this painting was a very common topic of discussion in the art world.
Despite this piece not being a holy grail, when I think about the things that inspire my art I drift back to things with similar themes to Starry Starry Night, and I connect it with budding thoughts that started in my childhood. Isolationism, Loneliness, Solitude all of these things being a gift, curse, or sometimes both throughout the trajectory of my life thus far.
brown, black, and beige
This picture perfectly embodies the emotions I felt during the beginning of middle school. I felt like I was wearing a mask, trying to conform, and the people around me really didn’t know me, so they just assumed I was happy when I was so sad. This was the first cover I ever picked to “publish” any of my poems. It was through an online platform, and just the emotions that the artist captured resonated with me. I hope she isn’t a problematic person, because I don’t know that much about her, and I didn’t do any research prior to putting her in.
I showed this picture to my mom and sister, and they were completely taken by it. I was immediately propelled back into the emotions I felt as a little girl, and I felt really sorry for who I was back then, but I don't regret it, because through that experience I was able to appreciate myself and my culture. That little girl is me, not so much at this point in my life, but as a person of color, in my lifetime, in the industry I want to pursue, the temptation to conform will always be waving in my face like a white flag during war.
the skin i'm in
″Call me by my name! I am not ugly. I am not stupid. I am Maleeka Madison, and, yeah, I’m black, real black, and if you don’t like me, too bad ’cause black is the skin I’m in!″ I yell.” The Skin I’m In Sharon Flake
The Skin I’m In was the first book that I read that actually resonated deep with inme. I do a lot of reading, and I’m touched by a lot of the words, but not a lot of them actually stick with me throughout the years. I think it’s because I related to Maleeka, I was going to a predominately white school, and I was definitely trying to conform to the masses. I tried to dress like a lot of the girls I saw at school, even though it really wasn’t what I enjoyed wearing (I also talk about this in my book). It took a while for me to realize that their validation and acceptance wasn’t the center of my existence. I’ve always had a niche for the dramatics, but it’s a completely different feeling when you're really sad and you're naturally dramatic. To say the absolute opposite least, I hated myself, and I genuinely wished I was white.
When I'm going through any difficult situation it, like I’ve said a million times, you feel so alone. And by reading this book it brought me back to the reality of my situation, and there must've been at least a million other colored girls feeling the same way that I did. The experience doesn’t define us, it just matters how we grew from it.
When I write, no matter the type of work I’m writing, I always seem to put a little piece of myself into the work. That’s why I love period pieces, because it allows me to fully transform into a new person. That was part of the reason I began acting in the first place. I didn’t know who I was or how I wanted to present myself. By acting I didn’t have to pick anything and I was still able to impact people. I try to carry that ideology into my writing.
Now that I think about it, having U.C. isn’t the first time I’ve had to “rise up” from terrible lows, but it was the first time I felt that I truly had to do it alone. I had to want myself to get better, and I had to stay strong. Sure I could draw energy from others, but at the end of the day, I had to want it for myself.
This monologue captures a lot of the uncertainty that was present in my childhood, with my father being absent then returning to my life when I was seven years old and marrying my mother. Of course, the context is completely different, but that’s where the emotions come from. It also made Mr. Phillips cry, so that’s a win in my book.
When I talk about “rising” I’ve primarily focused it around personal experiences and my illness, but never really how that relates to my environment. Even though I’ve lived in Prince George for the past three years, I’ve never considered it my home or my community. To me those terms mean one of the following:
A place where a majority of your family are.
A place that you share a connection with.
A place that supported you in your growth
And any other related notions. To some PG may have been the best years of their lives, but for me, I always felt that I was pushing against something, unless I was in English, Theater, or Journalism class, and even in those spaces I’ve started heated debates about the moral ways to treat people.
When writing this article, people who kept the county archives and history, stonewalled me after hearing what I was writing about. The librarian at the Hopewell library had to go through their archives, print them, and drive them to PGHS for me. I was very proud when that story was published.
One of the most ironic experiences was my APUSH class last year. It was full of the IB kids, who are needless to say, white. Seven of us identified as people of color, but only 3 of us actively engaged with our community, in slang terms the 4 others are socially “white-washed” (using that term makes my skin crawl). During the first week of school we had assigned seating by last names, so we were all mixed up, but when we were to pick our own seats almost all of the white and “white washed” students went to the far side of the classroom leaving the three of us and one new white student on the side closest to the teacher’s desk. Later on down the line two of the colored students joined us after feeling uncomfortable.
The white space that separated our desk was much more than an aisle for Ms. Halsey to pass out papers. It became jokingly known to our side of the classroom as “the line of Segregation” and was where our progressive ideas would fall and be overpowered by the army of convervative peers in front of us.
I would be wrong if I said all of the students were conversative, because some of them were on “our side” and others just stayed quiet even though they didn’t agree with the masses. At times I felt my fire smother out of fear of being the stereotypical angry dark-skinned black girl. The structure of this classroom occured ironically, but it has been a great symbol of my time at Prince George.
From my first time hearing the hard “er” come out of white person’s mouth, to finding out a teacher of one of the largest organizations at the school has a history of prejudice speech and was publicly homophobic to one of their students, leading up to high risk teachers having to come back into the build; being a student at Prince George High School has been an interesting experience.
All of my time here hasn’t been negative and I'm thankful for the positive moments I’ve clung to, but just like any other less than ideal situation I’m glad I was able to take something away from my time here. It’s taught me when to give up, and take a step back. I can’t change everything I don’t feel is right. It’s also taught me how to pick my spaces as an adult, and the people that I want to actively be around. It’s a sad, but hopeful reality.
The only reason I took AP was to try to be a better technical writer, and I was a bit concerned about my Dual Enrollment credits transferring out-of-state, especially from a lower ranked community college like Richard Bland. I don’t really agree with the College Board as an entity even though they try to push this progressive message now, their organs are still very controversial and their tests still serve as a disadvantage to low income and marginalized communities. There is a lack of opportunities for individuality & creativity in AP classes, but I love the effort that this class tries to put forward, the highlight of this year definitely being the Caddy assignment.
I kind of relate to Caddy in a way, my family is very emotionally dependent on me, and sometimes I feel like they are taking from an empty cup. Sometimes I think about college as the opportunity to run away, but then I think about how all the pressure and psychological trauma I’ve gathered throughout my life transferring over to my sister. It makes me regret the decision of choosing to go so far. As I’m writing this I’m recalling a conversation I had with Johnny Soto last year, when I was explaining this situation to him he could relate, and told me that I reminded him a lot of his mother. Constantly giving ,and not expecting to receive anything in return. It’s very ironic that I responded to his statement saying “No one really appreciates you until you’re gone”. Rest In Paradise Mama Soto.
alice walker on womanism
This is one of the foundations that hold me together when I feel broken. I really got into Alice Walker after I read Color Purple in seventh grade, and used one of the chapters for a serious Dramatic Interpretation Monologue. Up until then I definitely considered myself an intersectional feminist.
After finding out the exclusion that was prominent in the early stages of feminism, and how some people still use those ideologies, it really made me uncomfortable. One day while doing research I came across the term womanist, and I was completely enamored. I related to these women, and they had been names that frequently circulated in my household.
Being able to see these women highlighted in an exhibit about womanism at the Washington D.C. Black History Museum, really put the icing on the cake, I nearly cried. Black women, no matter the issue they identify with, are often left out of activism. This was a movement created for us by us.
mystery of iniquity
When I’m going through periods where my mind is foggy, I always look into politics and the state of our world. Some can argue that it’s counter-productive, but here’s my prospective; in my personal life there are so many gray areas, things that I have to make a decision about, things that I have to change, but when it comes to politics, specifically, evolving basic human rights there is a clear black and white for me. This system isn’t equal, it wasn’t created to be equal. If we don’t completely alter these policies, they will remain discriminatory in their root. This idea is primarily expressed through this line in Lauryn Hill’s song “Do we expect the system made for the elect, to possibly judge, correct, properly serve and protect?”
I think Lauryn Hill perfectly encapsulates our law system with the term “inquiry” in the context of this song, she calls in the “mystery of inquiry” which insinuates we don’t know the reason why things our terrible in country, but then it’s followed by the lyrics “it all falls down”, so we don’t know why things continue to be this way, but until change is made, until lawmakers can acknowledge these faults and make a difference, things will continue to go downhill.
This story was the first time I truly felt like a writer in the Royals Newspaper. I brought the story up, because writing has been a big fuel for me this year and has served as an outlet for me at my lowest point. It was one of the things that gave me the ability to rise.
This story was the first time I really had to track down sources, and it was really funny because everyone that I contacted within the county that was older and would have information, didn’t respond to me or ghosted me after speaking with me. To this day I still don’t know why that happened, but nevertheless I was able to work with a Hopewell librarian to get newspaper scans. The most interesting thing is that even though this case was very high profile and they didn’t give it a lot of media coverage within the county.
Nic Brown and I even looked through a bunch of yearbooks, and even after black military students and civil servant students were allowed to go to the white schools in the county, they weren’t shown in the yearbook until years afterward. I think it just speaks to the history of the county and how that has transferred to today’s climate.
During the process of writing this article we also launched the "Melanin Magic" Podcast to highlight the POC experience at PG, and talk to WOC in the community. Some white members on our staff were aprenhesive because they didn't want anything to potentially happen to us because of things we could "expose".
the subtle art...
After I tell my therapist what I “learned” in this book, she’ll probably wish she just told me to read it, instead of talking to me once a week since October. My entire life I have been a giver. Constantly pouring from an empty cup, a listener, but again, when I was going through something I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Those were the times that my love for writing grew, so don’t regret those dynamics I chose to establish.
When I was sick, things felt a little different. I talked about this before, especially when I felt that even my closest friends didn’t understand the extent of my illness and were insensitive during that time. Altogether the relationship that I had with people drastically changed when I couldn’t be there for them at the drop of a dime.
After countless teary conversations with Terea (my therapist) she told me that I needed to establish boundaries with my loved ones or I would never get better mentally or physically. People were so used to me smiling in their faces, that when my crying behind closed doors became something I couldn’t hide anymore, they didn’t know how to respond, and most of them retreated.
This chapter starts with establishing boundaries in romantic relationships, but then transforms into a bigger picture, that if people truly cared about each other they would respect each other’s boundaries. Even if they aren’t permanent, they’d stick around and continue to navigate around them. Without boundaries, especially as an empath, you will self-destruct.
This play means so much to me on many levels. For starters it’s my first one-act play, before I had only written poetry, songs, short stories, and scenes. I put my all into this script, with no prior knowledge of screenwriting, this was my way of proving to myself, my parents, and the colleges that I applied to, that this is what I really wanted to do. This was my dream and my passion.
The only restriction I gave myself while writing this was to have majority POC characters, specifically dark-skinned African Americans (not Africans), and Asians. This created the character's Jordan and Ha-jun. My goal was to make these character’s undefined by genderoles, note the unisex names. I won’t go too deep into the script because I’ve included the link for reading above but some of my inspirations were Avatar (by James Cameron), The Giver, and the Divergent series.
One of the biggest accomplishments I’ve had is to be able to enter Lenses into the VHSL One-Act Play Festival and co-direct it with Mr. Phillips, it’s so amazing. I wrote Lenses while I was approaching the peak of my flare, and everyday it was harder to sit at my computer and write, I had to write it all by hand first, then transfer the text. The response to it has been amazing and I am just beyond thankful for all the support I’ve received.
I can honestly say I second guessed myself my whole life. I constantly thought that even though I got so many positive responses to my art, that people were lying to me and just didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I’ve never felt good enough for the goals I set for myself, and I have a big fear of turning out like my older cousins: a stereotype. High school drop-outs, teen mothers, etc. I’ve never been tempted to do negative things that could result in these fates, but it was always present in my mind.
Another reason I pushed myself so hard was to make my mother proud, to let her know that all of her hard work paid off in the end. She was a pregnant 18 year-old who raised me, and graduated from high school, despite being kicked out of the house and having to put herself through summer school. She didn’t have to be strong, she didn’t have to keep me. I can’t honestly say that I would’ve done everything she had done to make sure that I was properly taken care of.
I’ve always said that I was more than a small-town girl. I craved the hustle and bustle of the big city and was bored of the slow paced life Mid-Southern Virginia has to offer. Sure, this is my home, and I might miss some parts of it. I'm more than ready to take on New York head first. I’ve earned it.
all the things i never said
I’m really proud of myself to say the least. I’ve gone from a point of not wanting to tell my feelings to anyone, to being comfortable with expressing them to people that I feel are receptive. That took a lot of growth and patience from my end. The special thing about this, other than becoming a published author at the age of 18, is the fact that I did this entire project by myself.
Sure, I asked my family for opinions and advice, but when it comes to the design, the writing, the editing, the BOOK IS ALL MINE. Dang, this year has been absolute chaos, but I truly feel that this is something beautiful that comes out of it. I really hope that it is successful, of course the fact that I was able to accomplish this is amazing by itself, but I’d like to make a profit. In a way, everything in life is an investment.
I get really honest in this work, so I’m kind of nervous for my therapist to read it but, you only live once right?
birth a venus
This entire book awakened my love for historical fiction, and period pieces. From this excerpt my favorite line “I am Icarus without wings. But the desire to fly was very strong in me.” This quote is me, and I am this quote. I’ve had to face several hardships in my 18 years of life, and I could’ve let that deter me, but I didn’t. The yearning to fly is what pushed me to be the best that I could be. For me, this was the only way to get through the lows. I could’ve just broken down and told the world I was wearing a facade, but without holding on to some hope I would feel utterly lost.
Not to say that I was a “chosen one” or anything like that, but in the back of my mind I’ve always known/hoped life had better plans for me. Despite everything I’ve gone through in the past and what I will go through in the future, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have and will receive.
lauryn hill on life
I think I’ve wasted so much time trying to plan out every little thing in my life. Sometimes it paid off, but most of the time things never went according to plan. For example my senior and junior year, I had the entire thing planned out. As I’m writing this I can see the gold sequins from my prom dress reflecting from light coming through my window.
Change and disruption comes when you least expect it to, I know it did for me. I wouldn’t necessarily say how you react to that change defines who you are, but the way you allow the change & disruption to affect your life definitely speaks to your character. We usually hear about either sinking or swimming but I think we should acknowledge the people that are unbothered by the ripples and just continue to stay afloat. Sometimes I wish that was me.
I’m going to freaking NYU in the Fall! And I can’t honestly say that if I never got sick this would’ve happened. Ulcerative colitis and the toll it had/has on me gave me a drive motivated by the ableism I took advantage of when I was well. Once I was able to accept that my life will never be the same, that technically I would never be completely well again, and to stop dwelling on my life before U.C. I was able to rise and step up to the challenge that is being a young adult.
still i rise
“Still I Rise” By Maya Angelou was my inspiration for my personal anthology project. This poem first resonated with me in the ninth grade. I had just entered Appomattox Regional Governor's School on the musical theater track. Every freshman in that particular major has to do a monologue project which entails doing research to eventually pick a monologue from a role you could be casted as in the real world. After much difficulty finding plays with young African American females, I had finally just settled on doing the Viola Davis monologue from Fences. After my performance I received a round of applause and praise from my classmates, but my teacher, who gave all the other students in the class critiques, said “That was common, but then again you didn’t have a lot to choose from.”, and called the next person to the stage. After that situation my confidence in performing hit an all time low, and I tried not to think of the encounter as a racial issue, but it was hard to completely push that notion to the side with me being the only African American in the class of roughly fifteen.
A few months later one of my friends gifted me a small collection of Maya Angelou poems for my birthday. By this time I had begun to write as a coping mechanism, and sharing my poetry at readings hosted by the literature majors. “Still I Rise” hit me like a bag of bricks, especially the use of rhetorical questions “Do you want to see me broken?” and “You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.” It was the catalyst to a healing process where I felt more established in my identity as a black artist.
From that point on I wrote almost everyday for three years, but that all came to a halt once I got sick. Who would want to read about me being in constant pain? Will they think something is wrong with me because I just want everything to stop, to be normal? Chronic fatigue ruled my life, and even if I wanted to write, I simply didn’t have the energy to do so. While in the hospital, trying to complete all my school work I needed motivation, I felt like everything was against me, the doctor couldn’t help me, and my body was attacking me. During those days I refused pain medication and listened to “Still, I Rise” on repeat while completing assignments. Thank you Maya.