One City Stories

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Check out this awesome summer opportunity:

St. Louis has long established itself as a segmented city of neighborhoods used to define the identity of its residents. These neighborhoods feed into local school districts and as a result young people often grow up only really knowing St. Louis within these invisible borders.

The Gateway Writing Project (GWP) believes it is imperative to bring these young people together in order to disrupt this cycle. In launching Onecity Stories, we seek to connect students from across our city and support them in sharing their unique perspectives and experiences.

We know they are passionate, creative, and have the drive to make positive change in our community if given the opportunity. GWP will provide them with the tools–the pen, the microphone, the camera, the stage, the inspiration, and the space–to shape the future of St. Louis.

Please share this exciting opportunity with the young writers you know (grades 9-12). Onecity Stories program participants will create and publish multimedia projects with the support of professionals in the journalism, film, and radio broadcasting fields, as well as build relationships with a community of fellow writers. Visit onecitystories.org for more information and application materials.

Personal Narrative, Jerome Triplett

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It was June 13th, 2014. I was leaving the movies with my friends. As I was crossing the intersection, I got ran over. I blanked out for about five minutes and when I woke up, I tried to stand up, and when I stood up, my bone came out of my skin. And I fell to the ground in pain. About ten minutes later, the ambulance had already showed up. Right after I woke up, as I was waiting for the ambulance, one of the mall security officers was asking me what happened. As I was describing it, I was fading out. Then an ambulance showed up. They asked me the same questions: How did it happen? Where do you feel pain at? Can you move your arms? Can you move your toes? After that, they put a neck brace on me. They twisted my leg around and put me on the stretcher.

The day had started with me at South County Mall trying to find me an outfit. After I left South County, went home, got dressed in my new outfit: a blue polo shirt, a dark blue jean jacket, some black jeans, some Nike Foam Posits. I walked to the bus stop. The temperature was in the fifties, and the sky was somewhat overcast. I got off the bus to meet my friend, Bakaray, and then we waited on the bus for another ten minutes, and at the next stop we got to our other friend’s house. His name was Robert. After we waited on him, we walked to the train station to go to The Galleria. We were planning to see 22 Jumpstreet, about two undercover police officers going to college to find the source of who was selling the drugs to the kids on campus. We had our tickets, so until the show started, we just walked around the mall. We went into the Foot Locker, tried on a couple shoes, and then we went to the Food Court, sat in the Food Court for about an hour eating Panda Express. Then it was time for the movie to be showing. There was a long line, the theatre was crowded, and we almost didn’t find a seat. The movie was hilarious.

After the movie, we stood outside the mall in front of The Cheesecake Factory and wondered what to do next. Antonio went to Five Guys and he ordered some fries and a soda. My friend Robert went to Burger King and got some ice cream. As we waited for them to get back, me and Bakaray, it was time for our train to come so we started walking toward the Metra station. As we were crossing Brentwood, me, Bakaray, and Antonio got slammed by a dark blue SUV going as fast as a football thrown by Michael Vic. It was an older man who hit me. He yelled, “Why didn’t you guys move out the way?”

When I got into the ambulance, the parademic gave me an IV. Next time I woke up, I was in the hospital. I felt like my leg was on fire, because when I had woken up they had straightened my leg back out. My mom was in the room, shaking her head, asking me how did it happen. Family members started to arrive, like my cousins Justin, and Jheryck. They tried to joke with me to make me feel better. “Since it looks like you’re only gonna be able to wear one shoe, I can wear your shoes for you,” they said. Then the doctor came in and talked to my mom, telling her how long it would be until surgery. Then they gave me some medicine — oxycotin, I think — and I fell asleep until it was my surgery time.

Then the doctors came in and prepped me for my surgery, telling my mom how long it would take. “This might be a long procedure, it should take up to two to three hours. You should stay on this floor of the hospital just in case we buzz to give you an update,” they said. “Are you ready?” they said to me, and took me in the back. They had me try to scooch off the little bed onto the table and then they put the mask over my face and then I dozed off. I woke up in the recovery room with a huge cast on my leg. And pain. My mom asked me how was I doing. The doctors came in like an hour later, showing me how to use the crutches, and how to walk up steps.

I couldn’t walk up the steps for real. And I was in so much pain that I almost started crying. So they told me to lay down for a couple more hours and try it again. And I still couldn’t do it but they sent me home anyway. So when I got home I had to struggle up the steps. I wasn’t used to using crutches. I slept on the couch downstairs because I couldn’t make it up the steps to my room for the period of time I was on bed rest.

Six months later, I went to the doctor for a check up, to get an X-ray. My bone was nowhere near starting to attach back. I asked Doctor Shoenecker, “Will I ever be able to play football again?” and he said, “We won’t be able to tell until your next doctor’s appointment if we’re going to make any progress.” His words felt like a criminal getting sentenced. I started kind of feeling depressed. Then he assigned me to physical therapy. I hated it.

Three times a week, my mom drove me to Children’s Hospital. The room had light blue walls and a lot of windows and exercise equipment. I would wear black shorts and a white t-shirt. The first thing they would do is stretch my legs by having me lean my back on the wall and put one foot out. Then they’d have me walk on the treadmill. It was like hell. I had sharp pains biting me in my entire right leg. They had me balance on a light blue balance ball type thing. And then they’d take me to the back stairway and have me step on my right leg for ten seconds and then step down and step on my left leg for ten seconds to get my balance and strengthen my legs. After physical therapy, I would drink a lot of water out of a Gatorade bottle. Then I’d go home and lie down like a dead fish.

The next doctor’s appointment, Dr. Shoenecker said my leg was starting to show progress. He said, “If it continues to show good progress, you might be able to play football, but it all depends on how healthy you eat and how much you go to physical therapy.” Then my mother tried to cook healthier food. She would make healthy stuff, like salads with carrots, tomatoes, purplish looking onions, lettuce, spinach, shredded cheese and croutons. I hated it. Dr. Shoenecker had also assigned me to go to physical therapy four days a week, so almost everyday from 4:50 to 5:50 I would stretch, walk, and climb. I hated it, but then again I knew that if I wanted to play football I had to complete it.

I love football like a dog loves a bone. I love getting hit. When you get hit, the adrenaline gets to pumping. I love catching the ball. When you catch the ball, everybody just be chanting. I love winning. When you win, there’s celebrations and going out to eat and finally getting some rest. I’ve played football since I was ten. When I started I was playing on a JFL team called Metro Warriors, and we played this team called City Wreck. During my first game, I got in for three plays. The next time, I was almost in every play. I played defense — basically all I had to do was try to get the ball. When I was a freshman, I trained with high schoolers at Cornahan. I practiced with them during the summer. When school came around, I was on the waitlist to get accepted into the school, and then, when I got accepted, it was too late for me to play football until the next season, and I got mad. I ended up at GCAA sophomore year of high school because of my injuries — my mom didn’t want to get re-injured by the kids at CPA.

About seven months of physical therapy, salads, and rest passed between the previous doctor’s appointment and the most depressing doctor’s appointment of my life. My mom and I walked in, ready to get my X-ray, and Dr. Shoenecker said, “Are you ready to see your progress?” He said that from how my leg broke, if I was to play a contact sport, it could probably break again. He said the decision would be up to me and my mom to make, but the decision wouldn’t be a good choice. My mom, wearing all black, just looked at me and asked the doctor a few more questions.

During the car ride home, I was silent. I thought about how I was so close to playing in high school, and I had missed my chance. My mom kept repeating, “It’ll be all right.” When we got home, I went to sleep. Life after football has been hard. I feel like I’ve had to give up my dream. I haven’t quite figured out what my new dream is, or what I want in life. So I just keep plodding along. I wake up every morning at 7:20, eat some Frosted Flakes or Honey Nut Cheerios, take a shower, and go to school. In most of my classes, I just sit back and chill. I scroll through images of shoes: the new Yeezys, the new Jordans, and just think about how I’m going to get ‘em. Then, when I get home, I turn on the TV and watch the day’s football highlights. I watch Tayvon Austin run yards, I watch Todd Gurly break tackles, and I watch John Ale watch for balls to catch. I feel like I’m standing in the bleachers of my own life. I watch time pass, but I feel like I’m not the same person I used to be. I’d rather be on the field than in the stands. I guess I’ll just have to find a different field.

Dead Beat, Anonymous

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The last thing I remember of my dad living with us was when he caught me and my little brother a frog and brought it home for us to play with. The next day the frog was gone and so was he.

My dad has been gone since I was five. I’ve seen him around – like I was on the school bus ‘cause I used to get picked up from my granny’s house and then he was just standing there in some door. It might have been my sister’s house – I can’t remember where she used to live. Another time, he picked us up and got us some ice cream. Then the ice cream got on my shirt. He got mad and said he was going to kill the ice cream man.

My dad is like Casper – a ghost. He is brown-skinned, with cold, hard eyes. I have a picture of him on my phone wearing a lame, button-down t-shirt with red and white checks. He’s wearing a black skullcap. He’s holding his marriage license to Little Sally, a thin white woman drug addict. She looks like a geek. She is a geek. A real-life geek. My dad has five or six kids with Sally.

I was in class at Ding Ding Academy. They called and said my daddy was in the office. And I was in class. I just started crying, because I hadn’t seen him in about five or six years. I hadn’t even had a conversation with him. The last time my sister talked to him, it was two years ago, he said, “Ain’t none of ya all my kids.” He called my sister a bitch. He said, “F— all of you in Saint Louis.” I thought, I’ll wup his a— as soon as he gets back.

I remember one time before he moved out we went somewhere. He used to take us to all hood block parties and stuff before he left. He didn’t take us around his family and stuff, he took us to his “hood family,” if that’s what you want to call it. He was driving through the alley behind my grandma’s house. He did like 180 through the alley. I’m like, this man has lost his mind. He was doing a dance through the alley. He scraped not one trash can, scraped not one pole.

My dad got married when I was in seventh grade. I can’t remember what I said, but I was mad. What he used to tell us was prejudiced. He said, “Don’t ever mess with the white devil.” That’s what he always used to say when we were little. And then he went and got married to a white woman. And then they had a baby. And then they had another baby, and another baby, and another baby, and they about to have another one. Her daddy is a lawyer, so she got him out of child support for all of us – me, my little brother, Isaiah, my other little brother, Devin, and my two big sisters, Domenyque and Ghiovanna. Isaiah is the only one with my mom, Mimi. The rest are with several other women.

My dad used to take us to my great Granny’s house. My dad’s granny. We called her Gigi. Her real name is Carol Jenkins. We used to go over there a lot. Even when he was gone. She lived in a townhouse with several floors. She lived on the first floor. She had a whole lot of stuff, a whole lot of pictures, and elephants. She had an old-fashioned pearl and gold phone that looked real expensive. She had a big grandfather clock that was real wood, I think. The pendulum was real gold. She had a big rocking chair, too. Her living room had two white couches and a glass table. One time we went over there with my dad, slept all day, left, and went to a block party.

We never met my dad’s momma. When I was first born, somebody showed her a picture of me and she started trying to get in touch with my mamma and my dad smacked his mom and called her the b word. He told her to stay away from us because when he was young, she went to college so she could get a good job to take care of him. When she came back from college, my grandpa married somebody else. My grandpa used to tell my daddy that his mom just left my daddy, that she didn’t want him. They wouldn’t let her see him when she came back either. I got a picture of her. She got light colored skin, and my color eyes: green, with a blue ring around them. Her eyes are a bluish green color. The picture I have, she has curly hair and her face looks smooth. She worked at a hospital, but every time we went there, they couldn’t find her. When my grandpa was on dialysis for his diabetes, my grandma was his nurse. My grandpa had to get one of his toes cut off.

My parents broke up because my momma gave my dad a choice: he either clean himself up and take care of his kids, or stay on drugs. And he chose to be a drug addict. My mom’s not allowed to have boyfriends – that’s what I say. The last one she had, Steve, I pulled a gun out on him. Me and my brother, Isaiah, we had a rifle, a sword, a knife, another sword, and two machetes. He knocked on the door, smiling and stuff. I was just playing with him, and he started laughing. He went to prom with my mom. I had the picture in my hand. “Is this you?” I asked. We was just laughing the whole time. That was a year or two ago. He stayed around for a little minute, until he started bull-crappin’, actin like a little kid. Then my mom told him something — I don’t remember what she told him – but they broke up.

Before that, my momma had my little brother Rashad, with another man named George. George was bald-headed, ugly, fat, sloppy, and soft. No, I did not like him. I had a feeling he wasn’t going to be good to my momma. And I was right. He was messin’ with other women. We had jumped him one time, me and Isaiah. And he bit my brother. Then I tackled him. And we started punching him, kicking him, then we ran into the house. He chased us in there, and tried some sneaky stuff while I was sitting down on the couch. He tried to use his weight on me because he was fat and sloppy. Then my brother came and put him in a headlock. He tried to sneak me in the kitchen one time too. He tried to body slam me in the kitchen ‘cause he thought I was weak ‘cause I was little. This was about two years ago.

Yeah, I like Rashad. He looks like me a little bit, but cuter. His hair is kinda messed up because my grandfather’s wife be puttin’ all kind of stuff in his hair. I taught him how to fight before he learned how to walk. So now he just be beatin’ people up. He was fighting people when we was downtown the other day. He didn’t even know them people. He seen them boxing and stuff, so he just got to swinging on people. He punched this girl in the face. He just be fighting people. I shouldn’t never have taught him how to fight. That young, you know. I think he was like six or seven months and I was just playing with him, swinging my arms and stuff, and he started laughing. And then when he learned how to walk, it was over with. He swings fast and hits hard, and he’s only like two. I think he’s heavy-handed. People be trying to get all in his face and stuff, and he just smacking. He be fightin’ my granny. He also like dogs a lot. A whole lot. But he be scared of ‘em at the same time. We had this one little Chihuahua, and he don’t know how to play with him, so he be grabbin’ him by the tail. He like animals. He like cats too.

But back to the subject at hand — my father is like a ghost. You can’t see ‘em but you know he’s there. He says he doesn’t care about us. I honestly believe it. If someone ever acts like they could care less about you, then believe ‘em. Nobody deserves the pain of not being able to see both of their parents everyday, but aye, there’s people that don’t have their parents at all. It’s sad that we have to grow up like that. I’ve never had anyone to look up to but one person and he was around the same age as me. He was like a big brother to me. He always had my back — we used to get in a lot of trouble together.

I remember we jumped this kid in the fourth grade because he called me a midget. I punched him — then he ran at me and tried to put me in a headlock. His name is Tim. Tim rushed him and hit him like three or four times — then he let me go — then I started hitting him. I hit em’ like 10 times, then he fell and we started stomping him and I threw a book at his stomach. After that they sent us and a handful of other students on a field trip to the juvenile detention center on Enright which is pretty close to my school.

We had fun in the cell. They put us in — we banged on the cell door singing prison songs for the small time they sat us in there. There was a single bed in the room made of metal. The room’s walls were white and there was writing on the walls — whoever they had in the cell before that must have drawn and wrote in the wall. The bed was cold, and there was a single small window on the back wall and a bigger window on the door which was pretty dirty. I never told my mama about the field trip; she didn’t know about a lot of times when I would get in trouble at school because she was always at work and didn’t have a phone.

Me and Tim alone couldn’t be messed with and when we got together we got in a lot of trouble. Even when we got into middle school, he died in 2014. He was killed — shot over thirty times. When I heard that, I was hurt and in denial. I couldn’t cry. It still hurts till this day. His mama died two months after him from a broken heart. He was her only son, and she couldn’t take the pain of losing him. People disrespect him now that he’s gone but when he was here he had em’ scared.

Ever since my dad left I’ve been unhappy. More and more things happened after he left that added onto the pain I was already feeling inside. I’ve lost a lot of people, and my heart turned cold over my years of living. I don’t care about a lot of things only a few, but that’s life…

The Art of Feedback

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Part of what we’re learning in Creative Writing is how to provide helpful feedback to our peers. Just like there’s an art to writing, there’s an art to critiquing writing. Here are some tips for providing helpful feedback during poetry read alouds:

Start by paying close attention! This means…

  • Putting your phone DOWN
  • Possibly closing your eyes to focus more sharply on the sounds of words

ZOOM IN

When praising someone’s work, focus on a specific

  • Word
  • Line
  • Turn
  • Phrase or
  • Image

that caught your attention. Explain why it caught your attention.

ZOOM IN

When praising someone’s work, focus on

  • the beginning
  • the ending

These parts of a poem carry special weight.

ZOOM IN

When praising someone’s work, focus on figurative language:

  • similes
  • metaphors
  • personification
  • imagery
  • alliteration

How did the poet’s use of figurative language make an idea or a feeling or a plot point more vivid for you?

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FEELINGS

When praising someone’s work, focus on…

  • parts of the poem that evoked strong feelings in you

In your feedback, try to explain to the poet what you felt and how you connected his/her words to your own life

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR MIND’S EYE

When praising someone’s work, focus on…

  • parts of the poem that created a strong mental image

Remember, good writing makes us see something vivid. This is a theme throughout the entire semester.

Tell the poet what you saw in your mind’s eye as they performed their poem.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE MUCH TO SAY…

  • Ask the poet to reread a section of his/her poem, or the poem in its entirety

Poetry is meant to be read in layers – sometimes you need to hear something a second or a third time before you can comment on it.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE MUCH TO SAY…

  • Ask the poet to elaborate on his/her choices.

For example…

  • Why did you choose this topic?
  • Why did you choose this format?
  • What was your thinking behind this word, line, image, phrase, etc.?

WORDS TO AVOID:

  • Cool
  • Awesome
  • Good
  • Incredible
  • Lit

UNLESS…

  • You back it up with something more specific and objective!

A Poem A Day

Check out the following poem Clare Whyte performed in class last week:

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Look me in the eyes when you eat my flesh

I straddle the line between here and there,
born on and dying in the folds of the thresh

My pulse has been weak for centuries

I’m held together with sagging skin
and fraying thread

My heart has been beating since before your gods were
a thought in your father’s head.

When I look at my thighs I see death

Waxing and waning as you drew first breath

I was a child before your ancient woods were planted

Blood seeping wounds and shadow spells chanted

I lived a thousand lives before you ever glimpsed my
face between the trees

Tear down the idols of your father
and sink to your knees

I have no youth,
no worth in my bones

carry the weight of my body,
heavy with stones

I am older than the gods of your people

My body is now your church
and my mouth your new steeple

I am the absence of light
and the sun that blinds

I am the joy
the blood of birth
and the grave that reminds

I am your mother,
your father,
and savior too

The ground you walk on and your body’s very tissue

There are buttons to fasten
and shoes to lace

Whisper my name into the empty space

I was born without a face

I am no one

I am no one

I am no one

A Poem A Day

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Check out the following poem Samar performed in class on Wednesday:

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Samar Slaughter

A woman’s body is not a place
for politics or discussion, so
please understands my rules & regulations along with my follow ups and repercussions, see
I don’t understand why,
My bodies even in discussion,
And to be quite frank I find it in fact disgusting That you even think my bodies a place you have the right to be touching.
And I’m sick of those,
“Dress how you wanna be addressed”
Ass people but it’s funny how,
They don’t even address the main issue
Of a woman’s body being used,
As a blown in tissue reused & recycled,
Thrown in the trash used in music videos,
Just for another piece of ass,
Running up check just to see who’s in line next “don’t forget ladies to show off those chest!” Playing my body like a game of chess,
Well lemme tell you player,
You’ve made the wrong move,
And please excuse me,
Because I dont mean to come off rude,
Like those black girls,
Y’all claim to have bad attitudes, but
I’m sick of the statistics, the stereotypes,
And the rules, cause last time I checked
Men don’t rape outfits they rape you,
My outfit should not define the way,
I should be approached nor respected,
And as of late that has been a problem,
Therefore I’m here to address it,
And no I’m not a joke,
My body is not here to be poked & picked, Used & laughed at,
No sir I refuse to be used,
As one of your video vixen lab rats,
And once again please excuse me
But this is the season for clapbacks,
So please hands off & keep ya eyes to yaself. Keep ya hollers & catcalling because HERE,
They are not welcome,
So please keep in mind,
This psa is not here to upset, throw shots,
Or bash but to inform you,
That THIS girl is not just another piece of ass.

A Poem A Day

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We ended our poetry unit yesterday with poetry performances of a final poem. We’ll share one poem a day for the upcoming week or two…

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Anonymous

I’m the devil’s advocate for all things perfect.
There’s such a persistent, unflattering sound when I opened the cap.
Knowing the punctuation of what’s to happen next, I suffer my forceful thought into my physical physique.
It all could have ended so soon, but I soon ended the attempt.
No attention was needed for all that I left.
But when I saw my blood, my brain triggered.
My blood is their blood, viciously needing to be seen.
I sucked the life out of them mentally.
I’m so impatient to see the future.
I was done.
For now.