Dear President Obama

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.


Jun 3, 2012


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. :(

May 1, 2012

I am Alexa

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.

May 1, 2012

Point of View

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 mean
I’ve tried,
I’ve fought,
I’ve cried,
I’ve lost,
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.

Apr 30, 2012


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.

Apr 30, 2012

Grandmoms Eyes

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.
Grandmoms eyes,
they help take away the pain.
Grandmoms eyes,
they never lie or hurt.
Grandmoms eyes,
they’re always there, they never burn.
Grandmoms eyes,
gentle and sweet.
Grandmoms eyes,
They’re the best eyes to me.
Grandmoms eyes,
they never leave my mind.
Grandmoms eyes,
I never want to say goodbye.

Apr 30, 2012

The Summer of Love

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,

will you?


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.

Apr 30, 2012

Smudge on the Wall

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.




Apr 30, 2012

This Girl

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.

Apr 30, 2012

Rushin on Your Run

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
I wait
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
We go

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

Apr 30, 2012


Hosted by The Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, The Blacktop is an online literary magazine for elementary, middle, and high school students in Philadelphia. The Blacktop encourages creative expression by offering young writers an opportunity to publish their work and share it with friends, family, teachers, and the community.

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