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March 24, 2021
March 24, 2021
March 24, 2021
February 26, 2021
Black Kings and Queens
February 26, 2021
January 15, 2021
January 15, 2021
December 16, 2020
December 16, 2020
December 16, 2020
November 18, 2020
November 18, 2020
November 18, 2020
November 18, 2020
At The Forest's Edge
October 15, 2020
September 25, 2020
March 24, 2021
I remember when I was six year old kid
I was told that nightmares would pass and they did
Fear was easily taken away by a hug or a pat on the back
Sometimes i wish i could go back to that
When my nightmares didn’t feed my anxiety
And my worries wouldn’t slip into my dreams
When it felt okay because I was only a kid
Nowadays I’m not sure what to think of myself
Can I push through it?
Could anyone help?
Because the nightmares end when I’m finally dead
And I lie for hours aquiver in my bed
Now the words I slept well are a daily lie
I’m trying to cover up the dark circles under my eyes
I tell myself it’s all in my head, I’m fine
And prepare for another sleepless night.
March 24, 2021
Life was complicated. All week, two words had been playing over and over in my head. Anytime I had a moment of quiet, those two syllables would blow up like balloons, taking all of my oxygen with them. I left the comfort of my cozy, messy room, and walked down the stairs. I firmly held onto the railing upon my descent.
Open concept design leads to terrible noise dampening. The family room could bring out all your fears and worries as long as the dishwasher was running while the table was being set or my sister and my mom got in a fight. That week I had become utterly overwhelmed by every noise, emotion and thought I couldn’t control. That week, headaches could upend me with the force of a hurricane. Today was no exception. My Dad was in the kitchen making a bedtime snack. The lights were exceptionally bright. My little sister was strewn across the grey leather couch, watching me as I sat down on the matching armchair. I was wearing my brand new hoodie- many sizes too big - which my parents disapproved of, but I loved that it engulfed me whole.
Slowly but surely, those two words engulfed me whole as well. I pressed my knees to my chest and pulled my hood over my head. It wasn't like I wanted to come out- just the opposite. I had to consciously stop myself from doing it, something I had done successfully all year. But that day, just for a moment, I lost control. I started whispering the two words, too quietly for anyone to hear, thinking maybe a million tiny foreshocks could prevent the earthquake. My sister left the room, leaving me and my Dad, only one paying attention to the other. No, not today. I placed my hand over my mouth, covering it so he couldn’t lip-read.
Hour-long minutes went by. The two words kept whirling around my brain. Some, like snowflakes, briefly landed on my tongue before they melted away. In a panic, I ran to the front room. I am not doing this today. I sat on the ocean-coloured sofa, the hard wooden floors and online school mess providing no relief. This is so stupid, it is no big deal. It’s fine. "I’m gay." Two little words. Why are they so hard to say out loud?
The next weekend I got a drive to my friend’s house, feeling the need to tell him this story and how dumb I felt for getting nervous about such a trivial thing. “You need to stop downplaying it in your head. Being gay, coming out, is a big deal! It isn't simple and it’s scary and it's okay to be bothered or worried by it.” Their response was the opposite of what I had expected. But he was right.
Three weeks later, I’m still not out to my immediate family. It’s quite strange that that’s the case, considering I feel comfortable enough coming out to teachers, various friends, and even some acquaintances. But with family, It’s different. They are with you forever. With family, two words could change everything. Coming out is a big deal. And I’m not quite ready.
March 24, 2021
Inspired by the narrative album, Transangelic Exodus by Ezra Furman
I stop the car soon after we cross the state line into Louisiana, praying no police drive by and ask why we’re pulled over. “I think we lost them,” I tell Vincent. “How are you feeling?” He slumps forward and exhales, slow and strained, like it hurts him to breathe. I can’t stand seeing him like this. “What can I do to help?”
“My back,” he groans, twitching his shoulders. I undo my seatbelt to lean over and get a better look at the bloody bandages.
“Your… wings?” I ask. It feels weird saying it, but that’s what they are. Feathered angel wings that started growing about a month ago. Vincent tried to hide them from me at first, with layers, and jackets, but it wasn’t long until they were too big to hide. The wings terrified him, he hated them. I thought they were beautiful. “My angel,” I had whispered, softly brushing the feathers with my fingertips while he cried into my chest.
“What did they do to them?” I ask Vincent.
He shrugs, which makes him wince. “I don’t know. They numbed them I think. But it’s wearing off now.” His shoulders twitch again. “I think the bandage is too tight. It’s hurting them.”
My hand hovers over the bandage. “Do you…” I’m not sure how to ask this. “Do you even know if they’re still there?”
“I think so,” Vincent says. “It feels like they are. But I don’t know for sure. They… had me drugged up pretty good.”
“I never should have let them take you,” I say.
Vincent offers me a weak, sad smile. The fear in his eyes when he first showed me the wings had been heartbreaking, but I would take that anyday over the exhausted defeat I’m seeing in them now. What had they done to him at the hospital?
“You did everything you could,” he says. “You broke me out.”
I nod. “I did.”
“I don’t know.” I find the end of the bandage binding Vincent’s wings and give it the slightest tug. “Tell me if I’m hurting you.”
“I will.” The bandage lifts easily, and I slowly, carefully, unwrap it. Vincent’s right, the wings are still there. They’re bloody, and bent, but as soon as they’re free, Vincent unfolds them, stretching muscles that didn’t exist a few weeks ago. He lets out a relieved sigh as the wings spread to their full width, bloody, and bruised, but still beautiful. My angel.
Black Student Memoirs -Empowering all voices
February 26, 2021
By Grade 12 Students
Afraid of the Unknown, Grade 12 Student
Breathe I remind myself — breathe. I sit there uneasy, frantically trying to make myself comfortable on the rigid and icy airport chairs. I turn to my sister; lines of worry tyrannize her 13-year-old face. She asks, “What do you think they want from Baba?”, “How long do you think it's been?.” “I don’t know,” I reply in a trembling, yet tranquil voice. A deafening silence followed, the unwanted intrusive thoughts that congested my head grew louder. As I'm looking down at my shoes trying to distract myself from fearing what's to come, I hear my dad’s voice. “Everything is fine, let’s go catch our flight.” My stomach begins untying itself.
MELANIN MASTERPIECE, Grade 12 Student
Five hours. I sat here for five hours trying to figure out how to start this assignment. The thoughts of including metaphors, allusions, and alliterations crowded my mind and strangled me of the very message I wanted to express.
So here I am.
I don't know how long it’s going to take me this time, but I do know that all I have left is a pen, a piece of paper, and my experience.
“Werenya”- that’s what my family used to call me ever since I learned to talk. I know you probably don’t speak Amharic so let me translate for you; it means talkative. They never meant it negatively, it was just their way of describing my extroverted personality. I would always be the first one to wake up and brighten their early morning moods by telling them about what I dreamt and my plans for the day (even though there wasn’t much I could do apart from what my parents had already arranged). My talkative side would shine brightly in schools, malls, restaurants, and churches. I was recognized everywhere as the girl with an exuberant and charismatic personality; as the girl who always had something to say.
But for the first time in my life, I found myself at a loss of words in Grade 5.
I remember like it happened yesterday. I was standing against the charcoal railing, gazing over the schoolyard. It was my favorite time of the year; snowflakes were ever so gracefully falling from the sky, children were laughing, playing, and rolling around in the snow, and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace hugging me. That all changed the moment my best friend walked towards me, gently telling me that another student had called me ugly because my skin looks like “mud” and “manure.”
I just stood there.
No words, no facial expression… nothing.
These words began to dwell in my mind and rather than getting upset, I agreed with them. I slowly started to dislike my skin because of how “dark” I was compared to the kids in my predominantly white school.
Six years later, it hit me. Amid a world-wide antiblack pandemic, I couldn't help but think of the moment I first experienced racism. I was heartbroken by my response. Sitting in bed with an empty tissue box, I began to question God. He said that “I’m fearfully and wonderfully made” but how come people who look like me have been degraded and treated less than? I was overwhelmed with the painful flashbacks of Grade 5. I was overwhelmed with the echoing gunshots that killed my numerous brothers and sisters. I was overwhelmed with the backlash that comes with melanin skin.
I became bitter.
They say the complexion of my skin has already confessed to the crime. I can't help but fear that every time I walk out, I might be the next person trending on Twitter. Just another name added to the list. They’ll “say my name” one moment, then forget it the next. How many deaths will it take until the world wakes up? How many more painful tears until the world listens to us? They say “Black Lives Matter” but what they don’t understand is that matter is the minimum.
As Jay Urich once said,
“Black Lives Are Worthy
Black Lives Are Beloved
Black Lives Are Needed”
These words changed my perspective completely.
Black people aren’t worthy because others say so. Black people are worthy because our skin is not a curse but a blessing from God.
We are truly a melanin masterpiece.
I Am Free -Dani Hassan, Grade 12 Student
I lay awake, thinking about how I can be who my parents want me to be. I lay awake, hoping to one day make their sacrifices and mistakes into throwbacks and laughter from the past. I lay awake, asking myself who I am? “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
I am a man; I am a son; I am a brother; I am a student. But who can I be for myself?
A lot of questions in this world can go without answers.
I want to be free,
I will be free.
Structure. Remembering a time where my mouth tastes of bitterness, hands just ever slightly quivering, and a room so quiet you can hear footsteps from next door. You start to question who you are when you have long conversations with your parents and talks about a time before you were born. Who am I? Where am I? A question that I've known the answer to but the weight of knowing still holds.
Identity. Finding myself goes beyond school. I want to be able to look in the mirror and see who I am, and not through the eyes of someone else. I am my race, and I am my faith. One thing that I never want to feel is trapped like I am batting claustrophobia. This world does that. Being a black man in this world feels like my path in society has been written, death or jail. If that path breaks then I should shut up and be grateful. I am more than what society deems me to be. I am a combination of many things. I am not a square but rather a tesseract.
Uncertainty. Not knowing what to do or who I want to be is scary. Coming from a set of hard-working parents whose social status doesn't fit my school's norms puts an additional amount of pressure on proving that I am enough to offer my family an easy path to the ideal social-economic normality. I think back to conversations and sit-downs where the topic of what I wanted to be would come up. As a kid from Nigerian parents uttering the phrase, “I don't know,” is never the right answer. Their response would put a rock in my throat, and you start to feel stranded.
Tranquility. When you take a look at life after school, sports, jobs, and many of the little things that don't matter you realize people will stress over the finer things in life. You see that there is more to life than what we make it out to be. Battling situations like school, racism, parents, and even something as simple as finding out who you are gets pushed aside when you see it being taken from other people. My eyes start to see, and my nose becomes an easy pathway to let in the air - others don't get that privilege. When the whole world takes a shift in the other direction you notice how lucky you are that the people who care for you the most are still around, for that I am thankful.
Peace. Malcolm X said we can’t have peace without freedom and until I am at peace with myself then I can’t be free. I am a combination of my experiences, my relationships, and my mistakes. I am a man; I am a son; I am a brother; I am a student; I am whoever I want to be. I am never going to be tied down hanging by an anchor and I’m not here to please anybody but I am here as the best version of myself, and I am at peace with that.
Finally, I am free.
Homecoming -Dina Efrem, Grade 12 Student
The morning is still and serene.
Fine lines and wrinkles engrave her face like a memory etched in the mind. They tell a story, they tell her story. Struggle, sacrifice, and strength, her story to the last generation. Passion, purpose, and persistence, her story to the now. Traditional braids lay row by row crowning her head. She drapes her sheen, embroidered scarf across her shoulder as she pours our Sunday coffee. As I gaze deep into her eyes, she embarks me on a journey. She speaks with great fervency, wisdom outpours from her words. Her ardency runs through my veins, her seedlings of sagacity are my identity. Irrevocable, indescribable pride overcomes me.
She is my homecoming.
Black Kings and Queens
February 26, 2021
By Noureen Moghadam, Grade 12
Black kings. Black queens. Black excellence. These are terms of pride and change, recognizing black people for their world-changing contributions and accomplishments from the past, present, and future. They represent the culture, they represent the current state of black people who are successful across business, arts, and politics. Because while obstacles of racism still remain, there’s no denying that black people, resilient as ever, are not only persevering, but are absolutely thriving in the face of persistent adversity.
Black people were not only oppressed slaves, they were kings and queens, and to be black is to be taught that that is the status to aspire to and the potential black people hold. Leadership and fearlessness is deeply embedded in black culture, especially in the hundreds of ancient African rulers whose lives were devoted to their people. For example, Queen Nzinga (Zinga), born in West Africa, was a military leader with astonishing skill and political tact. Because of her relentless drive to bring peace to her people, this African queen remains a glimmering symbol of inspiration. Queen of Sheba (shee-ba) is deeply cherished in Ethiopia as part of the national heritage, and even mentioned in the Bible and the Quran. King Mansa Musa was an important Malian King, who was a major influence on the one of the world’s first universities, University of Timbuktu. This became a meeting place of poets, scholars and artists all over Africa and the Middle East, and it remained the major learning center of Africa for many years after his reign. Just think, these are only 3 of hundreds of incredible kings and queens in Africa’s rich history, and to this day, there is still reigning royalty in Africa.
Throughout the continent, African culture is expressed in its arts and crafts, religion, clothing, cuisine, music, dance and thousands of languages. There are large amounts of cultural diversity not only across different countries but also within single countries, as there are over 3000 unique African tribes. In addition to its rich cultural diversity, Africa is the world’s largest domain of natural resources, as almost half of the gold ever mined from Earth came from a single town in South Africa. Other abundant resources include cocoa beans, diamonds, vanilla, tropical fruits, copper and so much more. The continent is topographically stunning, full of beaches, mountainous landscapes, buzzing metropolis and waterfalls.
This is a testament to the strength of Africa and the people. Despite many Americans and Europeens who attempted to steal their resources, colonize the land, and create war with African leaders, the continent and the culture has stayed strong for centuries. They have not only survived, but thrived, and their cultures, ressources, and royalty live on. We need to include Black accomplishments and Africa’s triumphs in our school curriculums, especially in our history classes so non-black students can learn about Africa’s true resilient legacy, to support Black students and teachers, and honour black history for how strong and victorious it is; Black history is world history.
Even today, amid a global and racial pandemic, black people are the leaders and bright minds changing the world. Look at Kamala Harris, who became the first African-American vice-president. Amanda Gorman, at 22 years old, became the youngest inaugural poet of all time, as well as the first poet to perform at the Superbowl. Even in death, Chadwick Boseman is the first actor to be nominated in 4 SAGA Award film categories in a single year. Nicholas Johnson, a 23 year old Canadian, became Princeton’s first black valedictorian. Sandra Lindsay, a nurse, became the first American to get the Covid-19 vaccine outside of trials. Noah Harris, 21, first Black man to be student body president at Harvard. These are the modern blacks kings and queens of today, who embody Africa’s continuous legacy of leadership, and brilliance, just as their ancestors did. As Michelle Obama once said, “Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.” Everyday, Black people demonstrate this courage, the power of blackness to take their scars not as a symbol of hurt, but a symbol of survival and empowerment. Leading with the heart and pride for Black culture has always been the foundations of Africa’s potent history.
Speaking on the influence of black culture, you can’t have a discussion about Black kings and queens without mentioning the fact that Black people have a long history of success in music, cinema, fashion, and North American pop culture. It’s increasingly common to see black representation on the biggest platforms. They are a cultural force, the innovators of the latest chart-topping hits, fashion trends, dance crazes, and product trends all bear the fingerprints of a culture that is rich, innovative and constantly turned into what’s now, new and next.
From Indigenous African medicines of herb mixtures to treat malaria, to Alice Augusta Ball, the black chemist who found the cure to leprosy. From Zanku, the rhythmic streetdance of Nigeria, to Misty Copeland, who became the first African-American woman promoted to principal dancer in the ABT. From Marsha P. Johnson’s leadership in the Stonewall protests the celebration of Pride Month every year. Black activists and entertainers are the foundation for the vast majority of pop culture and change, their brilliance, dedication and creativity is an inspiration to every race and country. I could go on. Medicine, ecology, media… Evidence of black excellence is everywhere. Who is the most famous female poet? Who sang the most famous rendition of Star Spangled Banner? Who are music royalty like the Queen of Soul, King of Pop, Prince? Who is the most famous tennis player, gymnast, or athlete? How about the most read autobiography? And the most famous speech? Whether it’s hoop earrings, sneaker culture, or rap, which is the biggest selling music genre right now, it was all created by black people. That is why it is crucial we acknowledge the genius of black culture, and give black people proper representation, credit, and respect for the incredible elements of their culture they’ve shared. So when you listen to the music, watch the films, and follow the trends, remember black people made it, and the rich African history it derives from.
To conclude, You don’t have to be Oprah, Nelson Mandela, or some highly successful influence to be black excellence, because Africa’s resilient history is part of every black person’s identity. Every single black person is a king or queen in their own right. You have the right to be who you are, your blackness makes you beautiful and strong. Embrace your name and your heritage as it is a symbol of resilience, perseverance, and success. Embrace your mother tongue, your traditions and what makes you different because they are so precious to your identity. You deserve happiness and success. You are experts and leaders far beyond racism; the world simply could not go round if not for the presence and impact of Black people. African history and black people deserve to be here, to be written in the textbooks, represented in the classrooms, and treated every day with equality and love.
As Beyoncé once said,
"Be bigger than the picture they framed for us to see."
"Let Black be synonymous with glory."
Happy Black History Month!
January 15, 2021
By Miriam Felman, Grade 12
I didn’t want to go.
It was cold, and I was tired, and I wanted to just spend another night scrolling on my phone
wrapped in a blanket, but Robyn wasn’t going to let that happen.
“Come on, Lee,” she whined into the phone. “It’ll be fun. You need a night out.”
“Fine,” I finally gave in. “I’ll ask my dad.”
“Yes!” my friend ended the call, and the reality of what I agreed to settled into my body, like my bones turned to lead.
I loved Robyn, but she just didn’t get it. I couldn’t just jump to my feet, throw on a jacket and be out the door, ready to take on the night.
It was hard sometimes, just to leave my room.
To carry my legs down the stairs, where I knew I would see Dad.
Staring blankly at the TV with a drink in his hand.
He would lift his head when he heard me, meet my eyes and grumble a gentle, “Hi, sweetheart”.
Like he was happy to see me
But at the same time it killed something inside of him every time
That it was just me
That it would probably always be just me
That no one else had ever been found, so how could we hold on to any hope that Ashira would ever come back to us?
The weight of my sibling’s disappearance crushing me every time I met my father’s sad blue eyes
That used to sparkle like the swimming hole where Robyn wanted me to come skating with her.
Near the woods.
Where Ash always said it felt like someone was watching them, and now I got that feeling too.
Whenever I was alone outside of the house.
Walking home from school where I used to try so hard to get good grades for prestigious universities, but now the local school was my only option.
I couldn’t leave my dad alone.
Not with his eyes clouded like the swimming hole on a winter night
Inconceivable depth underneath the surface.
January 15, 2021
By Miriam Felman, Grade 12
Pain jolts through my nose and into my skull when the snowball hits my face, the cold sting setting my skin on frozen fire.
I cry out, but the shock only lasts for a moment, the pain subsiding into a dull ache
My nose is burning hot, but I can’t stop shivering, freezing from the snow on my face and the bits that fell through the neck of my jacket.
“I’m sorry!” She flits over to me. “I wasn’t thinking, I underestimated my strength, I-”
She gets close, and softly brushes some of the snow from my cheeks with her fingers.
“I’d never thrown a snowball before.”
“What?” I ask. “How?”
“I’m from California! I don’t have much experience with snow at all.” She shuffles her feet, the thin blanket of the first snowfall crunching underneath.“It’s cold.”
“Are you okay? Did I hurt you?” She hasn’t stepped back, our faces still inches apart.
I smile. “Don’t worry, I’m fine. I’ve taken a lot of snowballs to the face in my time.”
Maisie exhales, relieved, and it turns into a bit of a giggle that makes my chest glow warm.
“Thank you for walking with me,” she says. We had been hanging out at Skyline Diner, with a group of friends
Except, we’re more than two months into freshman year, and I don’t really feel like I’ve made any real friends.
There are people I talk to for sure.
People like Brooke, and Maisie, who invited me out tonight.
But I feel like a stranger when I’m with them.
As if they all know each other and I’m the new kid, even though we all just met in Hume’s English Lit. class at the beginning of the semester
I don’t know.
I just feel like an outsider
I always have.
The diner had been packed with university and high school students alike, like most Friday nights.
The air was stuffy, and I couldn’t follow the conversation at our table, and I started to think that maybe everyone hated me, they were just too nice to admit it, and then I couldn’t breathe.
So when Maisie said she wanted to go for a walk in the snow, I was out of my seat so fast, I nearly knocked everyone’s drinks off of the table.
“I’m happy to,” I answer Maisie, looking up at the clouded sky, glowing softly purple. “I needed to get out of there.”
“It was busy. I was getting overwhelmed.”
“I’m feeling better now though,” I say.
Out here, with Maisie, I might just be more relaxed than I’ve been since starting school.
She has this comforting presence, like you can tell she isn’t going to judge you for anything.
“I’ll walk you back to campus,” she says.
Back in the library, I sit by the cushioned window sill and watch the snowflakes dance in the orange light of the street lamp outside.
The snow makes me feel safe.
I can’t wait for more of it to come, blanketing everything, muffling noise.
So I can walk outside with familiar winter wind caressing my face
Or stay in, with fuzzy socks on my feet and a book in my lap.
And I wouldn’t mind doing it all with Maisie by my side.
December 16, 2020
By K.N., Grade 11
One beautiful morning in 6th grade, after dropping me at school, my mom asked, "Do you want some money to buy something at the cafeteria?" "No, it's alright. Thank you", I replied. When morning recess came at 8:20, my stomach was groaning as if I didn't eat breakfast. As I checked my pockets, worrying that I had to go through hunger during class until lunch time, I felt something and it was a 10 dollar bill my mom had slipped into my pocket when I didn't notice. I thought such enormous luck came at the right moment!
PANDEMIC JOURNAL: PART 2
December 16, 2020
By Avery Bendell, Grade 12
*Below is the first page of the article, click link to read all*
Friday March 13, 2020:
On Friday, things had changed so dramatically and it honestly felt like the end of the world. I have never experienced anything like it before. I truly thought that it felt like an apocalypse even though I KNEW that everything was going to be alright. I remember I wore the grubbiest sweats with my hair in a nasty messy bun because I was so exhausted from the night’s homework after the superstore run. I put no effort into my appearance because I knew that I was about to have a three week long vacation and it didn’t matter how I felt now. Things had escalated so much that people were acting like chickens with their heads cut off. I wish I were joking but it really felt like that. People were leaving for their March break vacations (most of which were cancelled) so the halls felt much less full. That and parents were afraid to send their kids to school. My grade twelve english class had only 3 other students in it.
Teachers were handing out the material for the weeks after the official March break ended, even though the word from the school board was that teachers weren’t allowed to teach any NEW material from the curriculum until after the three weeks. Looking back, I think the teacher knew that this wasn’t going to be over in three weeks. With the lack of kids in the building and students running around sanitizing literally every five minutes, it absolutely felt like the last day of school before a doomsday. By the end of the school day, me and some friends met outside the school to walk and get ice cream before March break. I already had some sleepovers and hang outs lined up for the following week. We still had no idea that, even though school was cancelled, we were not going to be able to actually see each other for months. The funny part about that wild last day of real life, was that IT WAS FRIDAY THE 13TH! Our last normal day of life was friday the 13th, the most ominous omen haha. If I had known that it was really our last day of school for months and our last day of normal life, I probably wouldn’t have worn sweats…
After ice cream with my friends at the nearby dairy queen, we all left for home, our plans for the week still on. I went home and changed clothes (ew sweats) because I was going to a friend’s party that evening after supper at Boston Pizza with my family. That meal at Boston Pizza was that last time that we ate in a real restaurant indefinitely. Although we knew that schools would be closing for three weeks in total, we didn’t think that going to a restaurant was a bad idea. We still didn’t know how big of an impact this was all going to have. So I went to the restaurant, I went to the party, and had a great time with some friends. I left at midnight because the friend who was hosting the party was leaving for BC the next morning. Her plans didn’t get cancelled.
So I think that the idea from the school board was that by closing the schools for two weeks after March break, they would be able to self isolate anyone who went on a trip over march break for the two week waiting period before symptoms show up. However, everything except essential services closed down right after, including pretty much everyone’s March break trips. I knew many many many families who had their trips to Cuba, Mexico, Bahamas, all cancelled. My family was so grateful that we went on our Mexico vacation in January! Sadly enough, the additional two weeks after March break did not really self isolate anyone, although anyone who was lucky enough to actually go to their vacation, was forced to actually quarantine for 14 days in nearby hotels. The problem was, the cases in Ottawa had already gotten so bad before we had even realized that we knew that school was going to have to go virtual for longer than three weeks.
"DECEMBER", A CHARACTER MONOLOGUE
December 16, 2020
By Miriam Felman, Grade 12
December tries so hard, but it always seems to disappoint.
Christmas lights go up, holiday music in every store
Gentle snowfalls, like fairy dust in the streetlights, powdering rooftops
Everyone trying to get into the cheerful holiday spirit
But I always feel like I’m drowning.
Overwhelmed with the inevitable rise of school work, as teachers try to cram everything in before the break
Overwhelmed with trying to get gifts together for my family and friends
Overwhelmed with the seasonal reminders of the friend I won’t be getting a gift for
And then there’s my mom
Of the few hazy memories I have of her, Christmas is pretty significant one.
Waking up my dad, like I did every morning, except this time, Mom got up too. She smiled at me, carried me downstairs.
I remember how it felt, clinging to her, my little hands gripping her back
I remember her watching me, smiling as I played with my new toys, and Dad made cinnamon pancakes
Mom didn’t smile all that much, so it was special
I knew that, even at three years old.
By the next Christmas, she was gone.
“Across the country” my dad had said. “Near the ocean. With her mommy and sister. They’re going to take good care of her.”
I didn’t understand.
Why couldn’t we take good care of her?
What did I do that made her leave?
What if Dad leaves me too?
That fear crept in, wrapped itself around my heart and never left
Tantrums is what the grownups called them, when I cried and screamed, and lashed out at those around me,
but it was never out of anger.
I remember feeling like I was falling, so unbelievably terrified of the impossible idea that when Dad hugged me goodbye when he dropped me off at school, he wouldn’t come back.
That he would go to the ocean too, and I would never see him again.
December is heavy, exhausting
Twinkling lights, and deep reds that try to be festive
But my red pencil crayons only know how to draw blood
Crimson droplets from old wounds on silvery snow
November 18, 2020
By Reagan Sou
I ran as fast as I could. I could feel ... Freedom.
Awaken by instinct, I snuck around the house, gathering things I’ll probably need out there, out in the world. Everyone was asleep, so I didn’t have to worry too much about getting caught. As I was packing my bag, I looked up after hearing a sound of creaking by the door.
The window shattered after I threw myself at it. Luckily, I landed on my backpack. That was stupid of me, but I just couldn’t stand them. Every little thing I’d do would get me beat, so this was my only way to escape. I didn’t have time to pack everything, so I went to the gas station to get a few things. I’ve been saving money for almost a year at the foster home, but I still don’t have much, not enough to live life comfortably. I’m not paying for comfort, though.
After leaving, I called a close friend of mine. I’ve known her for at least five years and I trust her with everything. We decided to meet at her house. She said she could provide whatever I need for a week, just enough for me to get the hell out of here. It was tough getting there. She lived in the hood, so all these gangbangers tryna fight me; had to deck one of ‘em. I made it, though. She dapped me up as we stepped into the building.
“Welcome home,” she said with a smile. We walked up the stairs to her room, and I caught a whiff of the scented candles that she was burning. It was a nostalgic feeling.
"It feels good to be back," I said. "Thanks for taking me in, S.K.."
"Anytime, Reggie," she told me. I felt relieved. It feels good to have a change of environment. S.K. and I took a walk past midnight. We got some burgers and fries and then sat on a rooftop. I admired the traffic lights; they’re so beautiful. The sound of very few cars passing by and the light breeze flowing across my body. I felt happy.
After staying over for a day, everything changed. I got a good rest since I didn't have to wake up early for my morning labor. Everything at S.K.'s house was chill. Her mom did all of the chores and even though she insisted, I still helped her.
"Nothing is free in life," I told her. She nodded and we continued to do the housework.
A few hours later, we sat on the couch and I took a sigh of relief. S.K.'s mom bought us some lunch and gave some money to spend on S.K. and I's next night out. This is all I wanted, the feeling of doing whatever I want with my best friend. Is this what it means to be free?
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. I checked the upstairs window and saw two officers at the front. S.K. was behind me when she saw the look in my face. She knew what this meant; my time was up. I ran down with my bag to the backdoor. Before I could step out, S.K. grabbed my hand. I turned back and saw tears roll down her face.
"I'm sorry," I said to her.
"Stay safe out there," she cried. I put my hand out to dap her up, but felt her arms around me. A tear finally came from my eye. This would probably be the last time I see her, for a while at least. I gave her my final words:
"I love you, S.K."
She said it back.
It was heartbreaking to see her go. It took me a few minutes to face the reality of it, but I knew I had to think of something quick. Who else do I have available to me? I recollected all my thoughts. That’s it, I know what I have to do. With that, I settled off on my journey to the west-side.
S.K. wasn’t the only one I knew. I had made friends before I was taken into the foster home, but I’m still not sure how it will work out. The last time I had contact with them, things didn’t end well. I know it’s not the best idea to go over there, but this was the only choice I had. I counted the rest of my savings along with the money S.K.’s mother had given me, and I called an Uber. It was a far ride; doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying. I just want to get away from this city and its people.
A few hours later, I decided to stop the ride at a gas station; I’m starving. I placed my items on the counter and was getting ready to pay for it until the cashier spoke to me:
“You’re him aren’t you?” I nervously looked up from my bag and stared him in the eyes. “That runaway kid, right?” My instincts kicked in and I grabbed one of the granola bars that I picked out earlier and ran out the door. I got on a bus and took off. I was able to conceal my identity for a while, but I got a lot of looks. People whispering to each other and pointing fingers. I started getting pushed around, but I didn’t want to cause a scene. Otherwise, it’ll bring more attention to me.
The door opened, as I watched a few people walk out. The seats were full earlier, but right as I was about to take a seat, someone grabbed me and threw me out of the bus. The group of men who stood in the bus laughed. I felt like crying. They could’ve at least threw my bag as well. All I had left was a dead cell phone, a few cents, and my desperation for nourishment. That granola bar was the only thing I ate since I left S.K.’s house, and now I have nothing.
I know I can’t give up. My body was pulling me back, but my determination kept me going. I dragged my feet across the cemented road towards the sunrise. How long has it been? I feel like I’ve been going at it for weeks. I’m losing hope. My eyes are feeling drowsy as they slowly, and slowly start to close. My ear twitched. I heard a familiar sound. It’s the ice cream truck! My body was exhausted, but that jingle gave me energy. I looked around and I recognized the houses. This is it, I’m here. And so I started to run. I ran as fast as I could. I could finally feel ... Freedom. I’m home.
SINCE I'VE BEEN BLUE
November 18, 2020
By A. Ham
*Below is the first page of story, click link to read all*
Content Warning: Misgendering
It was the first day of summer vacation in the lovely, quaint town of Oakville. Even though it was barely 9 am, children were already running in the streets. Some of them eagerly played tag and drew with chalk on the sidewalks, while others gathered to throw eggs at the houses of angry old people. Even though they were doing a vast range of different activities, all of these children had scarcely a care in the world. However, despite the excitement occurring just outside their window, one young teenager was feeling less than enthusiastic about getting out of bed to face the day.
“Jenna! Honey, are you up yet?” Jenna Trent’s mother called from just outside her child’s bedroom. “Darling, I need to get ready for the fundraiser today, I just wanted to make sure you were awake first!”
Jenna groaned incoherently and flipped over in bed, shoving her face into her pillow. “I’m awake mom, thanks!” she shouted, although it was so garbled that it sounded as if she were sleep talking.
“Well then,” her mom replied. “I’m going to head out, but remember to meet me at St. Peter’s High School by 2 pm! Some old friends of mine will be there and I haven’t gotten to meet up with them in a while. Of course, they’re all dying to meet you. In fact, they’ve all told me that they’re so excited to see my lovely daughter, all grown up!” With that, she turned and made her way down the stairs to the front door.
“Right, I’m… excited to meet them too!” Jenna yelled back, as she swung her legs out of bed and went to grab some jeans from her dresser.
“Jenny, before I leave could you come here for a second?”
Jenna winced, “Yeah! Sure, mom.” Quickly, she pulled on the jeans and ran down the stairs.
THE NINTH HOUR
November 18, 2020
“Tik Tok Tik Tok!”
He woke up to the sound of the screeches in his nightmare. Alex tried to open his eyes to see what time it was. He couldn’t. He tried again. Still no luck. It felt like it was someone's first time trying to open their eyes. Finally, after one more attempt, his eyes opened. Everything was blurry, but he managed to see that it was nine o’clock. He tried to get up to stand on his feet, but he couldn't feel his body. He fell like a table on its last leg. Suddenly, his body felt a jolt of pain strike through it. “AHHHH!”, he screeched at the top of his lungs. He got up trying to keep his balance, still feeling the pain. He limped down the stairs to find no one there. Looking at the calendar, he saw that it was September 9, 1999. He put on a fresh pair of clothes and left the house. “I’m late!”, he yelled. He took the car to see if his parents went without telling him. He turned on the car as it gave a hissing sound to him, then left. The car was speeding through the streets until he reached the street where his grandparents lived. He took a sharp turn, then he saw a car coming at him. “BOOM!”. He found himself in his room again. He got up with no struggle. He saw the time, it was still nine o’clock. He looked in the mirror in his room to find himself in a hospital gown. “Thi..This isn't real,” he said stuttering. His vision started to fade away. He opened his eyes again with a bit of struggle. He was no longer in his room, but he was in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors. “What’s going on?” he said with no memory of what previously happened. “You got into a crash, Alex. Your parents were in the car that you hit.” he tried to say in the most calming voice he had, “Both of them died, but you were stuck in a coma for 9 months.”
November 18, 2020
By Avery Bendell, Grade 12
The year is 2020. I’m not really sure what this is going to be, but I want something to look back on once 2020, and the curse that has come with it, is over. I think this is more of a personal reflection on the craziness that the past few months have brought, but I also want to write this like a diary that I can reread when I think back about the ‘rona.
It all started in March of 2020, but really it started in December. The first time I heard of the coronavirus or COVID-19, was when my dad mentioned that there was a flu-like virus circulating in China and that the whole country was in lockdown. After that, we rarely heard of it on the news, and the only thing that changed was that our doctor’s office and other medical spaces were asking incoming patients if they had recently travelled from China. So, other than a few questions here and there, nothing felt strange or different at all.
Grade eleven was a great year for me. I had excellent grades, I got a spare, I was winning gymnastics competitions, and band was going well. The funny thing was, the school year had already been interrupted multiple times for the teacher’s strikes. The teachers were fighting against the new rules that our conservative provincial government was implementing the following year. This included mandatory online classes for incoming grade nine students, larger class sizes, and as a result: major cuts to arts programs. The teachers from the boards in the province were taking it in turns to strike on alternating Wednesdays and that meant that I got a few days off here and there. When the provincial government was unwilling to make a deal with the teachers’ union, the elementary schools started striking multiple days a week, but I still only got one day off a month for the Wednesday strike. My brother in elementary school, on the other hand, got at least two days off A WEEK. This, plus the school shutdown in March really strained his education for grade eight. I’m pretty sure the week before the March shutdown, the teachers’ union finally made a deal with the school board, but the Ford government still managed to get his online learning with the nationwide shutdown. Haha. This definitely made people realize how much they hated online learning.
The week before the pandemic shut down in Ottawa, everything felt normal. I remember clearly that I felt stressed about school, having multiple tests, assignments and presentations to complete. I even had a gymnastics competition in Montreal the week before the shut down. Just at the end of February we heard about a covid case in Toronto. My friend from another school was freaking out about it and I remember telling her not to worry because this was all going to blow over in a few weeks and that there was nothing to worry about. I was so wrong.
Thursday March 12:
The Thursday before the shutdown, I was worried about writing tests, completing assignments that were due right before the start of March break (the following weekend!) Plus, I was missing school for band clinics held in the school music room as a replacement for our lost musicfest festival that the teachers’ strike prohibited. On Thursday morning, we heard news that there was a case of covid-19 in Ottawa. Although people had started to wonder if things would get shut down, I still wasn’t worried. But by the afternoon teachers had already started talking about a shutdown. They were giving us online textbooks, ressources and any other type of extra help that they could offer on the chance that things were going to close down.
After school, I went to my gymnastics practice as usual and this was one of two moments of the day that I remember so clearly in my head. During the first half of our practice everything still felt normal because we had just come back from a competition and were taking a break from routines. I had found out that I qualified for provincials. At our break time in between halves of practice, Erica (a girl in my group) had gotten an email from her school saying that, because the case of covid in Ottawa had been a girl at her school’s dad, her school would be shut down for an additional two weeks after March break.
I. Was. Shocked. I really didn’t think that was a big deal at all. I really thought that there was no way that this was going to affect me so much. By the end of our fifteen minute break, I had gotten an email that my school board was also going to close for two extra weeks after March break. And by the time that our 15 minute break was over and it was time to go into the gym again, every single girl in my gymnastics group of 8 had gotten an email from our separate school boards that we were going to have an extended March break. This was the moment where I felt like everything had escalated so quickly.
During that last gymnastics practice, I didn’t know that the last time that I would be in the gym would be in four months. I probably would have pushed harder had I known...After coming home from gymnastics, I spent hours finishing up homework for my last day before a super long march break. In my head I thought of it just like a really long party where I could do lots of creative things and have lots of free time to spend with friends.
After my gymnastics practice, my dad picked me up and we had to stop at the Superstore on our way home to pick up a few things for my mom at home. This was the second moment of the day that I will probably never forget. The store was like a scene from an apocalypse movie. The line for the checkout wrapped around the entire building. People were stocking up on everything they could get their hands on. Canned goods, produce, and most of all: toilet paper. As my dad and I walked around the store to pick out the two things we needed to bring home, we peeked inside the hygiene aisle and it was bare. It was literally a scene out of a thriller movie where everything on the shelves is gone or destroyed. People in the store were yelling and stressing and HOARDING. There was a shortage of toilet paper in most of North America because people were hoarding it. A week into this shortage and stores were implementing restrictions on how much people could buy. It took me and my dad forty five minutes to checkout with our two grocery items!
AT THE FOREST'S EDGE
October 15, 2020
By MF, Grade 12
"Cleo". A gentle, yet steady voice cut through the bleak stillness of the grey morning. I turned, and saw Ms. Mori next to a tree, in a dress that seemed to blend in with the forest. She was barefoot, despite the cold, and I had to double check to make sure her feet were actually touching the ground.
“Ms. Mori,” I managed to say. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“Oh. Um…” I tucked my hands into the pockets of my jacket. “I’m just going for a walk. My house can be pretty… um, busy in the mornings, so I like to leave early.”
“It’s just you and your mother at home, correct?”
“Yes.” That morning’s exchange played over in my head. If I see you with that freak one more time, you’ll be living on the streets.
Ms. Mori reached out to put a hand on my shoulder, and for a moment, I almost didn't feel her touch. Like her fingers passed right through me. “I miss you at school,” I told her. “I’m sorry you had to leave.”
“So am I.” Ms. Mori’s art class was the only thing I liked about school, until she had to leave because some parents complained about what she was teaching us. As if it isn’t common knowledge that Michelangelo was gay. “You’ll find somewhere,” she said.
She took a breath, and it felt like the wind inhaled with her. “Cleo, you and I… we’re not like the others in this town. We don’t belong here.” Don’t belong here. I probably thought those words to myself every day, but hearing someone actually say it was like a punch to my chest. “But someday, you’ll find somewhere you do.” I opened my mouth to say something, but no words came out. I was stunned silent, my mother’s dream come true. “Just look to the shadows.”
I blinked, and Ms. Mori was gone, disappeared among the trees. Bright red leaves twirled in the wind where she had stood.
September 25, 2020
By Liv Schnare, Grade 11
After years of being placed on people's walls, Time grew weary of its job. You would be tired too if the only thing you could do was continue. Time needed to stop for a couple hours, a day maybe. At twelve in the afternoon on a pleasant summer Friday, Time paused, but it needed more. It wanted to break away from the walls of the houses it was encased in. In the home of Sara James, Time did.
Time pulled itself away from the walls and the clocks in Sara's house. It swirled and flew right out through the door. Sara couldn't believe her eyes. In the 9 years of her life she had never seen anything reminiscent of the magic that she read of in fairy tales. She dropped her book, got up off her couch and ran after Time.
As Sara ran, Time pondered why it was needed. The story goes as follows; Time ripped them apart, and they didn't see each other until past the grave. It seemed as if Time was always being blamed for all the misfortunes of the creatures in the universe. If there was simply not enough Time to go around, why should there be Time at all? Time turned around to be faced with Sara’s questioning gaze.
“Are you a fairy?” she asked, “Or a wizard?”
“I am neither,” Time answered, “I am Time. I am the force that brings forth the Day and ends the dark Night. Who are you?”
“Oh I’m Sara. Mum said to not talk to strangers, but you seem familiar Mr Wizard.”
Time overlooked her disregard of its explanation and said, “Although you seem interested in magic and wizards, I am interested in how you are managing to see me. And I’m also intrigued by your inability to relent to my will.”
“I still don’t understand why you can’t see that you’re a wizard Time,” Sarah said
Different types of clocks have trapped Time for many a millenia, but nothing has quite imprisoned him as much as this little girl. Everything on earth should have stopped moving when Time stopped, she seems to be the only exception.
“You should still be on the couch reading your book about trolls and elves.” Time stated
“Excuse me, but how do you know about what I was reading?”
“I am aware of everything in this universe,” Time said, “I can tell you what any person is doing at this very moment.”
“Can you tell me what my father is doing? Where did he go?” She questioned, hoping Time had the answers she sought after.
“I’m afraid that is the one thing I know almost nothing about, other than how to get there and that where he is is safe and bright.”
“Oh. What else do you know?”
“I've spent billions of years being all over, learning everything there is to know. Watching things grow, live and die. Watching beings love and lose everything. It's all because of me. I control every second this universe's existence has ever known.”
“It's not your fault. Before my dad died we went to the beach one last time. We laid down on the sand and he told me how happy he was that we could spend time together. And I was so happy that I could spend more time with him.”
Time thought about that for a moment. Shouldn’t people be grateful for the time they have on the earth? Shouldn’t people make the best of what they were given and be as happy as they can without needing more? Time supposed that it was impossible for all creatures to believe in being grateful for what they have, considering that humans have always been selfish. But Sara understood. Maybe it was her naivety, or maybe she was wise beyond her years. Time was baffled, but content.
“We should get you back home.”
Sara grasped Time’s hand as it walked her back inside to the couch she was on before and gave her back her book. Time retreated to the walls and restarted. People's lives went on. And when it came her time to leave, Sara was carried away by a familiar friend.