Operation SURVIVE

April 8, 2009

by Chiemela Ogbonna

Instructor’s note: Don’t skip this powerful account of one of the most heart-breaking events in modern history. In researching this piece, Chiemela interviewed his father, who was a boy in Biafra at the time of the genocide.

It was the year of 1968. What did my dad see when he leered out his cut-out concrete opening on his wall during that morning? He saw enormous clouds of smoke from distant forests, army tanks ripping through forests, bloody corpses, and flanks of soldiers marching down the roads of his village with grimaced countenances. He saw inferno engulf corpses of innocent villagers. When my dad was about 11 years of age, he and his family were among “3 million Igbo refugees . . .” ( Metz 114) struggling to survive the horrific conditions of a Nigerian Civil War called the Biafra War.
Read the rest of this entry »

Two-Toned: Grandma Joyce’s Story

December 13, 2008

By Quiana Tilghman

Instructor’s note: Quiana is a local high school student getting a jump on college by taking Introductory Composition early. She researched this true tale of a family torn apart by race in the era of segregation by reading obituaries and interviewing family members. Her family has kindly consented for this important piece of local history to be shared with the world.

Have you ever seen two children who are brothers and sisters, but they are two totally different skin tones? Let’s say one of the children is caramel skin tone and the other is chocolate skin tones, but the only reason you know they are brothers and sisters is because of the resemblance. What would you do if this happened to you? How would you deal with this situation if it happened during segregation? Would you keep your family together and endure the hell or split your family apart for an easier life? To you this may be a psychological question but for my great-grandmother this was an ultimate decision. Though she may not have known it then, the effects of her decision are still evident today. Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping It Clean

December 9, 2008

By “The Watchers”

“The Watchers” is a group of young women. This was their response to an in-class writing assignment.

Does money buy everything? Constantly, we ask each other whatever the situation may be “Is it worth it, and am I?” The subject matter is: Is money worth the degradation and exploitation of women in videos? We see them every time we turn on BET and watch a hip hop video. This isn’t being hypocritical, it’s just the fact that these women seem to not care or care very little about themselves and how they are represented on TV. We feel that many music videos exploit women. Read the rest of this entry »

A Father’s Press

December 6, 2008

By Anonymous

Instructor’s Note: This student wrote this very moving essay in response to an assignment earlier in the term but wanted to share it with the world here.

A particular man in my life was an alcoholic. His name is [name omitted] and he is my dad. He would leave for days, to go out in the street to drink and do drugs. I would watch him in the hallway just as he would get dressed. He would go into the closet to get a plain shirt and grab these light denim blue jeans, with a crease going down the middle with the little rip on the back pocket. He would spray this Burberry cologne so much that every time, I was left in the house coughing for about an extra five minutes. My dad had these boots that I hated so much. They were black Timberlands so when they looked a little dull he would use some Vaseline to shine them up. They leaned to the side so badly that you thought he was walking on the side of his feet. He would grab his keys and out the door he went. And every time I would say, “Hey dad where you going?” He’d say, “Granny I’ll be right back.”

One hot, Sunday in June — I can recall the degrees being in the upper 90’s — I got a phone call saying that my dad was being rushed to the hospital. Read the rest of this entry »

How a Child Spells Love

December 6, 2008

By “Mac-N-Cheese”

Instructors Note: Don’t skip this very powerful piece by the “Mac-N-Cheese” writing group, who elected to structure this meditation on family as a dialogue, with each team member sharing his or her story and the whole group summing up with an important lesson rooted in real-life experiences.

“If I had my child to raise over again, I’d build self-esteem first and the house later. I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes. I would care to know less and know to care more. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging and less tugging. I’d see the oak tree in the acorn more often. I would be firm less often and affirm much more. I’d model less about the love of power and more about the power of love.”
Diane Loomans
How a Child Spells Love

LW: As a young black male, I found that having your parents around as you grow up is a big part of how you will become when you get older. I grew up with both of my parents around me, but my dad was always working. As I got older my dad started to talk with me and my brother more, to whereas now we have a better relationship. Most kids nowadays don’t ever get to obtain what I have. Their mom or dad could be in jail or dead. Read the rest of this entry »

Housekeeping

December 4, 2008

By Lamar Waul

Housekeeping: a work unit in a hotel or other such establishment tasked with cleaning rooms, changing linens, and related jobs. Nowadays housekeepers are not getting the respect or pay that they deserve. I was a housekeeper for two years at the Holiday Inn Select. From my own experience I have come to find that most people think that we are just there to clean the room and bathroom, but there is so much we dealt with while doing it. But yet we did it with a smile. Read the rest of this entry »

What Happened to H.E.R. (Hip Hop in its Essence and Real)?

December 3, 2008

By Thomas Moody II

Hip-Hop is in a state of emergency. There is a rise in rappers without substance in what they rap about. Listening to the radio, once enjoyable, has become a horrific experience. Turning the dial is like playing Russian roulette with a handgun. You will be blown away by how ignorant and ridiculous today’s lyrics are.

Personally, I cannot stand that Soulja Boy passes his dance songs off as hip-hop. Songs on his debut album include “Booty Meat” and “Donk”. Both of which instruct women to, “shake dat booty meat” and to “bend it, get it.” There is no meaning to this mindless gyration. I believe that people should not support such fake hip-hop, the artists who make it, the corporations that sell it, nor the mediums by which it reaches the masses. Read the rest of this entry »

Stereotypes of Africa

December 3, 2008

By Oluwasegun Akinola

My name is Segun which means Victor in English. People could tell that I am an African by the sound of my name and accent. Whenever I am around people, they begin to ask questions about Africa. For example, someone asked me “do you walk around naked in Africa?” Another person asked me “do you live in huts at Africa?” Whenever people ask me these questions, I laugh it off. This shows that these are the stereotypes people of other races have about Africa. They didn’t know what the life in Africa looks like because they got these stereotypes from movies and internet sources. As an African, I want to contrast the good life I had in Africa with the stereotypes of my homeland.

I was born in Lagos, Nigeria in West Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

Relationship Behind Bars

November 24, 2008

By Ashley Lowery

Instructor’s note: Ashley wrote this powerful piece in response to the prompt to write a descriptive essay about “a place that shaped you.”

Tom and Jerry, Spiderman, and Batman are all childhood cartoons that I enjoyed; however, I was unable to watch these cartoons on Saturdays. Instead, I was hugging my mother from a jail cell. More than a fourth of Baltimore city mothers are incarcerated. As a result the children are left to be cared for by family members or even the department of social services. By my mother being incarcerated, I only have vivid memories of visiting my mother in different jails. The ordeal of visiting my mother consisted of mentally and physically preparing myself, arriving at the jail and getting searched, and then sitting in a waiting room only to see her through a metal gate for a short period of time; this describes my relationship with my mom.

Deciding on an outfit to wear was a hassle. I had to make sure I didn’t wear any sleeveless shirts or shorts above the knee. Read the rest of this entry »

Black Water

November 24, 2008

By Erica Matthews

Instructor’s note: Erica wrote this piece in response to an assignment to write a descriptive essay about “a place that shaped you.”

When you enter Pocomoke, Maryland the smell of dirty salt water enters your nostrils. The main street in Pocomoke, known as Market Street, is what tourists see when they enter the town. Market Street is surrounded by stores run by people of the city, beautiful homes, and churches. The homes and churches on this street have their gardens pruned and lawns mowed so meticulously that it looks as if each building has its own grass carpet as a front yard.

I know the truth; that street is just a mask. Behind the beautiful homes and churches with the perfect gardens and grass, lies the real Pocomoke. After you cross the bridge over the foul smelling black river water, take a right on to Clark Street because that is where the real Pocomoke begins.

Clark Street is the street where you know damn well you took a wrong turn and must leave immediately! Read the rest of this entry »

Mothers in Prison and the Children Left Behind

May 10, 2009

by “Mecca Longwood”

Instructor’s note: This post was originally a presentation done by the author and his mother in class. They have chosen to publish it here under a pseduonym in order to protect the privacy of other family members mentioned. See the end of this post for an account of what happened in class after this honest and moving presentation.

One thing I learned growing up in my household is that women are more likely to be the primary provider for the child; so, when a mother goes to prison, that takes on a whole new meaning, different from fathers in prison. The visits alone could be a terrible experience. You get searched by adults you do not know inside a creepy building, and you have to talk to your mother through a glass on a phone.

I am the one to vouch that when your mom goes away it changes things that may be for the better, but at the time I didn’t see that. My brothers and I were separated in order to lighten the burden from my grandmother and my aunt, which made it harder to stay in touch with them. Things may have been different if mom was around, or maybe this is who I was destined to be from the start, but I have here the women who can give you the hands-on experience from being on the inside of the jail. My mother is here to tell how it can affect the mother as much as the child.

The day you were first arrested, did you think that would be the last time you would have with your children?
Read the rest of this entry »

Letter from Your Gay Granddaughter

May 10, 2009

by Chantia Holmes

Many gays and lesbians have a hard time dealing with their family when it’s time to come out. There are quite a few lucky ones who have families who are very accepting and unconditionally love them no matter what. However, that is not the case with me.

I live with my grandma, who took me in when I was 11, when my mother died. Seeing as she is my grandmother, she is old-fashioned and believes that homosexuality is in the same category with murder and rape/molestation. (She thinks it’s perverted.) Although I was not ready to, I told her (my grandmother) about my lesbian life-style when I was 13 years old. Now, five years later, she still believes that it is a phase. Deep down, there are so many things I want to tell her, and I think a letter will serve the purpose, but, I am too afraid. So, I am going to post the letter here, and maybe one day I will have the courage to actually give it to her.
Read the rest of this entry »

Strength of Africa

May 10, 2009

by Sih-Nanga “Britney” Ndumu

Some people minimize Africa and have different opinions about it. Just to show how little they think of Africa, at times they call it a country! This is outrageous. Africa is a continent. Yes, it is underdeveloped but some places in Africa have better living standards than here in the United States. It is hard to believe but it is true. Cameroon is one of the small countries in Africa and I would like to emphasize it.
Read the rest of this entry »

That Kind of Friend

May 10, 2009

By Anonymous

Have you ever had a situation where you thought disaster was imminent? Have you wanted a true friend that would help you through that situation but never found that person? I know a Friend who is willing to accompany anyone at any state of their lives. He has given me strength to persevere through the most dark and toughest circumstance—Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »

Life or the Nursing Home

May 9, 2009

by Anonymous

Instructor’s note: This student wants to share an urgent warning but has chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect her family’s privacy. Brace yourself for a heart-breaking story.

My father would have lived a lot longer had he not stayed in a nursing home. My father could walk, talk, feed himself, and put on his own clothes before he was admitted to the nursing home. Dilatin was the only medication that he was taking. Dilatin is a medicine for seizures. We took my father to the hospital because he kept falling. He was only falling because his medicine level was too high. The doctor from the hospital said that he could not stay home by himself and admitted him to the nursing home for therapy. Hoping that he would get therapy, I chose to keep my father in the nursing home for one hundred days. This would also put him at the top of the list for home health care.

My father did not want to stay in a nursing home. Read the rest of this entry »

Body Art: A Cultural Trend

May 9, 2009

by “Unique Individual”

Body art has become so popular in the past few years that it’s hard to walk down the street, go to the mall, or watch TV without seeing someone with a piercing or a tattoo. Perhaps you think body piercings are presentable and you’ve thought about getting one. But are they safe? Are they a good idea? What should you be aware of if you do decide to get one? Not all piercings heal properly because they are not meant to be in certain places. Several things could go wrong such as chronic infection, scarring, hepatitis B and C, skin allergies from the jewelry that’s used, boils, inflammation or even nerve damage. Some types of piercings people choose to get are the ears, oral, genital, surface, nostril, (nipples), lip, navel and tongues. The most popular pierced body parts seem to be the ears, the nostrils and the belly button. What many people don’t realize when they get a body piercing is that along with the hole in their body comes medical complications.
Read the rest of this entry »

Taking Things for Granted

May 6, 2009

by Edward Irungu

A famous English novelist and critic by the name Aldous Huxley once stated that “Most human beings have an absolute and infinite capacity for taking things for granted” Living in America for some years has proven to me that statement does apply. Many people in America don’t really realize what they have, and by doing so, they don’t take advantage of it.

America has a lot of education opportunities and jobs and is economically blessed. I lived in a continent that would consider those qualities dreams. Even though American at the moment is going though an economic downturn, no one is dying of starvation and the dollar is still holding strong. If you compare that with the economy of a country like Zimbabwe, which is also going through major economic troubles, you couldn’t even come to a comparison. It’s the total opposite. Zimbabwe has been facing major hyper inflation. The situation up there is so bad and their currency is so weak that in January of this year they introduced a 50,000,000,000 note. They are now even introducing plans to issue 10, 20, 50, and 100 trillion bank notes. This is just one of the infinite number of problems the Third World is facing.
Read the rest of this entry »

Small Town Gossip and Character Development

May 6, 2009

Instructor’s note: Students often write about peer pressure. This  insightful entry explores the effects of another kind of social pressure.

By Stephanie

Being from a small town is quite an experience. Have you ever heard of or seen in movies where a group of older women sit around on the porch or at a meeting and gossip about everyone in the town? Well, welcome to where I’m from. Nothing’s a secret and don’t even think about trying to keep anything private. Your failures, your accomplishments, your mistakes, or your good deeds are out for everyone to know. How comforting, right? You make a mistake that you wish you could take back and ten minutes later the entire town, including your grandmother, knows about it.
Read the rest of this entry »

Achievement Against All Odds While “Being Trapped within the Matrix”

April 29, 2009

by “Unknown Author”

Instructor’s note: “Unknown Author” has chosen to anonymously publish this story of being trapped in “The Matrix” of foster care.

Today in our society many young people and adults face many tribulations. Some face many hardships and difficulties throughout their lives. Some individuals may not have the chance to show empathy and see the world through the other person’s viewpoint. Hardships and difficulties may be shocking and appalling for others to see or hear.

I believe that some people have lives that are inspirational. The legend of one’s story can become so deep and display a powerful motivational push for some who have no hope. Some individuals may face things that only few can understand. Read the rest of this entry »

Stereotyping

April 29, 2009

by Anonymous

Stereotyping affects many people in different ways. Being a victim of stereotyping, I was tormented in high school. Every day I was called a midget by my so called friends. From that experience to this day, I feel a sense of emptiness about myself because people only look at the outer me: how tall I am, the clothes I wear, and even how I choose to live my life. Read the rest of this entry »

Wacky Weed

December 22, 2008

By “Cleveland California”

Marijuana is one of the safest drugs legal or illegal; there have been many tests to prove that it is one of the most harmless drugs out there to use. It is used for medicinal purposes in many situations so my question is, “Why isn’t this drug legal?” Read the rest of this entry »

What Are Pre-Relationships for?

December 13, 2008

By Chris Smith

“Baby I’m sorry it’s not you it’s me.” “I cheated.” “I don’t know where I see us going years from now.” “Are you sure they’re not yours?” Relations between two people who have “feelings,” for each other are some of the most complex traditions of our U.S. society today. This is because, over decades of time, norms have changed over and over again. From the acceptable age that people can be married, to interracial couple’s acceptance of in society, the norms of relationships are subjective in nature. It was normal for children the age of thirteen to get married in the past, but in the present it is not. It is normal for marriages to end in divorce in the present, but it wasn’t in the past. And now it seems like a new change should be confronted: pre-relationships.

Pre-relationships can go by many names to the youth. To name a few: “bun joint,” “main squeeze,” “boo,” “baby,” and the most common of all, “boyfriend,” and “girlfriend.” Read the rest of this entry »

Pressure

December 13, 2008

By “Breaking Point”

I felt so stupid. Why did I feel that I had to do something wrong just to fit in? I read this article called, “Surrounding Pressure.” It talks about how peer pressure in America shapes crime and drug users because kids listen to their peers and don’t have the self-esteem to say “No.” I was one of those kids.

I wish I had the self-esteem to say “No” before I went to the mall with my friends that Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.