Pongo Project Journal

Sharing stories of our work with teens
Jun 01
"The Heart is Us"

"The Heart is Us"

As the first week of Pride Month coincides with Pongo wrapping up our programs for the academic year of 20-21, it's an ideal time to celebrate the people who have helped us love ourselves.

Recently, I had the privilege to mentor poetry with a young man who told me about his experience coming out at an early age. This young man identified a key ingredient that made his coming out experience a joyful process: an open and affirming teacher.

"He was helpful," the young man wrote in a narrative poem. "He (the teacher) explained what I might be going through./ That I might be part of the LGBTQ community./That was the first I heard of it."

The young poet then wrote this poem reflecting on the importance of safe spaces in which we can be ourselves:

Your Self
by a student at CSTC, age 17

This is the place that showed me the way.
Equality is All.
The size of your chest, the curves of the body,
the ridges, the roughness—do not tell
or define who you are.
You may see others and think I want their looks!
I want to be them.
Why do you want the looks of someone you are not?
Keep your life. Live your life! Life is beautiful.
You are beautiful and looks aren’t us.
The heart is us. The deep emotions others don’t have.
The strength of our will to be us. Use it! Love it. Love you.
You are you. Don’t be ashamed.
Be yourself. Love your self, then others will follow.
Others will love you too.
This place is within your heart.
This place is the place of you.
Life! Keep hold and live.

Dedicated to my teacher

To all members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, we hope you'll love on yourselves and those in your life this Pride month! As this poet and his teacher models for us, creating a loving space for others to be themselves can start by loving yourself.

Mar 29
Blessed are Women

Blessed are Women

In these final days of Women's Month, March 2021, this poem reminds me why every month should be women's month!

Blessed are Women
by Anjuli Nunn

The cleft of my bosom
Is showing signs
Of wear and tear
From the years of abuse
I endured.
I had excuses to not leave,
Believed that I loved him,
Mistakenly gave to him
My all.
But my calling
Was far greater
Than I could have known.

The cleft of my bosom
Wants you to know
That she is proud to show
Her deep brown, crimson skin,
Glowing in the aftermath
Of healing,
In harmony with herself
At last.

I am aghast
At all of the crimes
Committed against women,
In this very city.
Covid-19 quarantines
In with the abusers,
The users of women;
There is no excuse
For rape.
Draping veils
Along fine lines
Of broken masculinity
Does not cut it for me.
There is no excuse
For abuse, and bruises
And broken bones.

But I am past that now.
I bow to the warrior women
Who have been through it too.
Who knew
There were so many of us,
Soaring admit the dust
Of the unforgotten years,
The forsaken years,
The better years.

Bow your head
To the women in your life,
For they have shed
Too many tears.
Toxic masculinity
Is being sanctioned
So let’s anchor our femininity
And not to the exclusivity
Of others.

All are welcome
To worship women
Of history,
Of colour,
In honour of this day
Of giving,
For every day should be
A day of giving.
Give thanks to the one
Who birthed you
Into this blessed earth
And kiss the ground
Which we stand on.

© Anjuli Nunn 2021

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 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

Jan 20
A Poem for Inauguration Day, 2021

A Poem for Inauguration Day, 2021

As the U.S. celebrates the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, we at Pongo look forward to a more hope-filled and compassionate tone in national leadership to inspire Pongo's work listening to and providing platforms for, the voices of youth often unheard or misrepresented in our society. Here's one such example:

by a young man at CFJC (King County Juvenile Detention)

When there’s change in the air, smelling like fresh cut lawn
or grandma’s fresh cooking,
I think it might be time for a revolution.

A revolution for myself would look like a young man
spreading his knowledge
with others who need it most.

Thinking about change like this, reminds me
of the time when Barack Obama got out the White House
cuz there was no role model—nobody.
All we had was a president who only cares about himself.
So we had to make a change ourselves
by stepping up, loving one another and accepting who we are.

A revolution to my friends and family
would have to be a peaceful marching,
peaceful gathering, a peaceful speech
that tells the whole world
about the ones that been hurt the most
and been held back
by the justice system—a bulldozer
for our hopes, and our children’s guidance.

A revolution for this country
would have to mean a bigger picture—non-violence,
spreading the love, spreading knowledge,
helping feed one another, heal one another.

A revolution for us could be positive
if we all have the right mindset, with no irrational mind.
Rather a wise mind than weak one
with somebody that’s not afraid to speak
when they’re told not to.
or the revolution could go bad
if we’re all just angry and upset about the past.
But I know, in this revolution, I’ll be a better man.

Like this poem? Email programmanager@pongoteenwriting.org for a Word doc Fill-in-the-blank activity on this theme!