In the wake of daily despair locally, nationally, and globally, what joy it was to be contacted by fifteen-year-old Isabella Hanson to help her promote the “I Matter” poetry contest she started last year. Penny Bauder interviewed Isabella in January for Authority Magazine. In their discussion, Isabella shared the motivation for her effort:
As an African American in America, I recognized that George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s deaths were due to the lack of respect and value for Black people in America. I created the “I Matter” poetry program to help myself and other youth to process the pain they felt after watching the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on the news. Utilizing poetry and art as the medium, the “I Matter” program provided the inspiration and forum for youth to be heard on the vital subject of why Black Lives Matter.
Isabella’s effort is supported through the National Youth Foundation. “Founded by Black women with a vision for change,” their mission is to “promote diversity, inclusion, and gender equality through innovative literary programs.” The NYF offers youth writing workshops and has held the Student Book Scholar Contest to publish books such as “From Bullies to Buddies” and the Amazing Women Edition Contest to publish books on local heroines.
The first “I Matter” poetry contest published its 2020 selections and can be read online here. It features over twenty beautiful and searingly memorable works, both poetry and art, by youths from second through twelfth grade. First place winner “Hey Google” by twelfth grader Khabria Fisher-Dunbar is a sobering call to the internet giant to take responsibility for the manner in which the search engine responds to inquiries related to Black Lives. It begins:
What are some images of three black teenagers?
Oh no I didn’t mean mug shots
I meant black teenagers laughing, hanging out with their friends
For recreational purposes
Not selling or drugs or stealing
Just living their lives
It is a reckoning to us all to consider the why and the how of the information we all participate in creating and sharing, both shaping and defining the lives of those in our communities.
This year’s “I Matter” contest is open to youth in grades K-12 and closes for submissions July 23, 2021.
Please help Isabella and all concerned and engaged young readers and writers by sharing this information as well as by reading the powerful 2020 contest publication.
As Isabella says to young people through her interview, “…it is empowering to empower others…when young people set their minds to do something, they can make a difference.”