By Sonita H., Grade 3, Taggart Elementary School
Dear President Obama,
Hi , my name is Sonita. I am a student from Taggart School, and I am from Philadelphia. I enjoy music, and I play a violin and I love to play it. I am kind to others like my uncles, aunts, grandmas, also my friends. My favorite teacher ever is Ms.Chan.
I am writing this letter because we need more funding for our school and because we need more teachers, nurses, and school police officers. We need teachers to teach us so we can learn. We need nurses when some of the students are sick. We need school police officers to make our school safe, and if we have a big fire the school police officers can take care of it. We need bilingual counseling assistants because some parents don’t know how to speak English. We want to keep playing our instruments because we have not learned enough, and I want to learn more new songs for our violin teacher. We need more funding because our school is running low.
I have some questions for you. When was the White House made? Thank you President Obama for being fair to others and thank you for taking care of us.
By Ebone’ N., Grade12, The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush
I am black and I should feel proud right?!
I’m brown-skinned but I’m always worried about getting darker. I was in a summer program where we
went away for three weeks and it was mainly outside. I have a regular, boring, average, dark brown eyes.
I hate it. I think its so corny, but I think colored contacts don’t look real and just make someone look
insecure like they’re unhappy with the way they look or need colored contacts to feel pretty. I think they
just look weird, the colors aren’t even realistic. I have a round nose. I hate my nose. I’m envious of Latina
girls or Middle Eastern girls because they look exotic. They all look different and some of them have very
pretty eyes. They also have long hair that they don’t have to worry about it falling out for putting too
much heat on it, sticking straight up in the air, falling out for sleeping on the wrong kind of pillow or not
oiling it. I just don’t like being me. I don’t like being black. How can I get over this and find beauty within
myself? I feel so ugly all of the time and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of looking at other girls and thinking
“Why can’t I be like that?” I know this sounds bad, but it’s just the way I feel.
By Alexa H., Grade 12, The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush
I am Alexa.
That’s spelled A-L-E-X-A
Not Alexis, Alexia, or any type of Alex you may come up with.
Who am I?
I am a girl who has dreams.
Who wants to make money, to be successful, but most importantly
Who am I?
I am art.
I am a creator.
I am a right brain thinker.
Who am I?
I am a student, not a test score.
I am human.
I make mistakes.
I ain’t perfect, no one is.
Who am I?
I am eighteen going on nineteen.
Damn, I’m getting old.
Times are changing and so am I.
Who am I?
I am a daughter.
I am a granddaughter.
I am a cousin.
I am a friend.
I am an enemy.
I am a stranger.
Who am I?
I am a person that gets stepped on.
Not emotionally, but physically.
I am not invisible.
I am able to seen.
Look down and you’ll know what I mean.
Who am I?
I am the girl who is ready to move on from Rush.
Ready to start a chapter in her life.
Who am I?
I am me.
By Arionna H., Grade 12, The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush
We has always been my favorite word, but I as in you has always been your favorite word.
All this time it has been we as in me trying to make things work, and we as in not you getting tired of all this work that I’ve had to put in.
I mean where have you been in all this we?
We don’t work because you are selfish.
I mean how can me and you be a we if you’re always so worried about the I, as in I’m stupid for not knowing the right point of view.
We’re collective, we are one, we are together, but I’m fine being singular, if we can’t make this plural thing work, because soon we will be you alone thinking of me and of how we are no longer.
I wish we… see right there is where the problem begins.
Its me hoping for we, but I can’t make we on my own.
it’s we for a reason because it takes more than just me.
it takes too people it takes a group collectively and willingly to join I together so that we are no longer I alone.
I’ve did the we but its always just been me hoping that you would join but how can I expect so much from you when you spell we with an I? How about you walk your singular ass out of my life? take your singular heart and feel those singular feelings and be singular as you like.
But don’t look for us to be plural in the sheets,
plural when your singular feelings start multiplying into, where is she, why did she leave me where is the we? But you’ll always have that one single thought of me.
Of how you had the chance to be we
of how I am gone, and no longer thinking of you.
By Katelynn S., Grade 11, The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush
As she was rushing out the back door, Cassidy could only think of having to take
the shortcut to school, cutting across the field behind her home to the narrow path that
stretched through the forest and ended down the block from her school. Her hazel eyes
scanned the tree line across the large field that seemed long forgotten in the blinding gray
light of the cloudy fall morning. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary but still her heart
began beating ever faster with each crunch made by the frozen dew on the grass beneath
her feet. Along with the slight murmur of the trees moving in the distance, her mother’s
voice hummed in her ears; “As a girl you should avoid being alone and out of the earshot
of other people: it’s not safe.” The anxiety cut clean through the ‘stern mother voice’
she was using in order to convey her authoritative advice. The way she spoke about this
one small thing always made Cassidy wary of walking to school alone in the morning,
especially when she had to take the shortcut through the woods; she always imagined
being swallowed into the brush and trees with nobody to hear her struggle. This brought
her to walk to school with her neighbor Jesse, but that morning Jesse was staying home to
nurse a hangover.
The world felt void of life in the early morning quiet as she crossed the field so
fear began infecting every blood cell, spreading throughout the far reaches of her body.
Dread and adrenaline flowed through her veins as she grew nearer to the path, so she
grabbed her backpack straps tightly; her knuckles whitened as she clamped down on the
bands of padded material. It was almost like she thought it would keep her firmly planted
on her feet: almost as if it were protection for her from the forest.
As Cassidy placed her foot onto the path she heard a noise nearby, almost like
the old floorboards in her hallway at home: that slow moaning creak of something
moving which was once still. To her, it sounded as though the forest was coming to
life, as though it had waited for her solitary arrival, so she began to run. She ran past the
dull autumn gold of trees that felt never-ending in every direction. She didn’t stop for
anything. She didn’t stop to rest when she began tripping and falling on the rocks and
pebbles hidden beneath the carpet of leaves. She didn’t stop to tend to her bloodied hands
and scraped knees. She didn’t stop when the low hanging branches pulled at her hair. She
didn’t stop when the overgrown bushes clawed at her legs through her pants.
The forest seemed to be closing in around her, grabbing at her calves and grazing
her thighs. It tugged on and gripped at her body with such vicious determination it tore
through her clothing and ripped into her soft skin; the forest had sprung to life to engulf
Cassidy just as she had feared. Roots shot up from the soil and dragged her down to
the cold, unforgiving ground, then they hauled her off into the brush. Fingerlike vines
spread over her body twisting and writhing around her, cocooning her. She screamed as
the plants began to shoot through her pores up from the dirt then back down again to the
earth, bloodstained but hungry for more; they created shackles from which she couldn’t
break free. She wailed as the merciless forest tried to bulldoze itself into her ears, eyes,
nose, and mouth: suffocating her.
Cassidy gasped for breath, for that moist life giving air. It was thick with mold
spores and the smell of earthworms and mud. She could taste it; her palette became
thicker with each inhalation. She desperately tried to cling to life all the while crying out
for help she knew would never come. She was praying to a god whom she’d never even
worshipped for a rescue, for someone, anyone, to hear her anxious cries. She knew it was
all hopeless though because the wall of trees surrounding her drowned her calls out. She
wondered if her family would ever find her, if anybody would even realize she was gone.
She wondered what they would place in an empty grave as a memorial to the short life
se had lived. Would anybody ever know, or even question, how she came to pass? The
answer would remain forever unknown because her body would never have the chance to
claim truth to her horrific end.
Warm tears escaped her eyes as she began sinking deeper into the immense
vegetation around her; she was becoming a part of the plant life. She felt the bugs
crawling on the moss replacing her skin, gnawing at what was left of her flesh: what
was left of her life. As her heart’s beat began slowing, skipping beats, Cassidy heard
the earth moving. The forest began symphonizing at her capture, reverberating loudly
with the sound of triumph over her. They vibrated in the harmony of her mutilation and
destruction as though it had been plotted long ago. They reaped the reward of they’re
success: Cassidy’s body became a trophy to the wildlife of the forest. When she was
succumbing to death, her limbs became limp, her muscles ached, and her wounds burned
with the dirt that was enveloping her; her drive to fight was gone. Her breath staggered
then shallowed, and she closed her eyes in an attempt to cherish her last moments of life.
The darkness entombed her and Cassidy became one with the forest, never to be found.
By Jamez G., Grade 11, The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush
When I look in her eyes,
my whole world stops.
When I look in her eyes,
my world is stuck.
Stuck in the moment,
like the time froze.
When I look into her eyes,
her beautiful brown eyes,
ebony,dark,warm and full.
Ain’t no better feeling in the world,
then looking in her eyes.
they help take away the pain.
they never lie or hurt.
they’re always there, they never burn.
gentle and sweet.
They’re the best eyes to me.
they never leave my mind.
I never want to say goodbye.
By Mikaela S. G., Grade 11, The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush
Ringing the rusted, silver bell loosely tied to the glass door, he walks into Harold’s
Diner. The bell broke the silence between the tings of forks and spoons against plates and
dishes being dropped in bins. “How’s it going, Arnold?” says a soft-voiced, balding man
leaning against the cold counter. “Oh, I’m fine, Harold. Just peachy.” Pulling a wrinkled
notepad from his faded, red apron, splattered with stains of every food imaginable, he
said, “So what’ll it be?” “I’ll have coffee; black, two e-” “Yeah, let me guess, black
coffee, two eggs, over easy, and rye toast with butter.” With a slight chuckle, Arnold
says, “You know me all too well, Harold.” “It should be out soon. Wednesdays are never
busy, you know that!” Bending back in the red, circular chair underneath the counter
where he was sitting, he spun in and out of balance, grabbing a newspaper from the stand
by the door. “April 16, 1969”. His eyes skimmed the paper. Shaking his head in utter
confusion, he slams the paper against the shiny counter. “Damn hippies” he muttered.
Coffee cups and spoons quickly bounced with his sudden motion. His head turned as he
saw Harold returning with his order. He set the hot plate on the counter and sets a half-
empty bottle of ketchup on the counter. As he tilts strikes the base of the bottle, a more
than adequate amount of ketchup pours onto his plate. He rolls his eyes in utter
annoyance and says softly, “Harold, have you heard about this?” Innocently pivoting in
his step, he looks at Arnold and responds “Hear what?” “The damn hippies from the city
want to host their festival here! And Yasgur is lettin’ ‘em use his farm! Three days of
Peace, Love and Music? Not if I have a say in this! If they even think for two shakes of a
lamb’s tail that they’re hosting their hippy-dippy antics in our town, they’re sadly
mistaken. I’ll stop them right in their tracks if I’ve got to.” Taking an angry bite of his
now cold and ketchup-drenched breakfast, he calms down a bit and shakes his
head. “Yeah, you ought to say somethin’ to Max.” said a red headed, middle-aged man
with worried eyes sitting on the opposite end of the counter. “Well…” Arnold
sighed, “Before I do anything, I’ve got to go home and tell Betty.”
Peeling off my yellow rubber gloves from the tinted, soapy water, I set the last
clean plate on the damp towel. I heard someone come into the kitchen. You can
always tell when someone’s coming through the back door; every floorboard yelps
in an ugly disapproval of you stepping on them. He walked in. “You finish the
dishes?” “Yes, Pop.” “Did you move the hay out of the barn? It’ll start a fire if it’s in
there.” “Yes” “Good, maybe later you can go out and collect some eggs. The chickens
should be done hatching ‘em by now. Go up to old man Kurtis’ house and give him a
carton- don’t charge him.” “Alright” quickly, he says, “Is your mother home?” I didn’t
need to tell him, and he didn’t need to ask. He always does, though. As if she goes
anywhere farther than the porch. She must’ve heard us talking. “I’m upstairs, dear!” my
mother shouted in a busy but kind voice. My father hurried up the wooden stairs, shaking
the banister with every heavy step his old leather boots took.
I leaned against the faded, green paisley wallpaper under the stairs, where I heard my
folks talking. Usually they have nothing interesting to talk about until one of our chickens
lays an egg. Eggs. That’s the most interesting conversation in this house, I swear. You
know, life is kinda like an egg, if you think about it. It’s very delicate, and there’s always
something on the inside; and you never know what that thing is until one day you just
give it a good crack. I heard them talking about hippies. I never did see one up close,
but Pop talks about them like they’re some kind of disease. I don’t think they’re bad
people. How could they be? They advocate peace and all. The man at the record store on
Commercial Street, George, tells me all kinds of crazy tales. George. Whatta guy. I never
knew how true his crazy stories were, but he did give me a lot of good sales, so I figure
it’s worth to sit and listen for a while. I love rock music, blues too. He always saves me
the best Fats Domino albums. I hide them under my mattress, so my folks won’t snatch
them. They think I listen to Nat King Cole….Nat King Cole…Whatta joke! I wasn’t
really listening to them. Not until I heard “Creedence Clearwater Revival”. Boy, did that
sound weird coming from my father’s mouth. I still had no clue as to what they were
talking about, but I knew it was something more interesting than eggs. I listened for a few
minutes more, with my ears leaning on every syllable. “Can you believe this nonsense,
Betty?” my father cried. “Settle down, dear. Perhaps you can drive to Yasgur’s place
today and see what it’s all about.” Through the muffled sound behind the tightly closed
oak door, I heard my father say something. I couldn’t pick up on the whole sentence. All
I heard was a few small words; “festival” and “Bethel”.
I heard my father’s boots hit the floor, and I ran into the Kitchen. He slid past me,
opening the backdoor, heading out to the driveway. He started his baby blue pickup
truck and the tires spun beneath him, blowing dust across the muddy dirt road. Tiptoeing
toward the umbrella stand near the doorway of the kitchen, I saw today’s paper. “April
16th, 1969.” I read the front cover. I couldn’t believe it! Interrupting my unbelievable
excitement, my mother called from the other room. “Maybelline! May! Get in here
please!!!” I tucked the already creased paper in my blouse and I walked out the back
Unbothered for decades, frozen in time. The streams comfortably trickle in the same
directions they have for centuries. Hills roll together in rough, beautiful horizons. I sat
on a hill on the edge of Yasgur’s field; I could roll around in that grass all day. Sitting on
a small, birch tree stump, I pulled the paper out of my blouse and read on. Why would
Janis Joplin come here? Bethel is just about as lively as a damn cemetery, if you ask
me. It was getting dark. I heard my father’s truck. I tucked the paper in my blouse, and
hightailed it home.
I woke up the next morning to my mother shaking a carton of eggs in my
face. “Maybelline! Get up! Wake up, May!” I rubbed my eyes open to see my mother
standing over me. “Daddy told you to bring eggs to Mr. Kurtis’ house! Please do
it.” “Alright.” Yawning and stretching my legs, my feet touched the cold floor. Pulling
my jeans up, I noticed yesterday’s paper on my table. She must’ve seen it. I didn’t
have much time to think of it, though. She was going to have to know I knew about it
I walked outside and picked my red, rusty bicycle out of the wet morning grass. I
put the eggs in my basket, and rode off. Approaching house number 121, the most faded
white house I’ve ever seen, I leaned my bike on his mailbox to stop it from falling in
the wet grass. Before I could get the chance to ring the bell, Mr. Kurtis’ wife, Annie
answered the door. “Maybelline! Is that you?!” she yelled in a nasal-y, monotone voice.
I think she was half deaf; you had to repeat yourself a thousand times when you spoke to
her. I politely shouted “Yes, Annie! It’s May.” After staring at me for a moment through
her foggy cat’s eye classes, she let me in. I walked through the kitchen with Annie’s hand
still on my shoulder. She led me into the dining room, where Mr. Kurtis was sitting with
a newspaper in his lap and a cup of coffee in his hand. I placed the eggs on the table, and
he smiled. Anna picked them up and put them in the kitchen. “Mr. Kurtis” I said “Yes,
Dear?” he said. Everything he said was said with a smile. “Did you read yesterday’s
paper; you know, about the Woodstock Festival?” “Yes, May! It’s going to be exciting. I
just might leave old Annie home, and make my way to Yasgur’s place before the whole
field is full!” Laughing, I asked “Leave Annie home? Why?” “Well, darlin’, she’s just as
blind as a bat, and deaf as Keller. What would she do at Woodstock? Old Annie’s better
off staying home” “Aren’t you, dear?” He shouted humorously. “What?” “Nothing!
Nothing!” after laughing, he said “Well I hope to see you there! It’s going to be huge!”
After Mr. Kurtis validated the exciting news, I knew I just had to be there.
Finally, the months flew. April turned to May, which later flew into July and
ultimately, August. It was the 12th. Everyday since April I’d ride my bicycle up to
Yasgur’s place and see what progress was made. Everyday more and more people came
up to see what was going on. I walked my bike home and went into the house. I plopped
down on the couch, next to my father, who was watching Nixon and drinking a bottle
of Dr.Pepper. Contemplating whether to bring it up or not, I said “Hey pop…You know
what festival over at Yasgur’s place? Well, a lot of people are going.” “Maybelline, if
you’re askin’ to go to that wild party over at Yagur’s, the answer is no. Who knows what
kind of chaos could happen there!” ”Fine.” Fine? Is that all I could say? The best thing
from there on was silence. I didn’t bring it up again. Even though I was excited for the
15th, I knew I wasn’t allowed to go.
My sleep was broken with a noise that has never occupied the streets of Bethel-
Traffic! I heard honking and beeping of all pitches, calling me outside. Tying my
brown, messy hair in a sloppy braid, I walked down the stairs. I levitated toward the
overwhelming noise. I hadn’t seen anything like it! On my way out, I saw a not from Pop.
I am at the train station and I should be home by seven. Stay away from Yasgur’s place,
P.S. please deliver another carton of eggs to Kurtis and Annie!
You know, for a man who drives freight trains, he does care a bit much about
delivering eggs. Yet, he makes it my job. Standing on the porch, a van painted all
different colors pulls up to my house. It looked like a clown bus or something you’d
see in a circus, but whoever stepped out of it wasn’t a clown at all. A long-haired man
wearing a paisley vest stepped out of the vehicle, into the dirt. “Which way to Yasgur’s
farm?” he said, in a polite and excited tone. Pointing to the left side of me, I said “Th-
That way, sir!” “Right down there. When you’ve reached Main Street, you’ve gone too
far.” He smiled and stuck his middle and first fingers up, paused and said “Thank you
muchly!” He drove away, and in front of him were vehicles as far as the eye can see;
people sitting on top of them, too. The cars never moved! For hours, people sat in the hot
August sun, just to get a taste of the upcoming festival. That’s when I knew I had to be
That night, I snuck from my room to the kitchen. I slid out the back door, this time
without one floorboard creaking. I walked up to the hill where I sat on a small birch
stump and I watched the festival take place. I would give anything to be down there.
From a distance I heard Jerry Garcia’s voice. That’s when I knew this was real. I sat
on the edge of the late-night lit up grass and listened. For once in my lifetime, I got the
chance to give life a good crack. To my surprise, I was pleased with what I found inside.
By Judy Z., Grade 12, The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush
* Smudge on the Wall *
The pictures slowly but surely sliding off your wall, the paint peeling off of your ceiling; fix them, reconstruct your room. Fill the deep cracks splitting apart your everything. Fix it; paint it all a new bright color. Cover the mistakes with a beautiful masterpiece that keeps the secrets behind and hidden. Continue to cover it. Hang that family portrait up with smiles that never fade. Make everything better with your constant lies. Don’t let your secrets creep out or else all will surely crash to the ground. Continue to paint the wall. Reconstruct, they say. But you can’t, can you? Because they already know what lies behind the bright colored walls, behind the smiles, the truth behind the picture that you keep trying to hang. Lies, your shaky hands missed a spot when reconstructing the white walls that stood everywhere in your room. You forgot to cover your guilty, sloppy fingerprints that accidentally stained the wall. It turned out that your fingerprints matched those on a handprint on another women’s wall. It was your handprint above her bed that stained red on her white wall that once looked clean and innocent. There’s no more p
aint to cover up the mistakes and cracks that run so deeply within your area. No matter what color you use, no matter how bright it is, no matter how long the label says it will last, the mistakes still show. The mistakes still pull through and we still see them. Sure is a shame being caught red handed and there’s no way out, there’s no lie to try and further trick the oblivious. It’s your handprint we saw and now it will never come off. Your hand is permanently on this other women’s wall. There’s no way that family portrait will hang on your wall again. There are no nails strong enough to hold it together and keep it from hitting the ground. The paint has run out. That’s it, nothing more to do. Your room is a disaster but it’s all because of the sneakiness in which you thought you mastered. Its rough watching it all fall apart, isn’t it? The portrait shatters, the cracks get so bad that the ceiling falls, it all turns so ugly, and you can’t do anything but sit there and watch. There, by yourself on that squeaky, rusty chair you sit. No one knew not even you what was coming……………………………………………………………………………….
I still don’t understand why you weren’t satisfied with your own room, why did you have to wonder into another women’s room? Your room was already beautiful without any pictures or bright colored walls. Your walls glimmered and shinned without any effort put into them. They stood there holding everything together, doing what they were supposed to do, without any inquiry. Now you sit alone on that rusty, disgusting chair. Alone and lonely, and this happened for what good reason? What reward was so great that makes all of this misery stirred up in your face worth it all? It was for a new color? A change? Following the motto of out with the old and in with the new I see. Out with the old look that fit nicely and worked so well for you and in with the new color that leaves you nothing but ugliness that fills your entire room. I understand now. Well, you are granted with my complement of your decision on color change being a good idea. It is all such a nice look now isn’t it? You could have kept it the same, leave it to be original with its natural beauty; that way you would not have to go through the trouble of finding bright colors to repaint the wall with. Its amazing how such a beautiful masterpiece, could be destroyed with one little mistake, one little smudge on the wall and it just ruins it all.
By Lauren G., Grade 11, The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush
This girl seemed to look at me.
She seemed helpless actually.
The only thing I could do
was only wonder who
This girl could be.
Her frown was what I could see.
I wanted not to stare,
But helping her stroke her hair
could maybe maker her feel okay?
But all I could do was not move, but stay.
A tear was shown upon her face.
All I could do was pace and pace.
I shed a tear for her,
wishing all things could be better
Yeah, her family was there, caring,
But I could not stop staring.
She must of been hurt and stressed a lot.
Her cheeks were red as fire, kind of hot.
I couldn’t take to see a girl
who was sad in this very world.
I tried going over, pace by pace
and then I would have a glance of her face.
She looked familiar.
For her sadness, was there a cure?
I want the hurt to leave.
For she is better than these people who ever hurt her that eve.
She needs to be stronger
even though getting better will take longer.
She just needs an adventure
for the people who will cure
her little heart.
And when we’re not anymore apart.
My face is in shock, and
I am shaking, because what I see,
is that girl who I been staring at is me.
By Brianna K., Grade 11, The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush
Because I think
I started at the end
And the end is so small
And it seems I’ve been fighting ever since
To push my way back to the middle
And I keep my stitches in
So people won’t laugh
When they see how I hide outside
And probably its all the middle
I sleep there every night
Always in circles
And if I get there or not
Because I can’t stop spending all of my time watching all of my time
While we live on the second hand
I am shocked by how slow
And I sit
Like I did as a child
A yesterday ago
With the ghost of a junkie
And the love that made me real
And the juice that made it so eager
To live like Jesus
Too much to break and too much time to do it
I still remember being a child
And I scream to no one
How much I want to go back
How much I want to go home
And I know I can tell somebody
But I want to tell everybody
So I don’t think I will tell anybody