On June 4th, Girls Write Now hosted a workshop on responding to racial injustice and violence against black lives led by Andrea Ambam and Britton Williams. Andrea is a speech and debate champion, as well as a theatre artist who practices creative political response. Britton is a Drama Therapist and professor at NYU.
- The Power in Questioning: Mentees wrote down every question they could think of about this moment in time. They questioned what they don’t know, what they really want to know, their own feelings, what they’re unsure of—questioning anything and everything. *Their Bonus Challenge: Think of some statements you know to be true and frame those statements as questions.
- Catastrophe vs. Turning Point: Mentees returned to the definition of crisis and found two different definitions. They considered the question, if this crisis is a turning point, what do you want to be around the corner? Describe that world. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What can you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? Use your unanswered questions, to help guide you on this new world.
- A Cento—Community Centered Statement: Mentees wrote a demand, an action, a declaration, a hope, a belief, or a feeling that they have in response to the movement for black lives and our fight against state sanctioned violence.
Below Girls Write Now mentees’ imagined worlds, and our community-centered statement—the mentees’ Cento.
MENTEES DREAM OF NEW WORLDS
Caitlin Levy: This new world looks like, smells like, tastes like love. The motherly, brotherly kind that hugs color and skin without even spoonfuls of selfishness. It is orange glows from street lamps and the ginger melodies of city sidewalks on which everyone feels safe. It is people humming their favorite songs, no matter their ethnic roots, how deep they run, because culture is something we wear like a heart on a sleeve, like a scarf, like a badge. It is warm. In the real, not-just-weather kind of way. The wood in the court rooms smells of lemons cleaner and justice, coated each night. It is a place where violence is for the evil. The voices of those who were unheard ring like church bells. And we listen, and listen, and listen.
Jayola Reid: I don’t know if I want equality. Marginalized groups need more than rather than the same. We need land, reparations, sacred cultural spaces, and everything else that was promised to us yet we have never received. I want to breathe non-polluted air in every neighborhood. I want to see Amazon Forests thriving instead of burning. I need to hear teachers teaching their students from textbooks written by black authors. I need for white supremacists groups to be making up the jails as opposed to my many innocent brothers. I want to see indigenous people practicing their historical rituals on land that is not plagued by pipelines. I need easier access and much shorter waiting time for Mexicans to receive citizenship rather than having to undergo harsh travels to come to a country that will happily send them back. I need for gay clubs and schools to stop being shot up.
Kilhah St Fort: I’d see black women and men with their beautiful locks, fros, cornrows, and weaves walk into interviews. Their backs straight and when they look across at the person behind the desk, their hair or name won’t be held against them. Nothing will ever be considered ‘too black.’ Everyone will acknowledge blackness as the rich and deep well of power and perverseness it has always been.
GIRLS WRITE NOW MENTEE CENTO: OUR STATEMENT ON BLACK LIVES MATTER
In this world, we must, at the minimum, value life.
We ourselves can understand and make the people in our lives understand the value, power and significance in every single human life.
Abolish the police system.
Our little siblings don’t have to know the same fear as we know right now.
Get the law 50-A repealed, as well as the addition of more training protocols for police regarding necessary violence.
My blackness should not be a threat
Melanin is now a trend so why is the loss of melanin a trend too.
We will wear our battle scars proudly, and they will be seen as something beautiful.
Fund the communities you try to look over.
Celebrate us, our ancestors’ blood is all over the foundation of your country.
We don’t need prisons.
Eat the rich we don’t need them.
A revolution must liberate enslaved people before liberating anyone or anything else.
By Emmanuella Agyemang, Andrea Ambam, Atiqa Chowdhury, Caitlin Levy, Jayola Reid, Suhaylah Sirajul-Islam, Kilhah St Fort, Claire Yu & Grace Yu