Words that Resonate: Pieces from the Stand Against Racism Youth Rally and Open Mic

Categories: Advocacy, Blog

At the virtual Stand Against Racism Youth Rally and Open Mic, students from the Mercer County area in grades 7 – 12 recited original pieces as well as classic works from literary figures such as Maya Angelou and Audre Lorde. Others shared personal stories, or simply words of encouragement. Here are some of the pieces that were recited:

We Are The  Sea, We Are Still Drowning

 By Surayyah Fofana

We are barely surviving the treacherous waters, trying to tread violently but making no progress,
we are submerged deeper in the sea, unable to escape, and expected to just drown.
Then in the
midst of the havoc, our ancestors look to us to persevere and swim upward, they paved the way
while our
oppressors insist that we aren’t even underwater.
That we aren’t
even drowning.
But I sit,
with water filling my lungs near my last breath,
While they
know nothing but fresh air,
unaware of what is like to drown.
Back then,
they Captured us, and told us we were inferior, uncivilized, monkeys
While they
whipped us out of mere pleasure bonding us to shackles referring to us as objects.
Aren’t they
the real animals?
Now they
remind us we are all equal we all receive the same,
While they have all the air,
And we are
still underwater.
Now, our
brothers and fathers can’t even make it home without the fear of drowning,
In fact many
of their bodies lie deep at sea.
Out of reach,
and never had a chance to have clear air.
All of us
were born underwater.
And we are
still there.
But just
when we are close to reaching the surface,
To taking
our first breath of air,
We strain
our voices and say that “we matter”
That we deserve
to breath air
That we deserve
basic human decency and equality
And to no
longer suffer at the hands of the violent riptide
The sickness
that is racism and all bigotry
Says, “we
all deserve to be above water, to not drown”
But we are
the only ones drowning,
barely surviving,
We keep
the ocean waves flowing,
We keep society moving,
We matter
I matter
Black lives matter

#StopAsianHate by Sherry Cola

Recited by Helen Liu

Today I feel grief and rage

Innocent immigrants working minimum wage

Just lost their lives because their skin colours beige.

Let me start from the very first page

I’ve always felt foreign, if I’m being candid

So aware growing up that my eyes were slanted

Kids flipping me off and I didn’t understand it.

The old me use to let the hatred slide

Now I’m filled with Asian pride

I’m so sick of holding the pain inside

What has this world come to? All this talk about kung flu

Now my people are getting killed with guns too?

It breaks my heart that we’re moving in reverse

I remember my mom use to work hard to put me first, with 5 dollars in her purse

It hurts that it could have been her in a hearse.

Asian women, we’re taught to mind our own business. What kind of country is this?

We’re getting murdered by white terrorist with assistance from the fucked up system.

These were daughters, wives, mothers and sisters.

The American dream turned into a nightmare. I’m losing sleep getting white hairs

Is my grandpa going to get assaulted right there?

Let’s face it. We watch the news and energy is just wasted. Four years with a leader who’s xenophobic and racist.

And now we’re back to basics.

I can’t help but shed tears on tears, for years my ancestors proved that we belong here.

2021 we’re still living with these strong fears.

I mean this is bringing us back, to the exclusion act.

These are just the facts. My community is under attack.

So stop ignoring these crimes and playing pretend

And check in on your Asian family and friends.

Let’s have each others backs and put this hate to an end.

A Litany for Survival

Recited by Aneeqah Ahmed
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.


Gi-Gi Valery

“Good evening, my name is Gi-Gi Valery. I am 12 years old. I am a Junior Activist.

I am very passionate about my desire to make a difference in the lives of young girls in New Jersey and Philadelphia.

I am a 3rd generation Social Justice Activist. I am following in the footsteps of my mother Tay Walker who is the CEO of the YWCA Princeton whose mission is to eliminate racism and empower women and girls, and my grandmother Jeannie Walker who was a Social Justice Activist in Philadelphia in the mid1980s at the Consumer Education Protection Agency better known as (CEPA).

As a Junior Activist, I am very passionate about encouraging young girls and boys to speak out about the importance of racial justice and equality. As a young black child, I am tired of seeing minority men, women and children being harassed, killed and treated differently by the police simply because of the color of their skin.

Black and brown people are frustrated, angry and hurt by what’s going on in our nation. We are tired of racial profiling…we are tired of being stripped of our rights…many of us fear for our lives…especially minority men and boys…

Sometimes, I am afraid when my 18 year old brother leaves the house, and when my father leaves the house…not knowing if they will return home safely…sometimes, I am afraid of what could happen to them if they get pulled over by the police, or if they are stopped by the police for walking in a neighborhood the police don’t think they should be walking in…

As a Junior Activist, it is my responsibility to stand up for what’s right. As a young person, I want to encourage other young children not to be afraid to stand up for what they believe in…

Last year on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a white male police officer. I am very happy that George Floyd’s family received justice, but it saddens me that less than one year later in the same city, Daunte Wright, was murdered by a white female police officer. The police violence against minority men must stop…

My heart fills with pain every time I see a picture of George Floyd’s daughter, or when I see something about her on TV. I get sad because it reminds me that her story could have been my story, or the story of any black child living in America.

In the Bible it says that we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of the Lord. We are one race… the human race…

I would like to say to our state leaders and to our lawmakers…please listen to the concerns in black and brown communities…if we want things to get better, we all have to be willing to work together to make a change.”

Arushi Gupta, one of our participants, recited the above poem by Morgan Harper Nichols, and shared, “empathy is important because it helps us understand how others are feeling and I think that if there’s one thing that can unify us – it is being a friend to anyone, no matter where they have come from or what experiences they have had in the past.”