Expression of Freedom Contest Winners


First Place

Arianna Martinez, 18 - Tucson, AZ

First Place - Arianna Martinez, 18 - Tucson, AZ

Second Place

Hamza Moulvi, 17 - Corvallis, OR

Second Place - Hamza Moulvi, 17 - Corvallis, OR

Third Place

Mayra Penaranda, 18 - Miami, FL

Third Place - Mayra Penaranda, 18 - Miami, FL

Honorable Mentions

Mark Frederick, 18 - Tyrone, PA

Honorable Mention - Mark Frederick, 18 - Tyrone, PA

Seth Bingham, 18 - Columbus, IN

Honorable Mention - Seth Bingham, 18 - Columbus, IN

Madison Wilson, 16 - Neptune Beach, FL

Honorable Mention - Madison Wilson, 16 - Neptune Beach, FL


First Place

Evan Gedrich/(Joshua Peace), 16 - Brick, NJ

Second Place

Jacob Perry, 16 - Nashville, TN

Third Place

Samera Mohamed, 16 - Nashville, TN

Honorable Mention

Rena Kramer, 14 - Maplewood, MO


First Place

Afoma Okoye, 17 - Kennesaw, GA

Dreams too Sweet

Dreams too Sweet
Each night my heart beats a thousand times.
I Fear it will stop at night
Because my dreams are too sweet
It doesn’t rain and the sun always shines.
My people don’t cry and
The children play in the warm sun all day.
I never have to worry about them
Not about the world they’ll grow in,
The schools they’ll attend
Or if they’ll ever be given the same rights
as the white kids they play with.
I get to sit on the porch and smile to myself.
Martin Luther King Jr. Stands at the end of the street
And watches them play.
Septima Poinsette Clark calls the children in
And makes them open up their books to learn.
Fannie Lou Hamer sees them moan and groan
So, she lifts her hands and lets them vote
On if they want to go back out to play.
Just as the they bolt to the door
Langston Hughes comes in
Opening his mouth
And speaking from the heart.
He speaks narratives and stories
About the blood, sweat and time sacrificed.
So the children were born
Belonging to no man.
The sun shines through the window.
I open my eyes to see my children sleeping by my side.
I remember them and smile.
I must remain hopeful to teach them.
They must learn and grow strong
So that when the time comes
They too may fight for their children as well.

Second Place

Katreena Duback, 17 - Fresno, CA

Move me. Try to move me. Try to take me, shake me, but never will you break me. Beat me, make me bloody, prove to the world that we are the same inside. You can lock doors and bar windows, but you can’t leave me outside. I refuse to hide.

Bind me. Try to bind me. Try to hold me, mold me, but never will you control me. Your words do nothing but bounce from the bus and shatter on the pavement, leaving broken glass for the upper class. You can try to ignore me, but I refuse to step aside.

I am strong, though I am meek, and peace is what I seek. No violence, just silence, and a refusal to stand, I am powerful, I am woman, and I will not sit in the back.

Walk with me, take my hand and stand by me. Step by step, we will make them blind to the coffee that is blended with their cream. The flavor is the same, no matter which seat you take.

Change me. Try to change me. Try to twist me, taunt me, but never will you haunt me. I will sit, and rest. I am old. I am tired. I am American as apple pie, and I will rest my weary thighs.

I am black.

I am white.

We are all the same color in the dead of night.

Third Place

Phoebe Jarman, 17 - Crystal Lake, IL

In the Dark

We’re standing alone, in a cave, by ourselves
Surrounded by brilliant formations
It’s just me, and the Ranger, and then three other strangers
And they all come from three different nations

One’s very tan, a long man from Australia
Words leap from his tongue when he speaks
He’s constantly grinning, and his smile is so winning
You can see where it’s been on his cheeks

There’s a woman, much shorter, with hair black as night.
She doesn’t know English too well.
She smiles just as much, in a very soft way
And when she understands, you can tell

The last person is sturdy, and his words match his build
He’s a confident man from Berlin
He’s thoughtful whenever the ranger starts speaking
His voice resonates from somewhere within

I come from a place that is very close by,
It takes less than an hour to get back
I silently listen as the Ranger explains,
“Without lights, this cave is pitch black.”

We’re standing alone, in a cave, by ourselves
And the lights are about to stop shining
It’s just me, and the Ranger, and then three other strangers
About to learn something defining

We all gasp in awe in the very same accent
Without even the light of a spark
You can squint, stare, and struggle to see any different,
But we all look the same in the dark.

Honorable Mention

Demetria English, 13 - Colonial Heights, VA


The war rages on,
The men are all gone,
My tears have come
To a bitter end.

I seek no lie
No truth to deny
I saw what was wrong
But no one else came along

There was a cry;
I heard it loud, yet shy
It was crying for the men
Who bled for the land

The cotton blowing,
The wind carrying
That cry I heard,
The one asking a question

“If this is freedom,”
It said
“where will we stand?”
It carried.

No one had answered.
None had bothered.
Two flags waved in the wind,
As if to reply

One day, though,
Someone will answer that cry.
They will answer,
No matter if they are black or white.

“Freedom is more than just this,”
It’ll answer
“We stand here today, away from that cancer.
The world is open to those around it.
All there is, is you
To pay what is due.”

Honorable Mention

Shirley (Shiying) Lin, 15 - Little Neck, NY

Free Us

But silent
Our voices

America, the land of the free
Having hope for liberation
Here we are
Chains binding us
To the abyss

In the ocean of agony
Conceding defeat
Tides washing our lives away
Save us.

America, a thief
Lights of our lives
Our journey
Coming to an end.
Help us.

Emancipate us
Unfasten the shackles
That binds our voice
Grant us the liberties
America was said to have.
Remember us
Free us.

Honorable Mention

Monserrat Ramirez, 18 - San Marcos, CA

The United States may not be perfect,
It may be full of bloodshed, prejudice, and injustice,
But, you can always fight for what you believe in,
Will is more powerful than anything.

The Native Americans were here,
Living the life they knew and cared.
But the Americans came trying to get them to disappear,
Then the Native Americans walked in despair.

A white man had a vision,
The minorities had to pay,
But the wealth became an addiction,
Once they saw the amount of work for a low wage.

Who was given the right to declare the right color?
The right to divide,
The right to conquer,
Over a human life worth no more than another, and give them nothing but sorrow.

How would you feel if you were always compared to an animal,
That you are worth nothing,
That the subject of your freedom is laughable,
And that your justice seems to be never coming?
How would you feel if all you wanted was for people to stop pointing,
All you wanted was to be respected.
But you learn to think that the color of your skin is disappointing,
Then you finally give in to the prejudice, and believe whatever the enemy says.

Now you’re unworthy,
You can’t get out,
You stop asking for mercy,
You only have two options now.
Fight, or let yourself die.

What’s worse than this cage, is letting yourself be the one with the key,
But you let yourself stay.

Honorable Mention

David Noland, 18 - Sevierville, TN

The Children's Crusade

We had just gathered at the church on 16th Street,
hundreds of us,
hundreds of dark faces standing out against the bright Alabama sun,

There was a vigor in the air,
a pervasive consciousness of hope spreading throughout our gathering.
As one, we sensed the magnitude of our protest
-risking arrest
-tempting expulsion
-offering our bodies up to
and hoses,
and dogs,

From out of that united sea of faces, voices, and souls
arose yet another sea
of paper and ink, signs and slogans, chants and songs
of hope and love.
But we only passed hate
as we walked down that white street.

Marching, singing, calling for change,
Our fight was for peace, Our fight was peace.
The sea of black faces was marching forward, marching change.
The Sea was at high tide.

Sirens blaring, violent policemen shattered the peace,
and again the prayer of our hearts rose about us, fragrant incense in the chaotic air-
Fire-trucks showed up.
Our song grew stronger
"We shall overcome, we shall overcome!"
as the outermost students fell to the ground, dogs,
viciously biting into young skin,
-We stood our ground-
Fire hoses turned on us,
dousing our backs with water meant to douse fires
-We stood our ground-
Racially enflamed cops
bruising us with clubs meant for criminals
-We stood our ground-

Heads and hearts held high,
we took the pain for the rights of others.
Our song resounds still,
"We shall overcome, thank God, we shall overcome."