Perilous Times by Olivia Williams
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Mama told me to stay away from the stove

She said I’d get burned

Daddy said don’t walk outside by yourself

because the streets are not safe for little girls

Grandma said don’t talk to strangers

because you don’t know their intentions 

But the unknown is a craving

when you're not allowed to have it

It’s the reason why I still brought myself to

the scorching heat

when my mother said stay away

It’s the reason why I tried to wander the park

by myself

when daddy said hold someone’s hand

It’s the reason why I smile

when strangers say the strangest things,

because even if the unknown is the

most frightening thing

everyone still wants the why

I used to watch the news and see

crashed planes

car accidents

girls stolen

babies kidnapped

black boy shot

black man pulled over

hangings in the south

tornadoes

tsunamis

confederate flags used to send a message

to black kids

women abused by men

muslims framed as terrorist

Girls not allowed to have an education

Donald trump vs. America

God said once Adam and Eve ate from that tree

we would all be born with sin in our flesh

feeding on our spirits,

but I didn’t know they’d let it kill their souls

and now the people I love…

make sure I see the world, but I’m not in the world

I have a clear view through a glass

stained with blood from the world's dying heart

And sometimes I find myself wanting that blood

on my hands

I find myself aching to set my heart, mind, and soul

on the front lines

Knowing what comes next

But not caring

because at least I would have felt it

at least I would have found the “why”

in these perilous times

Is it wrong for me to want to meet the demon

causing the world to drown

and feel his wrath for myself because just maybe if I

face this thing nobody else wants to

I can save the ones who don't deserve to go down

And prove a power that lives beyond our existence

Tekeisha Meade
The Paper Wall by Yaritza Villar
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There are many topics that I could talk on and on about. However, two things I'll always feel strongly about are immigration and the laws surrounding them. There are many arguments one can make, and many of them are somewhat valid. Many people argue that an influx of immigrants will result in a lack of jobs for Americans. The fact is, many immigrants take jobs often overlooked by citizens. They come here, working minimum-wage job, performing manual labor in order to try and build a life for themselves and their families.

People argue that we need to protect our borders from immigrants because they pose a threat to citizens living in the US. We cannot prevent danger by closing out outside forces. We believe that outsiders are our enemies, when in fact your neighbor could be the planner of a mass shooting that will devastate your community. There's no way of knowing for sure who might pose a threat and so many Americans may pose more of a threat than many immigrants. I'm not arguing that all immigrants are good, but so many of them do not come here with ill-intentions.

There are those who argue that by welcoming immigrants in, we will lose the American Culture. The issue with this logic is that we have seen different cultures introduced into new areas and yet the native culture hadn't been completely lost. We have seen an increase in diversities, but that doesn't mean that the American culture will disappear altogether. I am a firm believer that in order for a group of people to grow, they must be open to new ideas and ways of thinking. Cultural blending isn't the end of the world, and it would certainly welcome many new ideas that could help expand our thinking.

I think the reason that I feel so strongly about this is because of my personal experience. My stepfather is an immigrant, and came here illegally. He met my mother, and they had an immediate connection. Soon enough, he became a second father to me. He cared for my siblings and me like we were his own children. He was a perfect father to us, and I couldn't have asked for anything more. We were all so happy together. We rented a new apartment and moved out of our older, smaller one. We chose new furniture, decorated it, got our first dog, and we felt like a real family.

He came with hopes of finding new work and a new life. He did both. I loved him for the things he did for not only my mother, but me as well. I loved that he would make me a big bowl of soup every time I stayed home sick from school. I loved that he treated our dog like a child of his own. I loved that we would have cookouts almost every weekend in the summer, inviting a bunch of friends and relatives. I loved his sense of humor, and the fact that he never failed to make us smile. I loved his positive energy, and his desire to make our lives as comfortable as possible. I loved that he made my mother happy, happier than I'd seen her in years. I loved that despite the fact that we weren't his children by blood, he cared for us like we were his world. But, simply because he wasn't born here and didn't have papers, he was sent home. It didn't matter that he pulled our family together, or that he was like a father to me and my brother. It didn't matter that he helped my mother find herself again, or that we were a family. What mattered was that he was undocumented, and so they took him out of our lives. I think about him all the time, and just how happy we all were together.

He didn't have bad intentions. He wanted to be happy and live with his family, just like any person would, immigrant or not. He wanted to build a life he was proud of. He had a dream, and he came here to pursue it. He was the thread that stitched our family together, and once he was pulled out of our lives, we fell apart again. It was hard seeing my mother cry all the time because she could no longer see him every day. It was hard for me to wake up on days I felt sick and know I would no longer have the bowl of soup he made me. It was hard knowing we wouldn't have those cookouts I had loved. But it was hardest knowing that I would no longer see his smile that managed to brighten our lives every day. I wouldn't walk into the living room and see him sitting there with our dog on his lap. I wouldn't hear his loud laugh that seemed to echo in the halls of our apartment. I wouldn't see the smile in my mother's eyes as she stood beside him. Instead, I'd see pictures of him and hear his voice through a phone.

The reason I feel so strongly about immigration laws is because they are what tore my family apart. Seeing my mother lose herself a little as she drowned in her sadness made it hard for me to go through each day of my life. As time went on, she found ways to accept it and cope, and with her acceptance came my own as well. I've accepted that I can't just change immigration laws, however my opinion on them will never change.

Tekeisha Meade
Perfection Isn’t Perfect by Yaritza Villar
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As I flipped through the magazine on my coffee table, I couldn’t help but envy the models featured within it. Their bright eyes, perfect makeup, lean frames, flawless skin. I sat there, and I began to think:

Why couldn’t I look like that? I want to be as perfect as they are.

But as soon as that thought entered my mind, another one followed right behind it.

Well, why do you have to be “perfect?”

And I stopped for a moment. Why did I have to be “perfect?” And I realized it’s because everyone told me I “had” to be. Everyone expected me to act a certain way, dress a certain way, and think a certain way. But is that really what I wanted?

I wanted to be myself, and who I was wasn’t those people you see in magazines. And despite how long it has taken me to understand that, I’ve finally come to terms with it.

We are picked apart and inspected by the eyes of society, and we’re told what we’re doing wrong and what we need to fix.

We become so unsure of ourselves that we seek guidance from these people and companies who don’t even know us. At some point in every girl’s life, they will doubt who they are because of what others have told them. You begin to think that the only way to be accepted and praised like these models and actresses, is to imitate them. You go out of your way to eventually become something you’re not, and that’s the problem with society. Society constantly pushes us to “be ourselves,” and yet many of us are shamed when we try to do so.

At a young age, girls are conditioned to act and think in certain ways. As we get older, that doesn’t change. But what can change is how willing you are to reject those ideas and be your own person. You don’t have to accept what everyone pushes onto you if you don’t feel like you should. There will come a day when you’ll realize that although you don’t look like those models and actresses in a magazine, you can still be proud of who you are. Everyone has different standards and ideas as to what “perfect” truly is. So who’s to tell you that you aren’t?

The scarring oppression of society is what prohibits personal growth. It scars you in a way that you no longer feel comfortable speaking your mind. It scars you in a way that you no longer feel confident in the decisions you make for fear of making a mistake. It scars you so badly that you may lose who you are. But what I’ve learned is, it’s possible to heal and become your own person.

I’ve learned  to love my dark brown eyes that I once believed should be blue. My brown hair that I wished was blonde. My short frame that I wished was taller. I’ve learned to love all the physical scars that scatter themselves every now and then over my skin which I once believed had to be smooth and flawless in order to be beautiful. I’ve learned that perfection is what you make of it, and I shouldn’t let others try and tell me what it really is.

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To Be or Not to Be (Beautiful) by Fatima Doumbia
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In the olden days, during the times of slavery, the darker-skinned slaves were given the most arduous* and back-breaking tasks, while the lighter-skinned slaves were given the “privilege” of working in the house, closest to the master. Throughout history, this has given way to the assumption that light-skinned individuals are in some way, shape, form or fashion, better than their dark-skinned counterparts. And overtime, there were things– “less beautiful”things– also accredited to dark skinned Womyn**; many that were started by white people, but perpetuated by men and Womyn within our own race and communities. Things like, “darker women have courser hair,” “dark women are as stubborn as mules,” “they are only good for making babies by the dozens…,”etc. All in all, dark skin Womyn are just NOT beautiful; inside or out.

I remember being a young child and watching the documentary Dark Girls. In it, the “filmmakers Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry explore a deep-seated bias within black culture against women with darker skin.” (IMDb, 2011) While I am well aware that it was not the objective of the film, it was then that I realized that I was supposed to, or expected to feel ugly or less than because my skin possesses a darker hue. I never did! I never had those days where I was so fed up with being dark-skinned that I would just pray night after night to wake up the next morning with brighter skin. I never even asked my mother for a relaxer. The point is, that there is no single account of the experiences of young black girls. But, it would be irresponsible of me or anybody else, to assume that simply because I didn’t have that experience that many other black girls did not as well.

It starts with mass media. Things that young black girls are exposed to everyday like TV, magazines, internet blogs, social media posts, etc. These are all things that are exposed to all, but absorbed by many young children, namely young girls. The problem is that the standard of beauty shown through these mediums are not reflections of young, African-American girls with dark skin. They are not reflections of any normal young female child at that. You often see abnormally skinny, tall and bright skinned supermodels grace the covers and pages of major magazines and star in the commercials of many major brands. And, while it is empowering now to see commercials with plus-sized, dark-skinned Womyn with natural hair, it is sad that it is considered a novel idea; showing everyday women in commercials that young black girls see so that they can identify with them!

No little black girl should be subjected to living in a society where her beauty is not praised. Worse even than the lack of exaltation, and perhaps a result of the lack thereof, is that they question whether they are really beautiful. It is unfortunate, but if you saw that there were no representations of you in mainstream media, would you not feel as if you are simply not worth the time it takes?

It’s sad and unfortunate that not all beauty is celebrated and the standards by which we determine beauty is in desperate need of an evaluation, or rather, eradication. But, until then, a PSA to all, far and wide: Beauty is NOT singular! There is no one definition of beauty; it is as fluid as it is inexplicable. It is a huge error to believe what mass media so frivolously*** promotes, which is that there are no other representations of beauty besides what is plastered on magazine covers and TV screens.

*difficult or tiring

**spelled with a (y) in order to take the man completely out of the equation. Womyn can stand on her own

***carelessly, without purpose

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Book Review: Katie Bayerl's A Psalm for Lost Girls by Taja Boone
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Katie Bayerl delivers an amazing story about love, death, and religion in such a unique way, with her first book titled, A Psalm for Lost Girls. I will say that when I first heard the title of this book, and planned to read and review it, I initially felt a little out of my comfort zone being a person who loves romance, love, mystery and action. But with that being said, DO NOT be turned off by the title! While this book does make several references to religious things, it is NOT a religious book! It has the perfect balance of reality, fantasy, love and death, which surprisingly make it a real page – turner! Now, if that alone doesn’t interest you, I’m not sure what will!! BUT, if you are intrigued and want to know a little more of what this story has to offer, read on because trust me, A Psalm for Lost Girls will definitely be a fan favorite!

 

Stay out of trouble. As if trouble asked permission before shoving its way into your life.”

One thing that really stuck out to me while reading this book, is the general set up of how the story is told. I know that some people may not like a story that switches from the present being told by one person, and then to the past being told by someone else. But personally, I LOVED it!! Being able to hear a story from more than one perspective gave a lot more insight into the personalities of all the characters.

The book starts out with Callie, the main character, right in the middle of dealing with the unexpected death of her older sister, that she loved and looked up to very much. Through the words of the author, you can literally feel Callie’s anger and sadness about losing her sister, which was one of my favorite parts of the book. Ok, so I know that may sound a little weird – but I was impressed by the fact that even though the subject matter was sad, the overall feel of the book wasn’t sad at all. Hearing how Callie felt about her sister, Tess, and how badly she wanted to preserve her memory was actually really inspiring.  Basically, Callie really didn’t like the way everyone else was handling the death of her sister, and spends the majority of the book trying to prove that Tess was just a regular girl just like everyone else. But most importantly, she was her sister.

Reading the chapters that were from Tess’s diary, also helped fill in the blanks about her life which was also really helpful. Hearing how Tess truly felt in the few months leading to her death, made me understand her more as a person rather than just a dead sister.   Callie is a person who feels her emotions very deeply and sometimes her feelings can come across a little harsh.  For example, when she talks about the people in her life like Danny (Tess’s boyfriend), and even when she speaks of their mom, it sounds a lot different than when Tess talked about them. It was really refreshing to be reminded that the way someone views or sees another person isn’t necessarily the same way for everyone else, and Katie Bayerl made that happen perfectly in the personalities of the 2 sisters.

While the entire book definitely grabbed and kept my attention from beginning to end, there were a lot of parts that stuck out to me – which made them my favorites! For example, when Tess talked about Danny and how much they loved each other, it made my heart just melt. Being a hopeless romantic myself, it was also very sad to read of the love they had for one other seeing that she was already dead. Reading that part made me wish for an alternative ending where Callie and Danny both got their girl back. But alas, that was not the case in this book.

Another big part of the book that stuck out to me the most was literally how the story itself came together.  Of course it’s a book about grief and saints –  but at the same time, one of the other stories that was also happening is about the kidnapping of a child. So while Callie was trying to preserve the memory of her sister, for me it also felt like Callie and Danny were trying to solve a crime at the same time! Trying to put together the pieces to a tragic story, and without giving to much away,  let me tell you – this book is the bomb!!!

Reading this story it was really easy to relate to each of these characters. Callie being outspoken, saying whats on her mind and just being fun and outgoing, really speaks to that part of my personality. While Tess, who is kind and caring and tends to care what people think of her and wants to please everyone around her really speaks to that part of my personality as well. Reading how Callie deals with her sister’s death is so captivating and sad and emotional, something that Katie captured perfectly as well, just the overall way that this story is told and written was perfect! Thank you Katie B for this great novel!

Buy this book TODAY! You won’t regret it,

 

Writing/Language: 9

Storyline: 9

Ending: 8.5

Overall Rating: 8.8

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Living with Anxiety/OCD by Meg Harrington
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Many people associate the word anxiety with general feelings of nervousness or discomfort. Awareness about anxiety along with various anxiety disorders is becoming much more widespread and I feel like it’s time to really talk about the subject. I’ve recently been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and it’s helped me to better understand myself and those around me. Here is my story and what I’ve learned from my anxiety problem:

What is Anxiety?

You’ll often here someone say they have anxiety before a big test or something really nerve-wracking. Many people have different symptoms and this is only my individual experience, but anxiety to me is much more. I am nervous every minute of every day. I feel like I can’t speak to people because I am trapped in my own body and it can even hurt to speak. I am so paranoid about things you’d never even imagine. I worry about every sort of danger, social interaction, and unrealistic scenario. Maybe the title of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder gave it away, but I also have a lot of compulsions that I feel obligated to fulfill throughout the day. Maybe this sounds awful, but I am okay and if you’re facing this I want to let you know you are not broken and you’re most certainly not alone. Just because something is in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real or valid.

My Experience

I was young when my issues were brought to light. At ten years old a school counselor suspected I had depression. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in the 5th grade. Even at a young age the diagnosis didn’t seem right. I was only sad because I was anxious all the time. However, because medications for many mental illnesses are similar, it did help me to be on meds even at such a young age. Yet at 13 everything came back. They re-diagnosed me with depression but said I also had anxiety. I didn’t know what anxiety was. I thought it was just some fancy word with very little meaning. Once again I got better but only temporarily. I’m now 17 and finally getting the help I need. I’ve received a correct diagnosis, see a counselor weekly, and take the proper medication. I’m learning to accept myself and understand that my mental state doesn’t define my value but my strength does. The truth is that it’s hard and it’s difficult to talk about due to the fear of judgement. People in my situation often keep things to themselves because we want to appear normal. It’s my turn to break the unbearable silence. My name is Meg, and I struggle with mental illness.

End The Stigma

One of the biggest stigma about mental illness is related to medication. People believe that once they take a pill they’ll lose their creativity and become happy robots. That’s not what happens. For example, the medication I take doesn’t provide me with any fake happiness but instead it helps me to think clearly in order to make rational decisions. It’s your choice if you think medication is helpful for you or not.

And then there’s this general stigma that mental illness somehow isn’t real. Your brain is one of the most valuable organs in your body so it shouldn’t be shocking that mental problems exist since every part of your body can have issues. If you feel that you may suffer from anxiety or anything else the best option is to seek help and see what the issue is. You can’t resolve an issue until you confront it. I promise you that it does get better.

Be Strong

I’m scared of everything you could ever imagine. Yet, I still have to push myself to achieve my goals. Going to college is terrifying for me, but I will be enrolled in school for the fall semester. Mental illness will never be easy but you have to keep pushing yourself to reach your goals. Know your limits and find your own comfort level but don’t allow yourself to miss out on the beautiful moments in life. There are so many things that define me but anxiety does not. I am a writer, a goofball, and an extreme coffee addict. I am Meg, not anxiety, not obsessive compulsive disorder.

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