A view of our city through profiles, poetry, and prose from Writers in Baltimore Schools

(J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

This year, Lisa Snowden-McCray and I attended two days of Writers in Baltimore Schools’ Summer Writers’ Studio (aka camp) outside Frederick to work with students in their teens on learning journalistic skills and establishing careers in journalism.

As is often the case, we learned as much from them as they did from us—in one of our sessions, the very first question from one of the writers was, “How do you do journalism without profiting off people’s pain?” It was like that from the beginning, which is to say that they wanted to talk shop for real, get serious, hold us accountable, and ideally learn some things about writing along the way too. In this issue, you’ll see some of the results of that collaboration between City Paper and Writers in Baltimore Schools via a handful of profiles of Baltimoreans. Students were matched up with a Baltimorean who met them at the Impact Hub for an interview. The students transcribed the interviews, did a little research, and then with some help from myself, Lisa, and Patrick Oray, crafted a short profile of that person that mixed hard facts with strong voice, insight, and some opinion in there too (CP Photo Editor J.M. Giordano was also at camp for a day to take photos of the writers working).

This issue also features poetry and prose by these students, the product of their work with Studio Instructors Patrick Oray, Jalen Eutsey, and Jess Hudgins; Activities Director Terrell Kellam; Writer-in-Residence Khaliah Williams; Assistant Directors William Camponovo and Shangrila Willy. Oh and lastly, I’ll hand this over to Writers in Baltimore Schools Director, Patrice Hutton. (Brandon Soderberg)

Baltimore students have stories galore, and camp gives these young writers a space to experiment with narration, language, and point of view. These stories often come to life at camp and then hide out in notebooks, but today—in this City Paper collaboration—we offer them to you, challenging you to make this the beginning of your listening to Baltimore’s youth. We’re so grateful to City Paper for supporting our mission of empowering student voices and to the Cohen Opportunity Fund for making our sixth annual Studio possible. (Patrice Hutton)







Profiles

Marc Steiner

By Sade Alvarez-Gibson

Marc Steiner is a name commonly heard throughout Baltimore.

He is widely known for his non-profit production company called the Center For Emerging Media and “The Marc Steiner Show,” his daily public radio show that began on WYPR (a popular station he started) and then later on WEAA until July 31, when he had his last show. Steiner has won a Peabody Award for a show called “Just Words” about the working poor in Baltimore from their perspective in their own words.

Considering Marc’s age (71 years old) and race (Caucasian), it was a curiosity of mine what his views were as a younger person in America during the laws and time of segregation and if that affected how he got to where he was today. As a kid he grew up in Baltimore under the laws of segregation with a sojourn that started in an uncertain direction until the age of 11 (in 1967) when he joined an all-black boys scouts league, which was his first integrated experience.

“It changed my entire life,” Steiner says.

From that point on he wanted to end segregation. When his friends from Boy Scouts came to play over his house, the other white kids wouldn’t play them. An effort to go to a movie theater in Steiner’s neighborhood was denied because his friends were of color. But when he went to an ice cream shop in Broadway on Gay Street with the Boy Scouts, it was much different—he was accepted wherever they were, just not vice versa. He walked his first picket line two years later, and at age 16 in Mondawmin he was the youngest person in the state to be arrested for a civil rights action.

In 1970, Steiner was employed as a street club worker (working with gangs in the street) and from there he was led to a 12-year period of working as a therapist counselor in prison, neighborhoods, and street corners. In 1977, he went on to start a theater company and taught acting at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Everything fell into place by accident, Steiner says.

He now has some goals on starting a combination project on theater, podcasting, and history, or plays on tape similar to radio theater from the 1930s. He also wants to interview mayors around the world. He has seen the world mold and change in front of his eyes from the changing laws from segregation to the gentrification that is occurring in Baltimore—and he plans to continue his interest in history, politics, radio, and theater in his ongoing career. He says he is not sure where he will end up or where things will go, but another accident is bound to happen to make a miracle in Marc Steiner’s path.



Rev. Heber Brown

By Jamesha Caldwell

Epiphanies arise at many different stages in our lives. For activist, organizer, and farmer Heber Brown III, his stages of enlightenment happened on his 30th birthday in the form of a quote that occurred to him: “Critique what is, Create what should be.”

That quote becomes a testament to much of his advocacy around the city of Baltimore. Brown channeled adversity and tribulations as a teenager to fuel his demand for a greater change within Baltimore and black youth.

Upon attending college at both Morgan State University and Virginia Union University, Brown began to notice that the education he’d received in high school lacked the teachings and influence of many black leaders and pioneers. This revelation left Brown displeased but passionate about seeking and accessing this knowledge that he felt cheated out of.

While attending VUU in pursuit of a master’s degree, Brown studied abroad in Ghana and read the “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” for the first time. Brown gained a sense of refinement in theology, personal identity, and enlightenment in his greater purpose in life, which became his first motivation for change.

“My eyes started opening up and I became hungrier and hungrier for more information and knowledge,” he says.

Taking his newfound aspirations for change, Brown began his journey of activism and organizing through his fellowship in ministry. As a pastor at Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, Brown used many of his critiques and concerns within educational policy and lack of agricultural demand and began his own legacy—“I want to create institutions that will outlive me,” he says.

Brown began farming his own local garden about seven years ago at Pleasant Hope with the initial intentions of growing and producing food that would nourish church family bodies. But he had a revelation during the Baltimore Uprising in 2015. Brown noticed both the increase in the presence of food deserts, but also the dependency of Baltimoreans on local corner stores:

“Activism and organizing come into play because I feel like if we grow our own food or at least to a greater degree, because nothing happens overnight, we’ll began to wean ourselves off of the dependency of those food sources that aren’t best for us and especially from those that we don’t own,” he says.

With this drive in mind of reclaiming systems in which black Americans unfortunately do not see themselves in, Brown decided to found Orita’s Cross Freedom School, which uniquely operates on Baltimore City Public Schools Professional Development days. Orita’s Cross Freedom School has the objective of teaching black youth an African history-based curriculum with tangible life skills such as agriculture, herbalism, and a plethora of other dynamic workshops at Pleasant Hope.

“I would have a greater shot at starting my own school, rather than trying to change their schools,” he says.

Pastor Heber Brown III is a multifaceted and extraordinary figure within the Baltimore community who continues to provide pivotal insight and substantial advocacy to the many injustices that black communities face within Baltimore. Brown leads by the example of being able to critique systems in which he finds disdain and harm, and channeling those injustices to create institutions that provide vital change within the Baltimore community and black youth.



Elisabeth Dahl

by Anastasia Farley

Smiling, Elisabeth Dahl (“No relation to the Roald Dahl,” she clarifies) settles into her chair. She offers some reassurance, exuding a friendly aura.

“I get pretty nervous when I conduct interviews too,” she says.

Winner of an Individual Artist Award from Maryland’s State Art Council last year, Dahl immerses herself in various endeavors. She’s had both a children’s novel and poetry published, and is now working on an adult novel. Along with teaching at the Center for Talented Youth, she copyedits for different clients.

Growing up in a neighborhood called Oakenshawe, Dahl’s passion for writing came at an early age. Her family didn’t have very much money, but she had writing, which did “something special” for her. She was struck by how one could learn about the world around oneself through writing. As a teenager, someone had given her tickets to see a play by late playwright Sam Shepard. Seeing that play drove her to work at another level.

“It may sound naïve, but I just love the idea that reading stories helps people empathize with each other,” she says. “President Obama used to talk about empathy so much and he was such a great reader. It worries me that people don’t read as much as they used to. Reading’s more meditative; you end up in a world full of quiet empathizers. If I can be a part of that, that’s what matters to me.”

Her quest in a world of quiet empathy is seen in one of poems she published at age 18. Though very personal, she wrote about having an eating disorder and being in a facility for it. Publishing it was strange for her, but she’s glad she wrote it.

“Some people wrote to me about it, saying how meaningful it was to them,” she smiles again, looking down, “I want to make sure what I’m writing is resonating.”

She finds beauty in poetry as she does in fiction.

“I like writing poetry. There’s something wonderful about how brief it is,” Dahl explains, “You can play with form. See some interesting connections.”

Though she remains frustrated with plot, Dahl enjoys writing fiction as well. Dahl describes herself as a “realistic writer, fascinated with the most ordinary parts of people’s lives.”

This is seen in Dahl’s children’s novel, “Genie Wishes.” The young protagonist deals with change—the break-up of a friendship. But change is something every person has to deal with, and learn to deal with when they are young, making it a universal struggle.

“It’s not what all writers write about, and it’s not what all readers like to read. But, I just think lives are fascinating,” she says. “I spend a lot of time studying other people, asking myself ‘How could that work into a story?’”

Sometimes the ordinary is our extraordinary. It simply requires the open eyes, and open mind, that is born when we begin our journey as readers, writers, and artists.



Dr. Floyd W. Hayes

By Khari Dawson

“History books are written in the interest of white people,” says Dr. Floyd W. Hayes, “consequently, the African experience is distorted.”

Hayes is a retired coordinator of undergraduate studies and the senior lecturer at the Center for Africana Studies at John Hopkins University, and also a recently retired powerlifter.

When I met Hayes on a Tuesday in August, his voice filled the room, which didn’t look like it took much effort for him to do. He is a round, brown-skinned man with a white scruffy beard, and he’s boisterous and talkative.

He says his life now as a retired man entails walking with his wife in the morning and reading lots of books about the African experience and political science. He tells me he’s recently been reading “Aspects of European Culture” by Stephen Lee, looking for “the missing pages” as he called them, that depicted the African experience.

After I had run out of questions because of the lack of time I had to come up with them, he helps me out. He tells me he was born in Gary, Indiana in 1942. He was the only child but made a point to clarify that he wasn’t spoiled, and he moved to Los Angeles when he was 10 or 11.

He later went to UCLA, didn’t like it, and began working at the post office. After another school, he studied abroad in France through the University of Dallas all summer, because of his deep infatuation with French culture since middle school. He says he was with about 13 other students—he was the only black one—and he was the only one truly interested in learning everything French, but was bombarded by questions about U.S. politics by every French person he encountered. This made him realize how ignorant he was of U.S. politics because, he says, “I was a French major, I was interested in French culture, I didn’t pay attention to that.”

The frequent questions about his birth country’s politics impacted him so greatly that he added political science to his majors, with history as a minor. He graduated from the University of Dallas in 1967 and went back to UCLA, where he got his bachelor’s degree. This is around the time when he became a part of the Black Power Movement where his main focus was to establish black studies in UCLA. He says there was no organized field for black studies until 1968.

He left UCLA again in 1970, and then went on to work at Princeton, Purdue University (which he says was the most racist college he’s ever worked at), San Diego State University, Morgan State University, and eventually Hopkins. And then he retired, which brings us to present day.

It was a very enjoyable experience speaking with him and I plan to remember his experiences and use them as inspiration when trying to achieve goals that I have set for myself.



Jerryn McCray

By Alyssa Higdon

Jerryn McCray is great at conversation. When you ask him a question, he has a question ready for you right back. It’s a great skill for his day job as an architect because it’s all about the details: You need to be able to cooperate with the person you’re talking to and get all the information—small and large—just right, and more importantly, you need to collaborate with them.

His path to being an architect began when he was a child.

“I had a friend in elementary school that told me that I had artistic ability,” he says. His friends’ words stayed with him. And then when he was in the 9th grade, an architect visited his school and that made his future clearer.

“He made a statement that the buildings he designed will be around after he’s dead and gone,” Jerryn says. “And that appealed to my ego.”

Jerryn had his share of trouble on his way to becoming an architect. Born in Baltimore, his dad was a police officer, later a state trooper, and his mom worked for social services and went to D.C., and his parents eventually divorced. When he was in high school, he went to DeMantha Catholic High School, and often got in trouble for asking questions about religion. For college, he went to Tuskegee University but didn’t like it—he thought it would be like the TV show “A Different World,” he says, but it wasn’t—and then he transferred to Auburn University. While he was there, his first son was born, so he took year off from college and then returned and drove back and forth for his son.

Studying architecture was a good fit for Jerryn, who was very hard working and would often pull all-nighters just to get it done.

You need to be obsessed with architecture, he says, and that might mean you pass out working, wake up, and then go to class. After school, he was an architecture intern and then moved to St. Thomas because he noticed work was drying up in the states. He worked with a construction company but ran into lots of racism in St. Thomas and became in working on his own.

Jerryn decided he couldn’t do it their way anymore; he kept on going and didn’t let them get him down. He started his own business, Jerryn J. McCray Architects, began getting small projects, started talking to people—which is easy for him because he’s a good conversationalist—and built a network. He returned to Baltimore, designed dorm rooms at University of St. Thomas, and his business grew.

He’s currently in a position where he’s enjoying his job, working alone—nobody’s there to put him down. He’s designing a house, exploring big projects, and redesigning the interior of Baltimore row homes—even if that means sometimes going inside of disgusting, rat-infested row houses.

Jerryn’s hobbies include playing basketball and playing music (trumpet and piano, among others) which are both escapes from architecture and also things that help inform his job.

“Composing music and performing is like my job,” Jerryn says.

With music, you have to piece many different elements together to make the kind of music you want to hear and playing basketball is a collaboration, like architecture.

“I’ve never not liked my job and I feel support and love for what I do for a living,” he says.



Lester Spence

By Marcus McKeever

“I want them to understand how the world as we see it is constructed, and is continually constructed, and if you don’t understand that the world is constructed, you’re more likely to believe the world as you’re in it can’t be changed,” says Dr. Lester Spence, a professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Spence was raised in Inkster, Michigan, which is located in the Metro Detroit area. After completing his time in elementary, middle, and high school, Dr. Spence went on to enroll in the University of Michigan, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree and a PhD in political science.

Spence did not see himself being a professor—it was actually those around him who saw him going on to be an intellectual person.

“There were folk as early, as soon as I was going to libraries, like grade school, so about first, second, third, definitely by fourth, fifth, or sixth grade, that were calling me ‘little professor.’ Allegedly, my father’s father saw me being an intellectual, like doing this type of stuff 20 years later,” he says.

Before migrating to Baltimore and becoming a professor at JHU, Dr. Spence was previously an assistant professor of political science at Washington University. He moved to Baltimore in 2005 and has lived and worked within the city ever since.

He wants his students at JHU to understand the world can be changed not only by massive scale acts, but also individual acts. He also aims to teach his students that “the tools that they are using now are the tools they will use to navigate the world moving forward.” He encourages students not only to use their academic skills to navigate the world, but also to have a firm grasp on how the world works, thus improving the world for everyone.

On top of his highly demanding job at JHU, Dr. Spence also finds the time to do talks and interviews for locals like The Real News Network and national outlets like C-SPAN as well. On top of that, Dr. Spence has produced two award-winning books: “Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics” and “Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics.”

When I ask what is the last message he would like to leave on this earth, Dr. Spence says, “I was right”—a message, he explains, for people who have doubted his way of thinking, that the world we live in is constructed.



Baynard Woods

by Kyra Smith

If you meet Baynard Woods—editor-at-large at the City Paper and founder of Democracy in Crisis—you know that he is a man of many words. A man who believes in what is right and knows what he wants, questioning things to step out of his comfort zone and learn more about the world.

When I ask him why talking to strangers is a good thing, he says it was a way to get out of his own head and his own individual worldview. “I only know that the way the world appears to me, and appears, you know, through this one in particular spot,” he says, “standing through my skin color, through my social expectations, my upbringing, all these things that make the world look a certain way to me. If I asked enough questions to you I realize it appears differently to you—an African-American female—and that helps me situate myself in regards to reality . . . whatever that is, but I am only looking out from my window so it’s like being able to call over from other windows, ‘What do you see over there?’ When you put together enough ‘what do you sees?’ You get a more complicated view of the world.”

(J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Poetry

Jauniece Brown

Your Decisions

Outside to me, is Bleak and Empty
There’s enough promise in a job
But who’s looking
college brings knowledge
But no accountability in their facilities
Every corner I turn there are churches...
But who are they saving?
Clutter caught up stuck in the streets
No one picking it up not even me
Nature calls, but I can’t hear
clogged ears or closed eyes,
She doesn’t go outside
she’s sweating, looking out the window
forgetting how normal outside is
where children play
even when asked to go away
your space isn’t your own
but inside
her home, her space, her safe place
she prefers to be
home
while black men run from cops
booking from block to block
trying not to get shot
“police please stop pulling on me”
in a broken society,
trying to stand, but it all started to hurt
...looking at blood on a shirt
You see wild imaginations run rampant
jumping
stomping
screaming
crying
PAIN
where I live
Where you give
doubt to what you know nothing about
It’s really about the decision you make
situations you create
with people you do
or don’t hate.


Izell Grimes

Makeup

What am I supposed to look at?
There’s that woman,
She’s decorated and painted to the fullest elegance
Her dress sways in the direction where she controls her appeal
Her hair leaves a sprinkle of glitter when it bounces.
She’s radiant without effort.
What am I supposed to look at?
She’s clutching her arm tighter than a blood pressure test,
Her walk is shaky, like severe vertigo,
She keeps avoiding conversation like a stranger danger score.
She’s making eye contact with the floor only.
Her concealer is concealing something deeper.
What am I supposed to look at?
Wipe away the eye shadow—it’s the black eye.
Rub off the blush—it’s the bruise
Pull the hand way from the arm—it’s the burn mark.
Shuffle through the hair—it’s the bald spot
Where hair was ripped out.
Scrape off the contour from the nose—it’s the one lopsided nostril.
Now read in between the lines where she says, “I’m fine” and “I’m OK,”—it’s the miscarriage.
What am I supposed to look at?
The Truth.

(J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Kya Holmes

Neighborhood

It’s 8:00 and the street lights are on. It’s dark out; there are very few people. You’re walking from the train station; you see parked cars from the parking lot. But only a couple people walking and only about two people walking behind you. You continue to walk, deciding which is the fastest but safest way to go. The first way is not the fastest but you think it’s the safest, more street lights, more light shining from the Gas station but you know in the back of your mind you want to get home fast but safe so you keep walking. Approaching the two-way street where you notice people seven heads and counting. But you notice they aren’t ladies from the masculine way they stand, from the tallness of their body structure but you just aren’t too certain if they are men or boy. . . . See you not sure and that’s what makes you even more scared that you aren’t sure about anything. Not about the best fastest but safest way to go. Noises you hear but can’t see what’s making it; you hear dogs barking from minutes away but don’t see anyone walking by the gate. Walk faster in mind, walk faster as you see the seven heads you saw from the train station. One chance out of seven you know someone is gonna ask “HOW OLD YOU IS,” you keep walking trying to ignore them hoping that they aren’t following you to repeat the question “HOW OLD YOU IS,” your stomach cringes and the wind feels faster, it gets colder so you walk faster. You close your eyes and take a deep breath and open your eyes as you approach the “safe zone”: The Post Office.

As you walk your muscles in your legs release as you walk up the long narrow street at the end of your block. The wind from the trees isn’t as fast as it was before, but you see the big white van that’s there durng the night but not during the day and imagine things and think about all the what ifs but you know you safe because you see the the bright light from your porch and you pick up your pace because you figure you get there faster and you finally at the stops where you see this beige colored house where the paint is chipping and the flowers are falling and bright light from the kitchen as you walk up the three steps. Where you feel relieved to be there because this place is home.


Myandah Hendricks

Untitled

Don’t look: Our mother is hungry
She aches from ages of neglect
Yet we swallow ourselves
Consume repetition
Retribution is waiting just beyond the other side but we already know what’s coming because we’ve made a hell of our own
We condone the mistreatment of our mother but feed our oppressors
Stuff them up while she’s starved
Tree branches breaking sounds just like the aching of human bones
And I can’t help but notice that the lakes look just like bowls
Sick and suffering
We swallow up the shallow seeds that are “tradition”
We get off on distraction
And all avert our eyes from mother for a prototype in perfect synchronization
The ring master’s wrangling us up for our next big show just to eventually slaughter us
A big tent full of terrifyingly trivial bullshit
Getting bigger as we buy our way to ignorance and igniting the flame that is
Profit
Pinning us against mother just to pack it all up and move to the next town
Production is just desecration and what are we but the machines?
Making pathways for the pitiful mess that is money making through our throats
We swallow up the sweetness but spit out the sacrifice
A nasty aftertaste and it shows
Mother is dying and so are we but how would we know when we’re just wallowing in a wasteland disguised to look like delight?
An Eden of entertainment
Everyone look!
Next big thing to avoid eventual existentialism
But what is existence without her
We mistakingly put ego before eco
A life threatening blunder but who wants to think too hard
Wait
We’re our own living tragedies?
Everyone look!

(J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Kayla Lemessy

The Warning

It’s coming soon
We don’t know the day or the hour
We have to be ready
If we aren’t we will be left behind

We need to keep a watchful eye
We need to have a mindful mind
Look at the signs
They’re all around us
Just look around

He is coming
For his people
For his bride
Keep this in mind
Time is ticking, days are passing

Time is of the essence
The trumpets are getting ready to sound
Get it right before it’s too late
All will be called but few will be chosen
I hope to see you all soon


Ernest Johns

The Birds and the Trees

The trees I see
With moist leaves
Dropping little drops of water
From last night’s thunder storm.
But it’s a new, fresh day.
The birds have returned from
Their shelter and are now flying around the world
Gathering information and experiencing new things
So they can bring it back to the trees.

(J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Bodry Mokuba

Mother Earth

Nature’s energy—her violent tendencies, her so very powerful essence—makes her a godlike entity. Her remnant qualities hold on to dear life and beg us to keep the peace. Let’s watch Mother Nature’s show unfold. So let’s all grab a seat. Behold her beautiful strongholds. No hope near, little hope far, man giving Mother Earth a Brobdingnagian battle scar. Time and time our mother weeps while we comfortably sleep sound but yet she still creeps by our feet, teaching us to be humble and meek. I’m sorry, Mother. You’ve watched our evolutionary success almost knowing our fate, yet you caressed and comforted. We pushed you away, Mother, threw you away, screwed you away, Mother, yet you still made a way, Mother. You were our armor of protection from celestial threats, but yet we said don’t fret it’s just a coincidence. Mother, little did they know your extraordinary magnificence. Engineering of the highest quality. Incomprehensible by the likes of our false authority. Mother Earth, don’t you weep. Just keep the peace. Just keep the peace.


Marie Mokuba

Black Face White Mask

My mind is stuck in a perpetual state of denial
As I stare in the mirror and slowly place the white mask
It melts onto my thick nose
runs deep through my lineage bleaching slave ships
and old tongues, green cards, and black thugs, redlines, and exterminated tribes.
I try to survive
Black face white mask

must assimilate to succeed
Greed, is the demon that lives in me, controls our minds, destroys the lives, draws colored lines, but still I survive
I watch as they displace families on Broadway, raise rent prices in Highlandtown, rot the homes in Gwynn Oaks, mop blood up in Sandtown
Black face white mask

I close my eyes and imagine a life where that blue and yellow corner store, you know the one? with the Everfresh box cutout and the rusted Coca Cola sign would turn to Fresh Produce stores with long lines
Black face white mask

God. Can you imagine a Whole Food in the hood? How bout this
Imagine if that test booklet you got actually held the key to a stable job that can support communities where
broken families, broken laws, broken streets, broken cop cars exist
If the streets were fixed children wouldn’t have rocks to throw
Don’t act like you don’t know how we got here
How you put guns in every young black fist to replace our cries for justice

You don’t know what it’s like living with a
Black face and a white mask

(J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Christian Pearson

Little Sister

I see yet another box of chocolates,
With a splash of milk.
Talking about the same struggles
Bodymore’s little sister filling graves,
From 5-0 firefights,
Termination of corporate slaves.
A God who picks and chooses who he saves.
And glitter!
Cuz gender roles, right?
Baltimore’s little sister whippin it in the kitchen
Weed still a big no-no.
Schools still asking, “Where all our classes go?”
Teachers that can’t teach, just get on our case,
All in your face.
Listen, city kids be needin some space
So they come to camp,
A quiet place to write it out,
And white out the white noise,
With grace and poise.
As the pen gently glides across the paper.
“What makes us different?” That’s the real caper.
Sister city got a retort in store.
They say, “Hey, at least we ain’t Baltimore.


Maia Washington

Untitled

my heart has always felt
everything
constantly.
felt the rain as it
pattered onto the patio...
resembles the rhythm of my heartbeat
felt the sunset and all of its
deep colors the
burning oranges and reds that
is just like the passion that pulses
through my veins—
that resonates within my bones
i
have been an empath
since birth
and the sunset, it never dies
but sometimes
i wish the rain would
when it turns into thunderstorms
and the lightning bolts
charge the scars upon my wrists
to
bleed again
red blood turns into
black abyss and
i can feel that too.
i can feel it in my chest it
feels just like the
darkness that
often tries to consume me from
inside out
like i’m drowning in
all of the rain the storm
provides
i can feel the abyss
fighting against the sunset
fighting to
destroy me whole but
those are the moments
i must remember
the black abyss isn’t mine
nor is the storm.
so if the former is true
will the burning reds and
oranges of
the sunset
dissipate too?

(J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Cin’Shea Williams

Hidden Black Beauty

Ma’am I see you showing your daughter how to be a young black woman
I see your beautiful 4c curls
They’re sitting wonderfully in your bush
You and your daughter are beautiful
I see you and your daughter admiring your beauty
I see your full lips ma’am they’re wonderful
But why are you putting on lipstick?
Your daughter is also trying to apply lipstick
She is learning it from you ma’am
Why are you putting makeup on your beautiful face?
Why are you letting your daughter put on lipstick ma’am?
Are there marks on your body that you dislike?
Are you teaching your daughter to be pretty or are you hiding your perfect imperfections?
Do you have bruises you choose not to show?
Beautiful that’s your name
It’s all inside of you and your daughter
So do not hide your beauty
Because you and your child’s bodies were both made perfectly


Kiam Williams

Wars Within the Walls

Between these walls we love, make love, but in between our walls is war. Now, here we are between these walls. Where I meet fate and you meet your fatality. We fight with insults that hit harder than a right hook at a volume louder than a single shotgun blast. One shot, two shots, and it continues until we have no more ammo. The punches between the walls shall never stop though volume is no longer a problem. Silent jabs such as “shut up” and “you aint shit” but of course someone has to throw haymakers. “I wish I would’ve never dated you.” Now that punch hurts! But even though these punches are to the mind instead of the face, it still hurts the same. As these walls get closer, the punches quicken and everything becomes almost too fast to ingest until there is one left standing one left feeling defeated. There will always be love and war between our walls. Love is great, isn’t it?

(J.M. Giordano/City Paper)