Winner of the Orwell Youth Prize 2016 – Year groups 9, 10, 11
From the day of my birth I had melanin.
I saw it every time I looked in the mirror from
Age zero to thirteen, but never knew the trouble
It could get me in.
I didn’t see the decades of history that
Sat on my skin and danced in my bones.
I was colour blind to my own skin and the soul that
Was buried deep within a
Coloured shell case, which could
Never be seen to be as pure as a shell that was
At age fourteen I realised I was taught to hate my curls,
And that I acted like me and not
‘Pretty white, for a mixed girl’.
I learnt that the place to I aspired to live,
New York, the city of my dreams, doesn’t look so bright.
America’s not a safe place for those
Whose relatives had to protest for basic human rights.
Age fifteen I realise that even my qualifications might not get me into
Oxford or Cambridge because at the end of the day
I’ll fall a victim to white privilege.
But it’s okay, because I’ll have my race card to help me.
That magical thing that will suddenly appear every
Time a white person doesn’t want to hear
That they have any form of advantage.
The race that is never told no, can’t handle when they are told
That they can’t use the N word.
So they respond with
“Well, think about it, what if
To use this slur was a dying child’s wish?
Slavery ended over 150 years ago,.”
The word uttered to keep us in our place and implanted
A seed into society that grew into plant with poisoned roots.
A word chanted less than 100 years ago as
A morbid bunting lined the trees of the Deep South.
The foundations of oppression formed in the mouth,
All standing on those two simple syllables.
You pick culture like fruit.
Only the ripest, juiciest, brightest will do.
You make a pinot grigio for you
To consume and claim how sweet and
Fresh it is. Even call it innovative.
Your Kim K braids are what black people have called
Cornrows for generations past.
You steal words out of the mouths of those
Who created the dialect.
It’s ‘lit’ ,right?
Your ‘glow up’ made of beauty traits stolen
For your pleasure. Eyebrows ‘on fleek ‘
Along with your Kylie Jenner lips.
You wear the life of another as a comfortable coat,
But you don’t have the leaden lining that was placed there
From the moment our lives began.
Everything’s beautiful as long as it’s not on black skin.
When the choir of the oppressed cry “ that’s cultural appropriation”
They are told “calm down, its just appreciation
Of your uniqueness”
This uniqueness is what is getting people of colour killed.
We raise our voices to protest the
Black bodies building blockades for their comrades
On the streets of America,
Only to be met back with a flood of tweets saying
“Um sweetie I think that you’ll find
That we should be caring about #alllives
Not just #blacklivesmatter you know”
Do you care about black lives when your not forced to listen?
Black people being shot down like its 1965.
A black family in the white house doesn’t mean
Racism has done its time.
White people walk the maze after studying
Its blueprints and know the
Underfoot grenades and creating the excuses
That everyone still has to go through the maze,
And that’s a challenge enough.
But we’ll find our path to the centre.
We’ve found the magic that is survival.
We’ll no longer fit into
Your cream coloured mould just to produce hit records,
Or novels, or films, or ourselves.
Our Afros won’t shrink, we won’t dilute our
Being to make us more palatable for the world.
You will need an ocean to swallow the pill that I am.
We are no longer willing to be
Or your experiments.
Our voices can no longer be silenced.
Our gospel choir of the truth will sing songs
Of a deafening silence until you
Cannot ignore your privilege.
Louder than the thunderstorm of fire
In our bellies.
You will hear a song
You can no longer argue with