Black Girl Manifesto: A Teenage Poet Testifies
Today on Dayton Youth Radio we have the first story from a new class at Stivers School of the Arts. It’s from a teenager, who's a poet and performance artist. This student has a lot to say, and she wants you to listen.
Ignorance in this generation is not spread across everyone.
My name is Toné Reddick, and I'm a 16-year-old from Long Island New York. I feel like everything I go through, I learn something that makes me love myself even more. Especially when I know how aware I am, when I know how special I am, how rare I am.
Let me tell you a little more about myself. I moved to Dayton Ohio over three years ago, and I've learned more about life living here than I had my twelve years living in NY. I learned that I'm beautiful and strong all at once, that I'm not someone you forget about.
Learning this helped me attain this new passion for poetry and a love for performing. I have idolized the works of Maya Angelo, who said "Still, I rise to the hardships and temptations of today's society and the fear of the beauty in the color of my skin," and James Baldwin, who said, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time."
I love my skin. I love being beautiful. I love being black, but not everybody else loves it. It's about me having to live a certain way for everyone else. So I wrote a piece that mirrors my emotions and conveys the ideas and concerns of many and it goes a little something like this:
Let me tell you a story about how my people are seen through a different scope of how we pay taxes but still somehow wasn't good enough to vote. How you can take our money but you can still cut our throat.
How our black men don't want to do wrong, but there's a lock on the right door causing limitations in the world to explore how our generation chooses to follow figures that had no father figures. The ones that pulled the trigger and think that cocking his pistol will make them bigger. How we wrestle cotton covers in sheets but don't wink an ounce of sleep. Living life like a magnet adding and subtracting and make ends meet.
He was a systematic Bull who was strong and upbeat angled in this world of Unforgiving. He knew his future well aware of our history. Four hundred years we've been dying because breaking free is what we try and life's been a trip from the start.
That's why you come out your Mama Crying where it ends it begins again. But if the tables turn and the rights of those with all the pain is in vain that we all bleed the same blood.
In all actuality, the difference is skin deep. Lost in Translation in the company we keep because I'm treated as if the slave is still in me. You learn the lesson of how a black man juggles his two lives one the life in which he is cattle and the rest of the world he lives to battle because black hasn't slept in a hundred years always dip in their telling gravel to. The man that had pain behind his smile. Of a black man forget his royal blood is tribal. The rest of my life is spent learning the hate of the world and how it's our job to uncover. That man is my father my uncle my brother.
This generation is based upon putting their heads in their phones and posting to social media and making new dances every other day. It's a defense mechanism, what they use to escape the real world.
Be aware and rise up!
It is important for us, especially as black people given that we have been oppressed and we are oppressed and we've been oppressed for so long. It's important that we know the situation we are in because if we're not aware of it, there's nothing we can do to change it.
I know I'm aware. I'm aware of the limitations that have been put upon me. I'm aware that I can get out of it, and that's what you're afraid of. And I want you to be afraid.
Not afraid of walking outside like I am; I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I want you to be aware that we will rise up. Everyone else that has been oppressed throughout the years, we will rise up.
I'm not someone you forget about. You can't help but listen to what I have to say.
Toné Reddick is a student at Stivers School for the Arts. Special thanks Leslie Rogers and Eva Maksutis of the Creative Writing Magnet. Learn more at the school's website: http://www.stivers.org/ Support for Dayton Youth Radio comes from the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.