Pongo Project Journal

Sharing stories of our work with teens
Mar 21
In the Wake of Anti-Asian Violence, Wishing for Peace

In the Wake of Anti-Asian Violence, Wishing for Peace

Amidst the news of anti-Asian bullying and hate crimes, Pongo Poetry Project stands in solidarity with our Asian sisters, brothers, and siblings in humanity and condemns acts of domestic, racialized terrorism.

Hearing the awfulness of anti-Asian sentiment is dramatically contrasted by the hopeful, generative, and altruistic sensibilities of our authors, like this young poet who offers us a poem for our times:

When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Hero
by a student at CSTC, age 12

I can’t wait to be an adult.
I’m going to be like my heroes—like MLK.
I’m going to do peaceful protests, make speeches
and visit places in hard times.

I’ll write letters to the president,
win the Nobel Peace prize,
and if I get to, I’ll thank my grandma, my teacher
and of course, Pongo.

If I had to die for a good cause,
it would be to stop trafficking.
Maybe people would stop being sexists
and homophobic
and trafficking and assaulting women,
because it is wrong.

When I watch the news and hear about people protesting
trafficking and school shootings,
that makes me want to help.

I want to yell, I hate violence.
I wish there was world peace
but that won’t happen.

I cry when people and friends get hurt or killed
like when my best friend’s dad got shot
when someone wanted his money for drugs.

I will fight for peace
but not with violence—
I will fight peacefully.

Dedicated to my grandmas

Feb 11
Dreaming Big This Black History Month

Dreaming Big This Black History Month

Langston Hughes's poem "The Dream Keeper" , got the Pongo team thinking about the big dreams and hopes of Black youth poets now and through the ages. Inspired, Poetry Mentors at CFJC (King County Juvenile Detention), led a group exercise using 2 refrains from this poem (Bring me all your...So I can...) to structure a co-created poem:


by CFJC Youth Residents & Adult Poetry Mentors

Bring me all your happiness, anger and tears
Bring me your emotions—your tattered
rain-soaked worries, your cold, cramping fears
Bring me all your joy, pain, and wisdom
Bring me your hates—your skin crawling
chalkboard-scratching dislikes
Bring me your broken dreams

So that I can understand your life
and I will relate on your faults
So you are not alone in your world of hatred and greed
So that I can understand your pain
and understand the weight of who you are
I will hold your emotions—not as who you are,
not even as the many-facetted diamond of who you are,
but I will hold them as feathers—light leavings
of flight that I blow away
with a kiss

A special thank you to Tamara Keefe at Seattle Parks Department for sparking this idea through her column in the Parks' February Newsletter, 2021.

Feb 09
Letter to My Nephew

Letter to My Nephew

For 2021's Valentine's Day, Pongo wants to share this poem, which reminds us that even after enduring terrible hurts, even in their daily effort to make new lives for themselves in the fallout of core relationships, young people find the energy and heart to care for one another. Much love to all Pongo Poets & Readers --the Pongo Team

Letter to My Nephew, Happy Birthday
by Kalah, submitted on Pongo's website

I’m trying my best
I really am and I suppose that it's not going to be good enough
I hate how disappointing I am to those around me
I wish I was better for everyone

I wish I could give you a hug and tell you
“I am always going to be here for you, baby”
I miss you guys so much, and I wish I could see you all
You guys were my little monsters
I loved you more than I loved myself

You turned another year today, Jr.
and I am so proud of you, Papas
You are so great and wholesome
You care a lot about how others are feeling

and you worry a lot about your family
No one at your age should have to be worried about anything
I know that things have been tough without me around
I just hope that one day you will understand why I am where I am

I really miss you and love you so much,
I hope you had a great day today, Jr.
Just know that your tia loves you so much
and she can't wait to see you again
and let's hope that it's soon, my papas


Your Tia

Feb 01
"Stepping Up to Be a Queen"

"Stepping Up to Be a Queen"

In honor of Black History month, 2021, Pongo would like to share a poem by one of our authors. Like so many of the poems written by Pongo youth poets and like Black History itself--especially in the U.S., this poem is filled with resilience in the face of severe abuse. Read this author's realtime process of putting themselves back together--a process that for this poet is reminiscent of Audre Lorde's quote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

by an African American student writing with Pongo

I was hurt

I don’t know what to do
I can feel it in my soul
God, I can feel it through you
There’s this battle
that I’m fighting
This is exactly why I’m writing

I was misunderstood
I was misused
I was hurt
I was abused
I was beaten till I was black and blue
Nobody ever understood
what I was going through

I feel that’s all I really cared about
Was just not being someone’s toy
Not being someone that could always be hurt
Not knowing who I am

is what affects me now

I gotta step up to be a queen
and put on my crown
It’s a thorn crown
That’s why God died on the cross
because he knew that people in his nation
would be lost

I don’t know what to say
At times, I don’t know what to feel

I love writing
I love being myself
I love being a queen
and it’s not all about wealth
You don’t have to have money to care
You have to have a heart to be who you are
This is why I’ve gotten so far
This is why I’m cared for
and that is where this ends

Dedicated to my brothers

Nov 26
Feelings of Gratitude in Fall, 2020

Feelings of Gratitude in Fall, 2020

The clearest way for Pongo to express our gratitude this year is to share a group poem written over Zoom last night (11/25/2020) with youth at CFJC. Enjoy!

by a group of youth residents at CFJC

I am truly grateful for my supportive family
like my mom, my lil’ brothers, and my older brothers.
I am truly grateful for another year
of life.
I am truly grateful for my family.

It's easy to be grateful when I’m in a good mood

and feeling good— being happy
and goofin’ off with my brothers

when everything goes good
when I wake up and I know
that it’s one day more and one day less
of being here.

It’s easy to be grateful
when everyone else abandons you
because then you realize

people’s true colors.
You’re alone
and that makes you stronger
because you realize
you can do it.

But it's harder to be grateful if
you expect it
or your family isn’t doing
or feeling okay.
It’s going to be hard
to be grateful
if I spend a third year in jail.

Through being grateful, I have learned
how much I rely on you.
Through being grateful,
I’ve learned blood
isn’t always thicker than water.
Through being grateful, I have learned
to just take life as it is.

Thank you to the youth, CFJC staff, our volunteer Pongo Poetry Mentors, and all our supporters around the world!