Future Showcase cover art

About the Showcase

Our nation, our state, and our communities have all experienced some big changes and challenges over the last year. The coronavirus pandemic, the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, as well as a new state flag and new leadership brought tears, joy, and sometimes confusion. Many of us will never forget that the longest spring break ever turned into months of virtual school.

To reflect on what we can learn from the events of 2020 and early 2021 and envision what comes next, The Winter Institute invited young people and talented creators, to submit a piece of writing or art for our virtual Community of the Future Creatives Showcase.

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Writing

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Grade 12, Madison Central High School, Madison

In the summer of 2020, the nation and my life were firmly held in the grip of the calamity known as “COVID-19,” a devasting pandemic that was swallowing lives at an alarming rate and seemingly destroying every aspect of our society.  Schools had come to an end in a haze of virtual classrooms. The joyous activities of the season were banned.  Families faced heartbreaking decisions on whether to run the risk of seeing loved ones or perhaps never seeing them again.  These twisted endless summer days were a combination of terror and a bizarre monotony, both of which eroded away and broke down the bulwark surrounding my subconscious soul, making me more aware of what was taking place. I sat at home and bore witness as mankind seemingly began to spiral downward, a victim of its own hubris.

I watched members of my community trying to cope with this unprecedented attack on the American way of life. Some seemed unmoved by the air which surrounded them, arrogantly displaying their maskless faces at stores and parties and impassive to the horrifying numbers that kept climbing. Others, like my family, desperately clung to scientific strategies for safety in the hope of delivering loved ones and strangers alike securely to the other side of this dark terror.  And when we desperately needed national leadership to create a united front against this scourge, political demagogues held the stage, adhering and spreading falsehoods and fabrications and further polarizing a society crumbling under the burden of the calamity.

Of course, America is no stranger to division, and in the summer of 2020, it was forced to confront the great national sin of racism when it heard the strangled cries of George Floyd and saw the blood of Breonna Taylor. In response, citizens rose-up in a mighty chorus to denounce racism and call for it to be stamped out from our society.  On June 7th, thousands marched in Jackson, and I joined this protest because of Mississippi’s deep roots of racism which are too great to be ignored. Days after this, members of the Legislature, Republicans and Democrats, black and white, passed a bill removing the state flag emblazoned with the Confederate cross and establishing a process which produced the Magnolia State Flag, a symbol designed to unify Mississippi.

In the summer of 2020, I witnessed how a people can be divided and how a people can be united. I was reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that our adherence to the faith that “we shall overcome” will “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood, and speed up the day when, in the words of the prophet Amos, ‘Justice will roll down like waters; and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”  Through such faith, action can be taken to unify a people, a people who can overcome pandemics and prejudices and produce a new shibboleth mending even the seemingly inherent divisions rooted deep within us.

Grade 12, Murrah High School, Jackson

It’s so hard to be joyful when the world has seemingly stopped spinning.
It’s so hard to be happy, when there is not a soul to share your happiness with.
It’s so hard to keep smiling, when there is no reason to smile.
It’s so hard to keep going, when there is no goal to reach.
It’s so hard to stay optimistic, when everyone is so pessimistic.

Why?
Why do we keep smiling?
Why do we keep going?
Why do we stay optimistic?
Why do we remain hopeful?

Is it because of the blood, sweat and tears it took to get here?
Is it because of the sound of the rain falling on our houses?
Is it because of the warmth you feel when you hear a baby laugh?
Is it because of family and friends?
Is it because of the love you have for yourself and others?                             
Is it because we know that despite everything that happens, it will get better someday.

It might be hard to smile everyday.
It might be hard getting out of bed.
It might be hard doing the same tedious assignments everyday.
It might be hard seeing the birds fly and tweet jovially.
It might be hard to see them so happy in the sky while we are trapped in a cage on solid ground.
It might be hard.

But we can do it.

Do it for your mama, who goes to work everyday to keep her family well fed.
Do it for your daddy, who willingly puts himself at risk for his family’s survival.
Do it for your grandma who is how many years old but still manages to keep moving.
Do it for your granddad who lets you know everytime you see him that he loves you.

Do it for yourself, who you tear down consistently because you believe you’re not pretty enough.
Not good enough
Not smart enough
Not faithful enough
Not enough.

Do it to prove to yourself that you are enough.
You are enough.
The world needs you.
Without you, there is one less person to bring joy to others.
One less person to see smile.
One less person

The world is still spinning.
Life goes on.
Though it might be tough, remain joyful
For the sun always shines after the storm.

Grade 11, Germantown High School, Madison

I watch the tv reporter smile in relief,
Her cue card reassuring her that she and her young, healthy friends will be safe.
I take a deep breath and rub a thumb over my dry, cracked knuckles,
Wondering what makes some lives more valuable than mine.

The paranoid bus driver serves us masks at the bottom of the steps
That we all laughingly take off once we enter the party chamber with the holographic ceiling.
I perch on the white leather seat tinted violet by the light
And slide to the corner to meet the lips of the boy with the runny nose.

A small, cold room and the runny-nosed girl in the corner determine my fate –
I have to make a choice –
One, the chance of the test declaring my worthiness for an interesting, brief future,
The other, a cancelled score as she glaringly pulls up the white cloth of my wellbeing.

If I slip out the door without cleaning my desk, I could get settled in my next class faster;
If there are crumbs on my desk, who knows what else might be lurking there too.

I found a restaurant that will let all of us come in to sit down, but they would force us to tip;
I risk everything to serve his panini and my tip is rudeness and forty cents in leftover change.

How dare you tell me my haircut isn’t essential?!
It hurts to swallow, and it’s getting harder to suppress my coughs.

Come on guys! Let’s take one photo-op with the masks, so we can remember 2020!
my best friend died yesterday

Grade 9, Germantown High school, Flora

I’ve always heard, “you never know what you had until it’s gone”
And I had even experienced it first-hand several times,
But each time it happens it’s surreal. Impactful.

When you lose something or someone,
Life can be messy for a long time,
But when the world loses something,
Everyone has to go through understanding that it’s gone.

Your reality changes,
You long for the day’s things will feel normal, and try not to acknowledge they never will,
Eventually the new normal will just have been the world acclimated to the change.
And we won’t realize it until we think about the things that used to be.

It can be painful, to remember,
To remember a time where you didn’t have to live with the phrase “you never know what you had until it’s gone.”

Grade 11, Jackson Preparatory School, Madison

His stomach churned with hunger,
burned with the melody of a heart cry
singing around it. Chiseled letters ran
through his veins. They leaked the
goodness of conviction and discernment
on bloody rushes of past.
“You can’t go another minute.”
It clenched again, welding with thoughts
of shame that dripped and bubbled up
again, resurfacing the doubt that tried to
yarn with his mind. Threading needles
grabbed at a brain and intertwined eyes
through tormenting thoughts to the back
of his head. It nicked his skull and
brought him back to the newly creased
leather binding, lapping the oxygen it
was receiving.
“Too bad I don’t rely on you anymore.”
The demonic needles swiveled, shielding
with false weapons as light poured through
his parched tissue. He put his head down
and glared at the Braille, watching his bloodshot
eyeballs tear the paint from the cover.
The silver lining on the pages filled his
hands with a childlike sensation, hopeful for
a new adventure or even a surprise, anything.
The clenched knuckles, grinding into his fist, 
released with a terminal exigence. Their regret
oxygen had just been caught short;
tiny double lungs shriveled into the realm
of defeat like they were made out to be. This time,
this time they couldn’t tell him he couldn’t think straight,
they couldn’t tell him he would be alone forever,
blossoming in the swarming,
underground tunnels of unlively death that choked
the good fruit he didn’t know he had anymore.
Again, he gripped the
tender pages that
somehow seemed like they could hold the world.
And a wind breath of fresh air drew out
from the thread binding, the thread binding that breathed
in and out with the movement
of the pages. The inhales sparked his spirit with lovely splendor, and exhaling,
it blew out the creeping torments that hoped to linger
in his vessels of bloodless life.
“Use me how you want to, Lord! I’m done listening to my flesh,”
his spirit spoke, deafening the grumbles of defeat and hungry temptation.

Grade 8, West Bolivar Consolidated High School, Beulah

2020 changed you because you were so desperate for what people would say about you
Until you figured out who you were, you are a strong Black trans woman.
I’ve seen you grow a lot, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and your peers have too.
2020 helped you learn who true friends are, and it helped you overcome a lot of things.
Jaia, I remember when you were so stubborn and cared so much of what people thought of you. You have really grown a lot.
I don’t know how many times I can say it.
2020 wasn’t so good to you but you got 2021 and 2022.

Jaia, I love you, keep it up, baby.
You expected your relationship with your first love would’ve gotten better.
You thought you were gonna move and have a great birthday.
You really were looking forward to your father to come around and accept you.
But turns out things just got worse.
You were expecting to be a cheerleader on the cheer team this year.
You really changed in 2020.
You became more mature as a person.
Your grades did drop, your anxiety was going in and out.

Your attitude was changed, and your relationship with your friends changed also.
What was good was that you experienced bad people in your life that really changes you.
You distanced yourself and started to love yourself more.
You went through a depression stage, went through a breakup that you thought would last forever.
2021 is different because you are more open and you are proud to say you’re a leader now.
You know who you are as a person, you don’t let stuff get to you or bring you down like 2020 did.
You still go through stuff with your transphobic dad, you still have anxiety and you’re still on quarantine.
Don’t have no type of social life, can’t see friends. 2020 and 2021 still have some of the same features, but both in 2020 and 2021 you learned how to grow as a person.

Grade 8, St. Andrews Episcopal School, Ridgeland

To be 13 in 2021 means that nothing really defines each day, it feels as though I am living the same day over and over again. It means staying up late to do homework, always tired but unable to fall asleep, my mind constantly swimming with thoughts of what if, what if, what if…? I lay awake at night wondering what happened to get us to where we are now, could I have done something? It means I wake up every morning exhausted and worried about keeping up with school work and being a good student, a good friend, and a good person. I have to drag myself out of my bed, which is like a cocoon, where nothing could hurt me, yet I must emerge to get ready for the day ahead of me.  
It means I frantically run around the house – do I have everything for track, do I have all my books, do I have my ballet stuff? No wait, my computer charger, I left it here, no it’s not here, ah I got it. It means trying to muster up some positivity each morning. I will see my friends, this will change soon, it’ll be ok. I arrive at school and wonder what my assignments will be and dread most of them because I am losing motivation.
I walk into my first class, sit down at my desk, and I listen to the teacher explain a concept I do not understand.  I sit in confusion, afraid if I get even a little behind, I will never catch up. Because of this, I try my best to grasp it so that I don’t waste even more time, but I feel a sense of shame.  Am I the only one who lives in a constant state of confusion?
It means being overwhelmed all the time, trying my best to keep it together, but not knowing how to handle all of the stress and anxiety. For example, one night, I decided to take a break from all my homework and watch a funny video on YouTube because I was overwhelmed and could barely focus on my work, let alone do good work. About halfway through the video, there was a cheese commercial, and I started crying because I can’t eat cheese but mostly because I was overwhelmed with other worries.
It means trying to plan blocks of times in my head for homework, sports, de-stressing, wondering if I’ll finish soon so I can go to sleep. Because I’m so anxious, I often find myself fiddling with my jewelry or popping my joints and sometimes feel like I’m not getting enough air. I wait for the end of the day so I can finally go home and relax, but no, I have track, and ballet, and homework. I run from each place to the next, exhausted and unmotivated but knowing that it is the best thing for my future. For example, I had an art assignment that could win me a small scholarship for college, however, I was unmotivated and I felt like it would be a waste of time when I had a bunch of other homework to complete.
I finally get back home at 8 PM after a long and draining day, then I begin my homework. Some nights are better than others, ones where I’ve already finished all my homework so I can just relax before going to bed. Other days however are very stressful, when there is homework for most classes but no study hall. Weekends are especially stressful, because there is an expectation for me to be carefree.  I can only relax on one day because the other day I work on homework all day long.

Grade 8, St. Andrews Episcopal School, Ridgeland

I was born September 8th, 2006 making me 13/14 in 2020. More generally, anyone who was born in 1996-2021 is a part of Generation Z, the age of technology. Furthermore, me being 13 in this generation means I am in the prime developmental stage where the aspects of today’s society affect me to a future-altering extent. I start to have more responsibility for myself, making tough decisions in my middle, and later highschool years, and the atmosphere around me can influence me. What does it truly mean to be 13 in 2020?

Technology is one of the key aspects that differentiates this generation from others. Specifically, as a 13 year old in 2020, technology defines my life and the internet and social media means I have access to parts of the world and thoughts about life previous generations didn’t. In other words, I think I, and many other developing teenagers, grew up quicker; Some 13 year olds in previous generations might have still been playing with dolls while I am on social media with access to undoubtedly mature topics. Technology has also affected me more in 2020 in a slightly different way; The sheer amount of it i consume.

In June, I was introduced to the social media Discord. I could join servers and chat with people with similar interests. I had been hooked and made many friends over the course of a few months. One November night, I had gotten home at 9 pm, so tired I could barely lift my legs to move up the stairs to my room. After a shower, I had planned to start on my homework, but something else had caught my attention. I heard a notification from my computer from Discord asking me to join in a few games of Among Us. It was already 10:30 pm, I was laying in bed slowly bringing my finger across my keyboard, typing up my homework and all I wanted was an escape. So I decided to play Among Us with my friends. My room was dark, the door was closed and only the light was from my computer screen. I played for the next 3 hours with my friends and I was having fun, but the Google Classroom to-do page was open on a tab, staring at me. So my half open eyes stayed up to finish these assignments and I was finally knocked out at 3 am. Only in the morning do I realize my mistakes. I could fall asleep in class but even then I’d still check Discord, Twitter, and Instagram during class sacrificing my education. I realized what the Pandemic, lockdown, and my hours of screen time had done to me and I realized this through my grades. Before I was naturally an all A’s student but I had gotten a B average in two different classes. Although most others might view this as ok, I had guilt from my mother’s growing disappointment in me. Staying up late on my computer listening to music and talking to friends had become a nightly routine. So yes, technology undeniably has its ups and downs.

Technology provided an escape for me in our world situation but it was also the downfall of my mental health and sleep schedule. I think many people my age have gone through this too. In conclusion, technology is an influential aspect of the life of a teenager today and I should strive to use it more wisely and grow stronger. This is what being 13 in 2020 means to me.

Grade 9, Germantown High school, Madison

The smile:
Enters the soft, wrinkly, smiling face
Everyone shows a smile at
The smile that is slowly dying
Their dark eyes
You can see all the feelings
Every vein showing
Lumping over like a wilted flower
They fall
Like the tears of a young child that are
not understanding
Their Pushing up
Gasping for air
Statues surrounding
The poor broken smile
Everything’s quiet
Like your heads underwater
But then you blink
Everything is back to normal

Grade 10, McComb High School, McComb

Walking down the heavily beaten path
She is in need of a spiritual bath.
Witnessing domestic violence at such a young age
Picking out her 18 year old black son’s grave
Working so hard her hands are starting to blister
Playing twister
Being the rock, home school teacher, mother
And responsible one

Wondering how she will make it out unscathed.
Oh, how she longs to bathe.
But she is not alone.
If my community was a body, she is only the bones.

He works three jobs
And still can not afford to pay the rent.
Yesterday, he and his six kids spent their last dollars
Buying a tent.
No means to make ends meet.
Running out of meat.
No bed to lay his or his kids’ heads
He is the head.

Then, there is me.
Just one simple cell.
But I will not quit.
I will not ring the bell.
Because if I do
All hope is lost
And it’s not worth the cost.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream.
To be a Biomedical Scientist among other things.
I will succeed because of the resilience
Passion
And push
My community has shown
I’m proud to say
I’ve grown
Into someone who can stand through thick and thin
Thanks to all the things my community has chipped in
Love, guidance, hope, and so much more
My community consists of the people I adore.

A community is not only family, friends, neighbors,or me
It is the collective
It is we.
It is not only pain
It is joy too
A community is a place where you can be you
A community is a melting pot of love, culture, family, and friends
My community is the place where I want to live.

Grade 7, Ida B. Wells APAC, Jackson

Strutting with unknown purpose on the hot tar
Was a lady who’s hatred stayed gone and far.
Her love for others was all but dimmed
Her level of tolerance had been trimmed.

But a lady of color whose smile was bright
Drove along in a car as dark as night.
She gazed across her spotless community
Where everyone there lived in unity.

Blinded to color or physical difference
Your troubles before here had no significance.
But instead, helped you replenish. 

Unique pasts and opportunities made this extraordinary community
Love for each and acceptance of one another brought us harmony.
The way we built peace from pain remains to amaze
Earning everyone who changed so much praise.

Grade 9, Germantown High School, Madison

Family is everything to me.
The peace, love, joy, and happiness that they bring is amazing.
Losing a family member is the one time that you need to be with family the most.
You grieve together, you cry together, and you also heal together.
Losing someone is very painful and hard, but being around your community, loved ones and more will make it less hard to heal yourself.
We laughed because we knew how she would respond to certain things
We cried because we sadly knew that she wouldn’t be here to experience the major things in like l going to high school and graduating.
Those are the things that I truly wish that a loved one was here for
But I know that they’re in a way better place the earth and that’s what puts a smile on my face.
I’ve learned that you cannot heal yourself fully without your family.
That is what I love when I can spend quality time with my loved ones, and I will never take that for granted.

Grade 10, Germantown High School, Madison

As a teen nowadays, there’s not much to look forward to, especially in the past year. I don’t think I need to say the name of the thing that has taken away a portion of our lives and of ourselves, we all know what it is. There is no more need for a “Due to…”, we know at this point. Just say you’re closing or shutting down and get it over with. Just say that everything has changed, and no one will question it anymore. Just say the sky is falling and no one will deny it.
Even though teens aren’t necessarily in the high-risk group for Virus-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named unless they have a previous underlying condition, it’s still killing us. We have to socially distance and stay six feet apart and wear a mask, meaning we can’t see our friends, which, for some people, is the only thing keeping them going. And due to quarantines and social distancing, half of those friends are gone. They might as well be strangers, again.
I don’t know about anyone else, but after all this time in this global pandemic, there are certain words and phrases I hear every single day that make me want to pull my hair out. “Social distancing”, “6 feet apart”, “wear a mask”, “virus”, “quarantine”, among countless others are just a few. Some people don’t like to admit it, but we are basically living in a dystopian novel, and we are hitting all the markers. Global pandemic, check. Dangerous wildfires, check. Two sides struggling for power and it seems the whole world was fighting over it, check. And clusters of fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds who just got the world slammed onto their shoulders, double check.
Oh, and the freaking clowns from 2016 came back. Need I say more?
I know it’s hard for everyone and people keep telling us “Oh, just until it’s over” or “You’re not even at risk” or “It’ll be over soon”, but those people are fooling themselves if they think everything will go back to normal within a few months. That’s what they thought a year ago, and a month after that, and three months after that, and 6 months after that. I’m sure people will still be saying it in three years.
These same people tell me to focus on the positive. Okay, I’ll try. 1. I’m alive (bare minimum) 2. I get to see my friends (only while passing in the hallways for at the most five seconds). 3. I had a lot more time to come up with stories in my head (which are now a coping mechanism in the form of escapism, and I have definitely become reliant on it just to get through the day).
Maybe other people can focus on the good, but it’s hard for me to see it. I used to say “For a pessimist, I’m pretty optimistic” because I was obsessed with the band Paramore, but not even that anymore. For a pessimist, I guess I’m hopelessly pessimistic.

Grade 10, Germantown High School, Madison

Is this the society we live in?
Where people only care about their opinions,
America where are supposed to be proud,
More like the place we’re forced to stay quiet and be held down

Nothing is better than home sweet home
At least when home doesn’t make you feel like you’re on your own,
People judged immediately by the color of their skin
Not even given a chance to show the traits within,

Most people expect to hear the morning birds tweeting,
While I only hear the family of another innocent black man’s folks weeping
And all people do is endless chatter,
on how that man’s life did or did not matter

As many people riot to say what’s right
Other people shoot their guns and think they have won the fight,
So this is our home?
Sweet American Home,

No Sympathy for others,
No love for one another,
It’s just unnecessary hate from both sides
Each filled with corrupted minds,

Is this how it’s supposed to be?
Innocent people getting beat
Murder in the streets,
A hopeless society is what I see

So grab your racist friend
And grab your flag and with it pride until the end
Because this is our home,
Our Sweet American Home

Grade 10, Laurel High School, Laurel

Black girl, black girl
Do you know who you are?
Do you know the magic you hold in the palm of your hand?
Your black girl magic to be exact.
The gifts you hold in your hand?
The ideas you can mold in your delicate mind
The sweet vibrations of your voice when you speak
And the mellow breeze when you whisper
What you speak and how you speak.
Black girl, black girl
Ever since you were born, you were told you were beautiful by your original birth givers
You are beautifully and wonderfully made by your Creator
The drops of melanin distributed perfectly on your skin
The beginning of a new glowing goddess in the making.
Your overwhelming confidence is blinding and your figure is striking
Your lips all the way to your hips, you are a blueprint.
Yes, black girl.
You are the blueprint.
But poor black girl, black girl
You were not born into a world of perfection but into a world of war, controversy, and rejection
Controversy over your natural beauty and your artificially-made stereotypes
Not into a world of unity or equality
Yes, black girl.
You are criticized for your looks and your shade of melanin.
Why do you keep forgetting your beauty?!
Do you not remember what you were told?
Why do you keep listening to your enemies and straying away from your truth?
You’re fading away from your gentle assurance and being swarmed in this tornado
You are criticized for your looks and your shade of melanin.
Being tossed into many headlines and political acts
Full of attention-seeking people trying to catch your anger
Tossed into categories designed to keep you tight
And pushed into the cages set up for you to stay quiet
Blinded by what’s truly happening to your black boys and black men
Poor black girl! You are forgetting your worth in this world!
Every single day you are discouraged
From what you do, to what you say, you are judged.
Sometimes you ponder whether living is even worth it
BECAUSE
You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Oh, black girl…
The problem you have on your hands get bigger until we all make a CHANGE to solve racial inequality

Black girl, black girl
Do you know who you are?
Do you know the magic you hold in the palm of your hand?
Your black girl magic to be exact.
The gifts you hold in your hand?
The ideas you can mold in your delicate mind
The sweet vibrations of your voice when you speak
And the mellow breeze when you whisper
What you speak and how you speak.

Grade 11, Mississippi School of the Arts, Wesson

Some form of trauma exists in us all. I have seen the results of having a divorce in a terrorizing cult some may call a religion. I feel as though some people think the couple is better together for the children. I can tell you now it’s bad apart, worse staying together. The “religion” being one of the underlying dementors of it all. 

The cult obstructs your way of reasoning religion. One jumps to the conclusion of immediate ostracizing with mention of a god or deity. Cast away! I don’t know if that should be the case though, and that is not the joy I have to write of. There are nights where things are spoken of or illuminated into the conscious view that will have an everlasting evolution on one’s perception. Loose-lipped whispers and rumors are hard to be believe until you’ve heard so many that those seem like the only tokens of truth from historians of the time, a time and places you were too young to remember or your mind simply helped you forget. It’s a game of trying to unlock an unknown past of fucked up decisions made onto innocent minds. 

I used to be carefree on the matter. I would let my mind deceive me into thinking I had no qualms in the matter. I should simply ignore the hard times. It does not perceive me some might say. That was only doing an injustice to myself however. Now, I wonder if it is not the same self-induced oppression the closet restricted me once to.  

What have I learned through these hard times? I’m not entirely sure. I can see that even those much older than me are still affected by the experiences of a suffocating “religion.”  The struggles of, what religion will I bring my kids into? What should I tell them to say when other kids at school ask? Things of that nature have shown me that at least through it all, the only times anyone has benefited from this shared trauma has been when you have someone who understands why you feel the pressure of having to ask those questions. When it’s been related to on a personal level with one another is when the right kind of evolving occurs. Sometimes I try and consolidate when I’m feeling the sadness it has ringed out onto me from its dirty rag to the one person who’s affecting me, but it wasn’t until even just writing this that I realize there were other people, even just in my family, who could help.

I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this is that there’s just a certain paradise many of us are trying to get to. Sometimes you just have to ask for help before you drown on the way, and then you can even help the other ship get there. Communities aren’t built overnight. People are not one in a swift motion or snap. The shifting moments however, are golden.

Grade 10, Gentry High School, Indianola

The history is deep within your waters
It is deep within your dark, dark soil
It is there
Everlasting in the whispers of the wind created by those who once roamed you
Each lift of your river, each drop of your dust, and each bloom of the sweet corn
Or that pale cotton tells a story of you

We are you
You are us
We grew up in the lands of the Indians who gave and gave to the white man
We grew in the lands of where our forefathers and foremothers sat
And dreamed of the day to once walk this land without the hardships of their skin
Tell their stories dear Mississippi
Make those waters rise and fall
Make that wind blow and blow
Make that crop grow and grow

Mississippi, Mississippi
We see the history
Those green earthy mounds you protected for ages are us
Those blares of the horns, trumpets, and ding of piano is us
It is you
We are one

Though the petals of the Magnolia are white
The soil on which it gets its strength from is dark
So dark, so rich
It is us
It is us
Those sandy beaches on the gulf in which those waters connect and love is us
It is you

Mississippi, Mississippi
Continue to raise those waters
Continue to make that wind blow and blow
Continue to make that crop grow and grow
Protect that light skin sand and that dark skin soil
It is our history, you and I

Mississippi, Mississippi
You are me
I am you
We are one
Can’t you believe

Grade 11, Vicksburg Catholic School, Vicksburg

It’s snowing.
The flakes are strange and opaque, a sheet of white obscuring the view outside.
I tap my pencil to paper. Tap, tap, tap.
The page is still blank.

It’s snowing.
The door is sealed by the waves of cold, but we paid it no mind.
I tap my pencil to paper. The taps barely leave a mark.
Why is the page still blank?

It’s snowing.
My eyes flicker to the backyard. The daffodils had almost made it.
I look back at my paper.
Perhaps that is why my page is still blank.

It’s snowing.
I know it’s not my fault. I have every right to throw a fit.
Yet I look back at my paper.
And I curse that it’s still blank.

It’s snowing.
I have so much free time. I shouldn’t need The daffodils to create.
There’s only one thing on my mind now.
Why is my page still blank?

It’s snowing.
So many people are doing things, all a screen away.
I can only watch.
Why isn’t their page blank?

It’s snowing.
Their tenacity is bold, but it’s hard not to feel dismay.
As while we all face the same struggles, we all have the same thoughts.
Why are our pages blank?

It’s snowing.
Is it our fault? Do we have to bear that thought?
We desperately try to fill the gaps.
With the pages that are blank.

It’s snowing.
They make a barrier of mental fortitude, and we can only hope it was worth more than naught.
There’s a bundle of paper now, all together from so many creators…
And said pages are still blank.

It’s snowing.
There’s still flakes falling through, but it’s certainly better,
And yet, and yet, I turn to my desk, and my mind tells me it’s not good enough,
Because my page is still blank.

It’s snowing.
A flash of green pokes though the fetter.
I had forgotten how much I missed that color…
My page is still blank.

It’s snowing.
There were whisper that it might,
And just like that, there it was.
My page was still blank.

It’s snowing.
The daffodils’ golden petals gleam with the sunlight.
I turn towards my page.
It doesn’t have to be blank.

It’s snowing.
If the daffodils can turn the page at its own time, then, perhaps, can I?
I tap my pencil to the paper.
My page will no longer be blank.

Grade 11, Germantwon High School, Canton

During 2020 our communities were put to the test along with all of its citizens. We dealt with tons of hardship, resilience, pain and joy. From losing jobs, family, and our whole sense of normal changing, it was definitely a hard year. But it taught us lots and we learned how to deal eventually through everything. I went through the troubles of online school, some of my mom’s friends lost jobs and tons of other things happening. Here are some things that stuck out to me on how we dealt with these circumstances.
When the pandemic first hit it felt like the world was ending. Toilet paper was gone, grocery stores were almost empty. And everyone was freaking out, because well we had never done this before, and we were scared. Then the shutdowns came, and tons of people lost their jobs and sources of income. My cousin is an example she was working in New York for the music industry. She isn’t a singer she does more of the behind stage stuff and she had worked so hard to get to the position she was at and she finally had. Then the pandemic hit, and she lost it all and had to move back in with her parents in Nashville. She found another job; one she works from in her bedroom. Which was a huge adjustment for her and definitely not her dream job, but she is doing ok now. We all are doing kind of ok now but yet were still in this pandemic so sadly not everything is back to normal.
Hardships I had faced during the pandemic were just switching from seeing my teachers and friends every day to barely leaving my house at all. Yes, we had virtual school, but I missed my friends and my teachers. Never would I have thought I would say this, but I missed school so freaking much. And virtual school wasn’t hard, but it was, nobody really knew how to work it so it was all really trial and error. And I felt as if I wasn’t learning anything at all, because I really wasn’t I would look up the answers and ask people for the answers like everyone did. I had no motivation to get anything done. And I still struggle to find motivation to get my school work done now because of it, especially on virtual days. But I dealt with it like everyone else. I will say I am grateful for virtual learning in the aspect that I got really close with my mom. And we talked all the time, it was good we hung out a lot as a family.
The Black Lives Matter protests were also another big thing that occurred in 2020. Those protests were full of hardship, pain, joy and resilience. The BLM platform was huge and growing bigger than ever. I almost went to the rally in Jackson, but I had work, I had friends that went though. BLM taught us how unfair our justice system was with the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and more. We wanted a change and we didn’t get it how we wanted but hey at least we stood up for what we believed was right. The movement brought so many together with joy and pain. It was a beautiful movement in my opinion and really helped the communities realize hey, were still here, covid cant kill all of us lets change America. That’s how I saw it at least.
In the end 2020 taught us a lot, especially about what were grateful for.

Grade 10, Germantown High School, Madison

It’s hard to find joy
Pain is what you mostly get
Life is hard
Families losing one another
Communities getting destroyed
Joy comes when you wave at a neighbor
Or you find a new show to watch
Becoming stronger
Everything will make you a better person
Starting
Being a decent person
Some People gone
Some New people come
Lost images
Why is it so hard?
Why must life be so difficult
Why are we killing people for no reason?
What is wrong with this world
I’m not sure how many
Died last night
I look out
All I see is nothing
I hear sirens in the distance
Something happened
Death?
Fire?
I can’t go outside of my fence
The safe zone
Good luck to the
Rest of you left
Welcome to the Hunger Games

Grade 12, Mississippi School of the Arts, Byram

There is something special about the way my generation moves. We hold our heads high and our dreams dear to our hearts. We are active and vocal about our opinions and pride ourselves on speaking about what is right or wrong. However, beneath all the boldness, ambition, and rightful pride, we are ultimately lost. Wandering around in the fog of drugs and lust we are filled with fear.
Recently, I was having dinner with some friends and we ended up having a conversation about children. To my surprise, most of them revealed that they do not want to have kids in the future. They are afraid that they cannot shelter their potential kids from the trauma and pain they endured. Due to their childhood experiences leaving a bad taste on their palate.
Parents have control over the way the children see the world for themselves. What is achievable and what is unrealistic for someone all forms at an early age. The pain from mean and discouraging comments never leaves us. We intake everything, creating wounds that never heal because we keep picking at the scab.
The morality of this world is dying. Due to social media, we see the beatings, killings, or tormenting of people. The scariest part is that there is no logical reason for this hate. Madness could be the cause, but doesn’t madness live in us all? Every day my generation faces the hardship of being the victim or the criminal. The line of morality is blurred by the second and soon we are going to wake up and no one is going to recognize their reflection.
I mention this because it directly affects us—the youth and the future. My generation is hesitant about bringing children into this world because of the fear that we store for ourselves. Every day, we are supposed to achieve this greatness that is asked. We are supposed to change the world. But what this world need requires more than change. Change is only possible if the root is pure. This world needs saving from something greater than all of us because the root that keeps this world rotating is rotten. Why would they want to face this world sober? Drug usage, vaping, alcohol, and lustful activities are all ways they keep going.
Despite our flaws, what I admire most about my generation is our resilience and creativity. Listening to them, the way we speak with this secret knowledge is powerful. The way we express ourselves through fashion and art, which has been done before us, but today we have no barriers. There are no rules, only love, and positivity. That is the secret knowledge that the ones before us did not implement. Which gives me hope that the world is possible of saving. We are the lasting love in this dying world. We see the invisible redemption.

Artist Statements

Tap + to expand or – to collapse
In alphabetical order by last name

I wrote this poem to show how cold-hearted people are towards a situation that’s not helping them.

What my picture represents is making for change. The match is represented as the the people of Mississippi. We hold all the changes and the decisions for the state. The hands represent the inspiration. It is the hidden force that drives our determination. When the hand strikes the match it represents us making a changing. Its the process of everyone together on one accord to spark something knew. This is the awakening part. The box of matches represent the pathway and the attempts. Once the match is on its pathway all it can do is bring action. Once the match is lit this represents the thriving from the actions we’ve made. We can only move forward from there. To spread our fire and inspire others.

My art piece represents what makes me proud of my MS Community. I chose this picture for 2 reasons. One, I am proud of the amazing architecture found around the state. Two, I like how this picture represents time and how Mississippi has changed over the years. Some years may be better than others, but Mississippi is the place I call home and I am proud of it.

This essay expresses my feelings about what I saw happening last summer as my family and my community faced the COVID pandemic and the racial unrest following the death of George Floyd.  I wanted to highlight what happens when we fail to find a united voice and when we do.  This is a lesson that can shape our future in a brighter way for all.

It is vital to show black kids how important they are. If we stifle their potential and let them believe that they are no more than their skin, they will never sprout into an unapologetically spirited flower that could change the world or more importantly Mississippi.

I am proud of my community because it brings people of different backgrounds together. In my artwork I am illustrating how my Swedish family comes together with a Jewish American family  and share our customs with each other. Our Mississippi community brought us together and allows us to learn from people from all walks of life and grow together as a community.

In my poem, I wanted to depict the variety of a community. Women, men, children all might go through the same things yet experience it totally different. I also wanted to highlight the value a community is as a support system.

This artwork shows after standing up for what is right and taking a stand against injustices, we can work towards a better future in the nation. It shows change in the community and how our nation’s youth are no longer afraid to speak up and demand the world to look at what has been going on for hundreds of years.

For my piece, I decided to use the prompt: A Mississippi Where Racism NO LONGER Exists. In Unity in Mississippi, symbols are depicted of peace, unity, and freedom to show the growth of Mississippi and the unity of the races and the end of racism.

The artwork shows a Mississippi where racism doesn’t exist not as a place but more specifically as a feeling shared by the people. The piece is very simplistic and not very thought-provoking at first glance. However there aren’t any signs of people or any other factor present, only three different dishes are seen. The lack of people or any other focus besides the food allows for people to simply appreciate what is there. There is purposefully nothing to do but compliment the bowls of food, notice the differences despite it being painted in likeness. In appreciation, there isn’t any racism, just a shared experience of admiration. Moreover, I’m pretty sure everyone can respect food.

While writing my poem I tried to look deeper into Mississippi. Not just what you hear and see on the outside but first hand experiences. I tried to bring in ways I’ve seen my community come together and not see color or stereotypes. I tried to of course incorporate some of Mississippi’s past just try to show where we started in compassion to us now and how much happier everyone is. And how much we learned.

This artwork is supposed to go with the prompt about what I love about Mississippi. I drew a magnolia tree to represent Mississippi and two BLM fists to represent anti-racism and how Mississippi has come a long way from what it used to be.

“Kaleidoscope” views the multitude of outlooks on Covid-19. Covid impedes life for the immunocompromised, stresses workers, and creates pervasive worry. However, not everyone helps others feel safe. Dissenting mindsets emphasize the need for empathy.

I am a 14 year old who currently resides in Mississippi. I have found myself having trouble keeping up with homework, sports, and a social life. This piece describes my day to day life as a 14 year old in 2021.

For my piece I wanted to show people of different cultures and races coming together to put our country and communities back together.

No Artist Statement provided.

Understanding equality starts with understanding we are all same underneath. To often, we judge one another based on our first impressions but understanding our unique differences and strengths begin by looking underneath the surface of what binds us.

This piece is a representation of the equality of races in Mississippi. We are all treated the same and loved just as much as everyone else. On the hands I wanted to represent Mississippi and it’s special features that we love so much.

During the pandemic I spent lots of time with my family. During this time together we grew closer and were able to forge a deeper connection. I believe that having a family bond and a place to call home is very important. Without this connection we can often find ourselves lost, especially in uncertain times. I created this artwork to illustrate a place where my family is connected. This artwork is a dual layer work. The first layer is a watercolor of my family and I sitting at the dinner table engaging in conversation. The second layer is constructed from the window screen, mixed media, and embroidery. I embroidered silverware onto the screen and spray painted stencil images to convey some components of our kitchen. The kitchen is a place where I spent most of childhood as my mother has remarked “eating is my favorite pastime”. I love good food and the memories involved in a good meal. And there is nothing more MS than good food and fellowship and that makes me proud of Mississippi.

I drew these paintings to express gun violence, police brutality, gender and domestic violence, the struggle of young Black artists, the passage of time, and imagining a peaceful future. I hope that people see these paintings and feel sadness about the deaths, COVID, police brutality, and evictions of 2020, but also happiness because I want to cheer up people who have experienced so much pain. I also want to encourage others to move on, let time pass, and go to the future.

The community in Mississippi is special. Everyone has interesting stories and the diner that is in the painting holds so many of them. So many people have made memories there. It’s a place where people can congregate and visit. The diner also provides a place for people to meet different kinds of people. It’s an easy place to socialize with people you might not normally talk to. This is why I love the community here, this is why it’s special.

I chose the 3rd prompt: A Mississippi where racism no longer exits. This piece really represents the injustice and racism in the U.S. prison, but the hands are the focal point. The hands are reaching out of the bars, into a world where there are no confinements, and where there is no racism, and where people are able to live in harmony.

When the Virus-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named started, i honestly thought everything would go back to normal in a few months. It became abundantly clear to me later on that maybe things may never go back to normal, no matter how many times people say it will.

This picture depicts a white, male cowboy & a black, female cowgirl riding their horses alongside each other while engaging in friendly conversation. I hope to see a day like this, where everybody can collectively live in peace.

This is a poem about how America pretends its the land of the free and brave and a place where all its people are safe.  However, we continue to see how leadership and people of our nation do not place equal value on all its citizens.

For years people of color in America have gone through many struggles just because the color of their skin. Though the treatment towards people of color it is not as drastic as it was many years ago, the social injustice towards them still stands.

This is a piece about not wanting to stand in the shadows but having your voice heard. We can all stand together and make a change.

My poem shows a small glimpse into how I feel being a black girl is in America. Today, minority groups face so many stereotypes and I expressed my thoughts through my poem: Black Girl, Black Girl.
The art is a paper collage representing my poem.

In my narrative essay I go into what it felt like to be 13 in 2020/2021 with the current world situation. I share things I’ve done that many don’t even know about.

I saw a big difference in 2020-2021. I expressed all my feelings because I don’t have anyone to talk to. 2020 was difficult but in 2021, I am blossoming and overcoming these things. I want people to know it is ok to be depressed; you will overcome it.

During this time, a lot has changed. My writing shows how us waiting for things to get back to normal, will never happen. It also paints the picture of how only now we have started realizing the value of the world and the people that surround us.

My work and its purpose highlight the spiritual warfare that humans encounter everyday. It expounds upon the subject of spiritually fasting and delves deeper into feelings that arise due to the denying of the flesh along with the growth in the end.

Art matters because there is no other creative process like it. It allows you to tell stories of things even when you have no words to describe it, and it speaks volume in a room even when it is silent. It helps you be able to express change and struggles. My grandmother and grandfather have become more closer and closer to me than ever due to the global pandemic. This piece reminds yourself to smile through it all and everything that’s going on around you. To have faith that everything will be fine. It is the fact that Mississippi’s people are able to pick themselves up and overcome struggles that makes me proud of my MS community that is my home.

The subject shows a key unlocking a lock. I used the color scheme to show that there is hope and for it to have an uplifting connotation. The image shows that we have the key to unlock and tap into our brighter future that is limitless. This is conveyed through the lock being opened and showing that the future is better and hopeful. Anyone can make a difference in Mississippi or even the Nation. This piece was constructed from acrylic paint, which was stippled onto the paper using cotton balls. This was to add a strong texture while still using the stippling technique.

Like much of my other work, I wanted to share experiences that someone could relate to or find support in. In this case, through my past trauma gained through the oppression of a cult.

I created this to show that we as people, can come together, and can share good, hopeful ideas that could one day change the world, the future.

I chose the prompt A Better Brighter Future in our Nation. The reason I did this art piece was because I wanted to show the risk that immigrants, like my parents, had to take just to make it to a better place just to have a better life. I want to show that people who come here are here to build a life and work just want to make their world a better place. Not to take things from Americans and ruin citizens’ lives. That these people see this country like a dream and that this dream could easily change their whole life and for a lot of people it has.

When I wrote this poem, I had been thinking about how many lives Covid-19 had taken. Being home all the time and viewing the world and how terrible it has gotten, it caused me to feel extremely sad. Poetry was my way of escaping and creating hope.

This piece was about my feelings during the start of the pandemic from a visual “person” point of view. The four people in the picture represent my feelings during the pandemic and the protests. The prompt I’m trying to relate is “A Mississippi Where Racism NO LONGER Exists”. Before all of this happened I was a bit oblivious about race and how much it impacts the world. For the most part I was the one shielding myself from what the injustice of how black people were treated. The events revolving around this topic made me have to look and understand the world that I am living in. If  Mississippi did not have racism it would be almost a paradise because it is the biggest issue that it faces.

I enjoy writing and reading. When I heard of this contest, I decided to join. It looks very promising, and I am happy to share my work with everyone. I hope you enjoy my poem no matter the results. Thank you for reading. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

If we are to make this world a better place, we all need to come together in our country first. God blessed us with so many people to become friends with; we need to love one another and treat each other with kindness and respect as the year passes.

My art piece represents a better future for our Nation because it deals with how their can be conflict between two groups, but end the end we are all still just human beings. I chose to create a collage of 2 girls, one Israeli/Jewish and one Muslim/Palestinian. By contrasting the two girls, it represents the differences between the two nations, but at the same time, it is comparing the similarities of the youth in hopes to spread unity. I made this artwork to display my internal conflict of being Jewish and loving Israel but at the same time recognizing how horrible the Anti-muslim attitude is and how they are treated.

In “The Steps of His Journey” I conveyed the underlying message of disenfranchised African Americans in Mississippi through colors and materials. For the theme A Mississippi Where Racism NO LONGER Exists, I painted my grandfather, Willie D. Meeks, using black and white acrylic paint as well as my hands, feet, and rope to imitate the division between blacks and whites in Mississippi. For me, racism and stereotypical attitudes regarding African Americans has been an important issue to highlight and by making people aware and contributing I hope to aim for a better and brighter Mississippi. The Video captures the process of using my hands and feet to create the image, while the photos are screenshots of the process.

Multiple people have died in the year of 2020 from covid19, so that means that many people only look at that fact so I wanted to point out other events that has happened such as the new flag,riots, racist protests, and temperature change. But I also want to include that all the nurses are tired and feel selfless through this pandemic. But these aren’t the only problem or events that has happened but I wanted to show what I see through all of this and that covid19 wasn’t just the problem of 2020.

It’s not about what color the star is it’s about how you shine just by smiling.

I wanted to try to put my (and many others) lack of motivation when it comes to creating as a result of the pandemic to words. Daffodils are a symbol of hope to me as I see them slowly begin to sprout in the background against all odds.

I drew Columbia, a historial U.S.A personification, in a dress inspired by the new Mississippi flag and wearing the laurels of victory digitally to symbolize my thoughts. The new flag change makes me proud to live in Mississippi!

The thoughts behind my work was just explaining what 2020 brought to not only me but my community. And all the hardships and challenges it faced me with.

My piece, Sacrificial Lamb, symbolizes a young black teen boy (myself) who is presenting himself as a sacrifice for his people so that the war of racism can end and there can finally be peace. I would say the biggest struggle was figuring out how I could allow others to grasp the deeper meanings and thought process of this piece. I chose graphite and charcoal to add an element of depth and to create a grotesque and hideous theme because that’s what racism is in our America right now, grotesque and hideous. However, the ray of light shining down onto the young boy’s face, who is offering himself to God, is a symbol of grace and hope. Hope that as Mississippians, we can unify and strengthen our bonds as a community.

My thoughts are from the second my creative writing gave us the assessment. I just know I would love to write a poem. Even though I am not the best I tried and that is all what counts.

My hope for Mississippi is that we can do more to celebrate and love everyone’s beautiful color. I drew this self portrait with vibrant colors because I know that seeing and celebrating color has to start with me.

With all the madness transpiring in the world, it feels as if no one is acknowledging the difficulty in coming of age during this time. My intention for “My Generation Z” is to allow my generation to be seen, and to create a space for us to breathe.

When it comes to the future of Mississippi, I hope that we can become more eco friendly. Seeing the many dead animals in the street and on the highway affects the community negatively. It makes Mississippi look as if we don’t care for our environment. The betterment of the environmental protection in Mississippi would improve everything positively. Better attitudes, health, and life as a whole. This is what I hope to see as we move towards a Better, Brighter Future in Mississippi.