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Denver Center for International Studies Speaks! Cafe Cultura Community Speaks Project #13 Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants


Denver Center for International Studies Speaks! Copyright Š 2014 by Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.


To the DCIS students in both Lakota classes‌keep learning the histories and languages of our peoples.


Acknowledgments Thank you to Denver Center for International Studies and Denver Public Schools Indian Education staff for allowing us to work with your students. We appreciated the opportunity to guide them in expressing themselves and telling their stories. Shout out to all Xpress Yourself workshop participants for keeping an open mind while sharing energy and thoughts. Your words are truly inspirational. Remember: “It’s our responsibility and choice to express ourselves and lift our voice, together building unity, leaders in our community. This is how we tell our stooorrrryyyy!”


Foreword It was a great honor to work in collaboration with Denver Public Schools Indian Education in publishing this collection of spoken word poetry. The student work presented here reflects the stories of struggle and celebration that we all find in our lives. The act of sharing this energy forms part of our journey in becoming more just humans. We trust you will enjoy the poems and use them as examples of how you too can express yourself and tell your own story. For those who do not know about organization: Café Cultura is an award-winning arts, culture, and youth development organization in Denver that promotes unity and healing among Indigenous peoples through creative expression while empowering youth to find their voice, reclaim oral and written traditions, and become leaders in their communities. Café Cultura has been providing positive, creative, and engaging community spaces for the Denver metropolitan area for more than nine years. The idea for our organization emerged during the summer of 2004 with the passing of respected elder and veteran poet Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado. At that moment, we realized and accepted our responsibility to continue using our oral and written traditions to provide opportunities for creative expression not offered in schools or in the larger community. Café Cultura also drew inspiration from the movements connecting Indigenous people from throughout the Americas. In that spirit of Red/Brown Unity, we hoped to use creative expression to unify people representing southern Indigenous nations, known by terms such as “Chicana/o,” “Mexicana/o,” and “Latina/o,” with those Natives of northern nations, referred to today as “Native American” or “American Indian.” Café Cultura’s most well-known event has found a home at the Denver Inner City Parish/La Academia, where we consistently


attract 150 to 350 people the second Friday of every month. In fact, we host one of the best open mic venues in the Denver metropolitan area, and the only space focused on family and youth. We take pride in featuring amazing poets, musicians, and visual artists from the Denver area as well as those from outside the state. CafĂŠ Cultura also conducts highly engaging and culturally relevant spoken word/poetry workshops for underserved youth throughout Colorado. CafĂŠ Cultura partners with select organizations and schools to facilitate an intensive workshop series, publish youth poetry, and organize participant showcases. In an effort to develop young leaders within our community, we also coordinate a youth leadership program for Indigenous youth. If you or your organization is interested in collaborating, feel free to contact us. We hope to see you the 2nd Friday of every month. For more information: info@cafecultura.org; 720-394-6589 www.cafecultura.org; www.facebook.com/cafecultura


Table of Contents Love by Kyla ...........................................................................................1 Wild Rice by Elias ..................................................................................2 I Am by Justice .......................................................................................2 I Take a Deep Breath by Nizhoni........................................................3 My History by Casandra ........................................................................3 What is life? by Katrina .........................................................................4 Home by Jack .........................................................................................5 Memories by Winona ............................................................................5 I Am by Sabine .......................................................................................7 Being Native by Jeremiah .....................................................................8 April 29th 1992 by Gabriel ...................................................................9 Me and My Life by Blas ........................................................................9 I Am by Savanna ................................................................................. 10 Untitled by Amadeus .......................................................................... 11 Softball by Sophie ............................................................................... 11 Never Again by Elijah ........................................................................ 12 A Dream by Kyla ................................................................................ 14 A Rollercoaster that Never Ends by Nizhoni ................................. 15 In Motion by Jack ............................................................................... 16 Skateboarding by Justice .................................................................... 16 Life is like a Song by Casandra .......................................................... 17 Always by Winona............................................................................... 18 Cake by Sabine..................................................................................... 19


Something New by Gabriel ................................................................ 21 Experience by Jeremiah ...................................................................... 22 My Passion by Blas .............................................................................. 23 Life by Kyla .......................................................................................... 24 Blank Page by Nizhoni ....................................................................... 24 Stars by Jack.......................................................................................... 26 My Future by Casandra....................................................................... 26 Twice the Love by Sabine .................................................................. 27 Forget-me-not by Kyla ....................................................................... 29 Until by Jack ......................................................................................... 30 Hand in Hand by Winona .................................................................. 31 Being Me by Anpa'o ............................................................................ 32 Drum Boy by Wambdi........................................................................ 33 Don't Fall by Jack ................................................................................ 34 Right Here by Nicole .......................................................................... 35 I Am by Star ......................................................................................... 36 Guardian by Presilino ......................................................................... 37 Death by Life by Ethan ...................................................................... 38 You Can't Change Who I Am by Sophie ......................................... 40 Maximum by Maxwell ......................................................................... 41 This is Me by Spencer ......................................................................... 42 What makes me who I am? by Safari................................................ 43 Race by Taylor...................................................................................... 45 Who I Am by Jack ............................................................................... 46 I by Aileen............................................................................................. 47


The Past by Quetzaltlaneziahuatxochi ............................................. 48 This is Me by Priscilla ......................................................................... 49 No by Shakaila ..................................................................................... 50 My History by Mical ........................................................................... 51 Tired and Struggling by Anpa'o ........................................................ 52 Love for the Game by Wambdi ........................................................ 53 Wondering Spirit by Nicole ............................................................... 54 The Game by Star ............................................................................... 55 The Ups and Downs of Painting by Sophie ................................... 56 Untitled by Ethan ................................................................................ 56 A Mountain by Priscilla ...................................................................... 58 Decision by Taylor .............................................................................. 59 Life is Art by Jack................................................................................ 60 Slender by Aileen................................................................................. 61 Soccer Life by Spencer ....................................................................... 62 Expectations by Anpa'o ..................................................................... 63 Happy by Wambdi .............................................................................. 63 Travels by Ethan ................................................................................. 64 Misunderstood by Sophie .................................................................. 65 Fulfilling a Long Lost Dream by Nicole.......................................... 65


Love by Kyla My great –grandparents will always be a part of me forever. They started out with love. Love helped them start their own life. Love got them through the roughest times: losing children and money problems. Love got them through everything. They stayed together, and their love will last forever. In 2008, my family lost my great-grandfather. At the funeral, I wanted so much to just cry, but I couldn’t because I knew he was still with us. Even though he was gone, his love was still here with us. Our love will always be with him. In 2013, my great-grandmother passed. When she did, I felt she was still with me, and I should help my family get through this rough time. Their love helped each other through their roughest times. Their love helped me get through the rough times I had.


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Wild Rice by Elias I am the delicious wild rice that makes you want to come back for more, and more. I am harvested from the native people in Red Lake, Minnesota called the Ojibwas. I will always remember the smell because it reminds me of my past experiences I had with my grandma. The taste is full of love, for a grandchild. Eagle feathers on my roach are very beautiful. When I dance with them, they are like children. It’s as if they are responsibility, which they are.

I Am by Justice My home is Denver, with blue skies and a lot of trees. When I wake up at 5:30am, I anticipate warm waffles with chocolate hazelnut spread. My mom buys the food, which is why she makes me happy. When I get done eating, I go skate. That’s the life for me.


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I Take a Deep Breath by Nizhoni I take a deep breath. I shake my hands like there was something on them. I crack my knuckles like I was ready for a fight. I tell myself, “don’t be afraid.” I rub my hands together like I was putting on lotion. I sip my water nervously. I look at the clock. I’m on next! I say, “Oh no, I’m not ready!” I look around like I did something wrong. As he calls my name, I walk to the stage. I hear my heart pounding more than the crowd is cheering. I take my last step like a dramatic scene. I take a deep breath.

My History by Casandra I am bound by the traditions and generations represented in the recipe my family passed down. The history is evident

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in the house made of bricks. The house is hidden between the two pines where my past and future meet. A brave woman was raised in this house, whose life story was a cruel beginning but a better ending. This woman sacrificed her young life to raise her children, to raise me. From young to now, the brave woman taught me to be two women, the one looking toward her past to find out who she is and the one looking forward, for she knows what is to come. I am the shy, confused girl looking for beauty, but I am also the strong, confident woman who has seen the dark. But just like the recipe, life changes.

What is life? by Katrina To be the person with a dream, I get up and chase those dreams in the morning. Every day I get closer and closer. Gym 4:45 Run 5:00 Weight lifting at 5:30 Arms and legs, strength is the key.


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Home by Jack Home, home is where you live and sleep, where you have comfort from friends and family, and where we have a nice meal to eat. We could look back on our life and remind ourselves of our success. How we live today will affect our future. We are like ants who need to count every step to know how to get back. We are like bears, we eat and feast till the day is done. We never go back. We never leave. We will always be the same person until the day we die.

Memories by Winona When I venture into a new age, it’s as if it was a new me. All the memories, the sorrow, and the love of the past age is gone but still with me, in my soul, in my heart. It tells me to never grow old but to stay young.

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As my body may grow old, my soul, my heart, my spirit still is young. The fun yet simple memories of an amazing land they call Costa Rica, I have always loved this tropical paradise as it turns into a jungle adventure. People greet you with warm smiles. Its history is a thousand years old yet their traditions live on, as I feel the sand between my toes on the beach, then to the rock of the mountains. As I travel with my family, it brings us closer than ever. Traveling relieves the stress that burdens my back. The chain unlinks as I dig my toes in the warm sand or as I trot on my horse. First a smirk, then a whole smile, as I feel the ocean breeze flowing through my hair. The chain is breaking even more. I discover a new side of people, the happy side. They let go and focus on the now, not the distant future, not the sad past as one family becomes a family again. But the fantasy is over and back to reality.


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I Am by Sabine I am from the food invention, made with leftover rice, meat, vegetables, and soy sauce, from thousands of years ago. This invention came from the country known for The Great Wall, a country full of history. I am from an undiscovered place I don’t know of, where my memories have faded from. I am from this place, where I lived only a year, and had no clue where I was. After that year, I was on the other side of the world with a new family. That family was complete with a mother, father, sisters, brother, and grandparents. My grandfather, like everyone else in my new family, contributed to make me the person I am now. My grandfather was brave and humble, for he was a hero in my perspective. I am my grandfather’s legacy. His love of animals has been passed down to me. I am his care and love for everyone. The smile in his eyes when he looked at me, I will never forget. All these things, people, food even, make me who I am.


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Being Native by Jeremiah It’s not fair in this nation where there is separation between culture and life. I try and weigh them out. It’s all I’m about. Eating an Indian taco is better than winning the Lotto. I sometimes put my culture first. I don’t want things to get worse. I like my music loud. I sometimes get lost in a cloud. I am my headphones on ears that unites the drum beat of my culture and the dub-step of my everyday life. I would let my hair grow put it in a tsi yeel. Indian Center, home of powwows home to Sacred Hoops home of me.


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April 29th 1992 by Gabriel Life is like the Rodney King Riots on April 29th 1992. My struggles are equal to those on the streets, walking along when suddenly a sleepy driver takes a yawn and runs you down. You could be just doing what you’re supposed to and a group of angry dudes smash your window and beat you up, all because some policeman took it too far. Like life, so many things are out of your control.

Me and My Life by Blas Denver represents the place where my first blood cells rushed through my Native veins. The Rockies help me feel safe at home with Amadeus, my brother, and my family tree. The warmth of the enchiladas that my family cooks makes me think and remember them. My brother makes me laugh and smile. This is me and my life.

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I Am by Savanna I am everything that links my hidden past to the culture inside. It links my unknown future to my amazing family. I am the tough mutton on frybread that connects me to total strangers with a common need. The food urges me to go to Arizona to enjoy it more than once a year. It urges me to visit and learn about shi mĂĄsani and shi cheĂ­ I should know. I am the orchid purple DSCR camera that makes me feel special and important. It is the way to show my story and remember events and feelings, to make happy moments last longer. I am the pennies and dollars saved to achieve this feat. I am the Navajo girl walking the flat and dry landscape, the traditional tsi yeel and water jug. It links to my daily life through an iPod and earbuds. It connects to the earth through strong, sunned feet. I am the dancer joining pride and culture.


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Untitled by Amadeus I am a big juicy Indian taco filled with meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. It fills me with happiness. The smell takes me back to my first encounter with the wonderful beast. It packs a punch but is soft and juicy. I come from a spirit trapped in a mask and scared to face reality because of his past. When he takes off the shell, he shivers and quakes at the sight.

Softball by Sophie Life is like softball because when you are in a game there are many different things you have to do to get to the goal of winning.

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Never Again by Elijah There’s something wrong with me, repeats again so that I may be convinced yet that I may actually be wrong, wrong of myself. This label corrupts my weak thought of the strong slightness in me. After so many misconceptions, I have to admit to the lies and ideas that have pushed me from myself. They are not words but meanings, meaning to the end. This truth destroys my curiosity. Yet I’m glad to have curiosity, to be curious of the outside, the real, what lies beneath and above my eyes. Though I am scarred by the truth, I am opened by the possibilities. So I encourage myself to be curious, to step forward into the outside, to experience what lies beyond the original, the abnormal that we are all afraid of. This turns into the key of reality. When we have fully opened our mind and settle in the truth that we have been lied to. Curiosity is not an idea that comes and passes as it wishes. It’s a thought that expands and rips through your comfort zone. It brings the you out of we, the real out of fake, the truth from the lies. Yet they say it lasts:


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the joy, the happiness, the good memories. They were wrong. The only thing I’m able to see in my cold confused mind is a black lost endless road into misery and depression, where instead of smiles, you feel tears. Instead of laughter, you see confusion. You trick yourself into thinking it’s possible, to forever hold the good that keeps you breathing normally alive. When really, you’re suffocating yourself by your own thoughts. They say it lasts, I say it expires. So I say, what’s the point? Where’s life, if all to expect is death, when the diehard moments go away, never to be remembered. Why is this the cycle? When after life all to behold is death, what’s the point? If all will be forgotten and all will become lost.. The point? So I tell myself, as I kneel and pick up the broken glass, that I shall never open my heart

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and let a single breath in. Never again I say, never again.

A Dream by Kyla I feel as if I am asleep, trying so hard to wake up, like my whole life is one mistake, problem after problem. I wonder, is this life real or is it a fake? All the good things that ever happened to me, was it all just a joke? I think about all the things, good and bad. I wish I knew what to do. I am lost and confused. But then, I look at the ones I care about and I see that I will awake from this dream. When I open my eyes, I will see everything so clearly. I will finally be happy.


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A Rollercoaster that Never Ends by Nizhoni My life is like walking on glass or a rollercoaster that never ends. My life is like a nightmare, a nightmare that you can’t wake up from. Once you step into it, you can’t forget the problems and the mistakes. These are bringing me down. People, even me, have put them there. I look at my shoulders and remove these weights, but it takes time. I have bruises because of how heavy they were. I try to forget the pain but it hurts so much. I look up and see this light. It’s glowing and says, “look around you, notice that there’s always something out there for you! Thank you!

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In Motion by Jack You go from one place to another changing the surroundings around you in motion, taking a flight to a new world, bringing what you are used to, to an end, in motion, making your life grow to the limit, in motion, being the person you expected to be in motion. We are always in motion.

Skateboarding by Justice The rocks and pebbles, the struggles of everyday life, stop me from rolling. The obstacles in my life keep me from landing tricks. I ollie over each crack and overcome each obstacle.


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Life is like a Song by Casandra The melody of life can always change to a different tune. The choices I make are the notes in my song; it is my decision to keep it beautiful or let it turn to a sour note. Growing up, my goal was to become a veterinarian, but that song soon came to an end with a new tune or a new dream. The new dream turned to a sour note; middle school had started. I wanted to just get through to the 8th grade, but grades were dropping just like my melody was fading. However, this was not the end for this song I am. High school I made it indefinitely. My song didn’t come to an end. my grades are rising and so is the choir singing my story. Now I look to the future with no end, for this is my story and song, of who I am.

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Always by Winona He tells me how hard the hangover was today, acting like I know what he is talking about. As I say let’s go outside, I creek open the screen door. He steps out of the door and covers his eyes from the sun. The sun beats down on him as if it’s mad that he gave half the day to last night. He falls down the stairs, crash to the small patch of grass. The grass was already dying, screaming for water. As he lands, he puts it out of its misery. To be honest, he never felt like a father to me, only when I was little. And now he barely comes into my life. And when he does, he acts like he has control, telling me what I can and can’t do like he doesn’t want me to grow up. He calls it micro-managing from afar, acting like that makes sense. I finally see why she divorced him, the result of his drug and alcohol-filled life. He continues to drink


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tequila and whiskey. Mom was only twenty when he didn’t have anything to give. So why should he care now? He tells me what music I can and can’t listen to but I still listen to Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler the Creator anyway because they talk about what’s real and how you can do good without a dad. He keeps promising me birthday money, but it’s spent on cigs. I never get a call either. But when I call, I hope he answers. The phone ringing runs through my mind. I feel sad when she has to take you to court because you can’t even pay child support.

Cake by Sabine Making a cake is, in a way, just like life. Choosing the ingredients, mixing them together, baking the cake, and decorating it. become part of me making decisions that lead to the rest of my life, solving the problems, and finally reaching my goals.

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Making a cake is, in a way, just like life. I pick the ingredients that taste good together, making decisions that will positively or negatively impact my future. Making a cake is, in a way, just like life. I mix the ingredients, seeing how those decisions make an impact. My choice of how I want to do in school affects how I finish. Or‌ Making a cake is, in a way, just like life. By baking the cake, I solve the problems in life. Self-doubt gives way to confidence in myself. Solving money problems is harder, but I know hard work and devotion pays off. Making a cake is, in a way, just like life. I decorate the cake with my goals, spreading a frosting of success. My impact on people appears as I pipe on the details. As I finish the cake, my goal of becoming a professional pastry chef becomes a possibility. Making a cake is, in a way, just like life.


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Something New by Gabriel It’s a regular day, nothing strange. Getting home, you have your regular routine: get your textbook, turn to the next page, crawl in bed. It’s all for the night. You wake up, something’s wrong. Your hand hurts and is bent in the opposite direction. It feels like a cramp, never had one for this long. Waking up with a headache, you go to school. You can’t remember what the teacher is saying. You’ve been called on, just act cool. It happened again, but this time, you’re on the floor. You’re bleeding, checking the mirror. You’re hurt. At school, everyone is concerned. They ask, “did you get jumped and left in the dirt?” Out your right eye you can’t see. It happens again.

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You wake up en route to the ER., They say, “you might have epilepsy.”

Experience by Jeremiah I grew up with a basketball in my hand since I was two. I’ve been playing with the big boys, practicing with high school kids ever since I was in 5th grade and doing the 3 man weave like Shoni Shimmel. I was always benched, always watching the other players play. It didn’t matter to me because I always supported the team. Now, when I play 21, I break ankles like crazy, scoring like a beast. Swish.


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My Passion by Blas Life is like having a shortage of breath because in life, I want to be successful and go to the NFL. But it you’re out of breath, you’re not worried about girls, you’re worried about… breathing! If you want to be successful, as much as you want to breathe, then you’ll have a chance! Needing to breathe is like getting a rope tied around your neck and strangling you. But when you take a puff of your inhaler it’s like freedom. I could be successful and take a puff of my inhaler and breathe.

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Life by Kyla It is a story, an adventure, and a journey that won’t end till you say it does. We learn new things every day that will either disappoint you or make you have a reason to live life for as long as you can. But it is up to you to either end your journey early or stop your adventure forever. It is all up to you. If you believe you should stop, end, or close this story we call life forever, you choose. Have hope.

Blank Page by Nizhoni I’m sitting here, with a blank page in front of my face and the pen just lying there like it died. “Blue lines and one red line.” no, it’s too short, too lame. I need a good poem


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like Ted Kooser. I tap my finger on the table with a beat, singing like Selena Gomez while trying to think. Then it hit me, I can write about how much I love to sing. I pick up my pen like someone is going to take it from me. I start writing crazy like a speeding car. I drop my pencil. I take my paper and raise it up in the air, smiling like the joker. I dash to my teacher like I was running in a marathon. I jump up and down with joy and excitement like I got money for less than a minute. That face disappeared like a missing puzzle after she told me it was too much of a story like Toy Story. Once again, I’m sitting here with a blank page in front of my face.

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Stars by Jack Look at the stars. Each one is a person waiting to break out of their bubble to become a new person. Each star is one of your dreams, filling up and falling when full. Stars appear when you close your eyes and only see thoughts. Look closer and you will see life. Each star represents what you want them to represent. There is no limit. Think, dream, and fill the bubble.

My Future by Casandra They say that life is short but it is the longest thing you do. The hardest action is deciding what you are here for. Today, you see no one striving for the life we have. No one wants to become a doctor, a teacher, someone so important. It changes the very lives we have. I see that a life worth living dwindles in the eyes of the hopeless. I see that these eyes belong to the very kids, our future generations,


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the ones to carry on our legacy. Within them, a battle rages with their hope to become the person to change the world and the hopelessness of the life they have and the limited opportunities they must overcome. I tell myself, I will not do that. I tell myself, I will overcome these things. But there are still those times when you will see hopelessness in my eyes. You will see the battle rage inside me. But it is I, who will choose my fate, my life, my victories, my world.

Twice the Love by Sabine My Chinese mom loved me so much, she followed the saying, “If you love somebody, set them free.” I don’t know much about her, but I bet she’s a lot like me. She left me with a note when I was three days old. When she made that decision, she gave me the chance at twice the love. I don’t know how she felt then, but I hope she would happy if she saw me now.

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Fast-forward thirteen years later. My mom is a strong, intelligent, and an amazing woman. She sacrificed her job, and now juggles seven kids. She is like superwoman, whose duties are to love and care for her children. Her heart is as warm as a furnace on a winter’s day. She goes through life as if it were a game and plays to win. She is the bow on a present that ties the whole family together. My mom gave me the love my Chinese mom wished for. And every year with my mom, I stand in a park holding a balloon with a note on it. I make sure that I don’t let go, as if my life was on the line. And when I release it, we watch it float up into the sky until it is the size of a poppy seed. The note on the balloon tells my Chinese mom, “Happy Mother’s Day! I love you!”


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Forget-me-not by Kyla Forget-me-not, this is a symbol of love, of remembering. It has five blue pedals full of memories of the ones I loved and lost. My great grandparents started their life together with love, love that won’t ever end. My red necklace was given to me from my grandma. I believed I would always be safe with it. My little sister was really scared one day. I gave my necklace to her and told her that this red, shiny, and round necklace will keep her safe. All of my lovely and painful memories are a part of me, memories I will love forever. Forget-me-not. Remember me forever.

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Until by Jack Until a new beginning is made, until we can figure out what we want, until we can make everything as good as possible, we have to think of the simpler things. Until we can dream big, until we can live our lives to the fullest, we have to look back at what we have done wrong, what was not right. We have to fix it before everything else. Until we can leave and remember what good we have done, until.


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Hand in Hand by Winona We stand hand in hand, a proud and strong Lakota nation. We wipe away each other’s tears from those hurtful racist words whispered in our ear so the teacher won’t hear. It’s as if punches were coming out of their mouth, making us weak, not proud but sad, sad to be who we really are: Indian; as we put our own Native culture down. Grandmother earth, unčí maka, did not put us here, just to be shot down and portrayed in movies as big tall ugly beasts. It’s pronounced Indian, not Injun. I hear these fake compliments, “I have Injun blood in me so they are cool now.” It’s pronounced Indian, not Injun as we say the movies aren’t accurate. Damn right while people play Injun, like chief Sitting Bull. It’s pronounced Indian, not Injun. If you slit my wrist, you will see my Indian blood drip down ever so slowly as thick as molasses oozing out. The mean hateful words

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turn it dark red and thick. But I am proud. Our battle scars show the tough battles we fought to get this far. We’re so close to being free and slowly gaining respect. We pick ourselves up, dusting each other off and cracking a smile. We stand hand in hand again, stronger than ever.

Being Me by Anpa'o When I was younger, I wished I wasn’t brown. I wished that I didn’t have my name. Where do you hear Anpa’o? I wished I could be lighter like my peers or have straight hair, instead of curly. I wished I were white. I wanted to be able to relate to the things on TV, being well-off instead of struggling. I guess why I wanted it so bad was because it seemed like the perfect life. Whereas when they showed brown people, they were always being shamed. I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to be normal. It took me a while to love myself. It wasn’t an easy,


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1-2 step process. It took time. And in that time, I realized how amazing it was to be brown, to be Indian, to be black. It felt amazing to accept myself, to fully appreciate my culture, my family, my history, me. It’s hard to love yourself because society finds it morally acceptable to pick at yourself. But no, it isn’t okay. It’s okay to be brown; it’s okay. It’s okay to be different.

Drum Boy by Wambdi Doom, doom, doom: the sound of a drumstick hitting the drum. It sounds like a fast heart beat at a powwow when the first contest starts. Your feet are in sync with the drum. You start to dance. You improvise your every move. It feels like you are daydreaming

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and your feet start to move. You don’t notice it, but they are. When you get in motion, it’s toward the end. If you’re in shape, you never want the song to end. But at four verses, it has to. Your confidence raises up, up, and away. After the contest, you feel like you did everything you could do. When you think about all the mistakes you made in that song, you try to avoid them in the next one. It’s like trying to fix trust.

Don't Fall by Jack Life is like parkour. Getting bad grades in school is like failing a new trick or jump that you have been trying for months. We all go through this stage but we build it up again to get good grades and complete that trick. Completing my goals makes me move more freely in the world with no mistake.


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This step will make everything come together. When you make a goal, you should achieve it. Jump down and make everything right in your world. When you go to college, think about your life more and more, finish your path to greatness. Get the career you deserve. Make the path complete and finish the stages. Keep learning about things, but start teaching. Make your life like the ways of parkour.

Right Here by Nicole I am the lavender that is waving in the wind, the friendly bee that does not sting, and the sweet smell in the air. The three bushes are sharing the place so fair. I am the purple flower blooming on top. and the bees they fly and hop. Spreading out the smell and the flower. This is my strongest power. I am the cherry tree that looks like a queen. She represents home so beautifully. The cherry blossoms smell like home. The red cherries taste like home. The wind that is blowing through the branches sing of home. I am my mother’s tasty fondue. Home and love is represented in the tasty dish

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of melted and salty cheese with the warm bread. I am my mother’s brave offspring and the quilt my mom makes with her hands. My mother and I are in a never-ending dance, connected forever in faith. I am the pictures that were not seen many years ago, captured in a dark cave for many years. I was alone and I never cried angry tears right here, where I always was. And nowhere, I will always belong. Right here you will find me.

I Am by Star I am the fresh white seeds inside the juicy red flesh. I bleed through your mouth and stain your fingertips. I am a pomegranate. I am the perfect fit of the beaded hide on my feet. It’s what I live for. I know when I dance on grass that unčí maka smiles to know my race still exists. She cries rain of happiness. I am my red beaded moccasins. I am calm and peaceful before I was “discovered” by the Wasicu hoksila.


Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants

I feel the bears and deer migrating off my land. It makes me sad. But I can always rely on my history to make me better. I am the Black Hills. You are Indian Land! The picture tells the white man. I agree. It reminds me of when they came and took everything; of when the wasicu hoksila came and massacred at Sand Creek. But that’s only the beginning. I am everything that was and will be.

Guardian by Presilino I am my father’s reflection and my brothers’ guardian. I am put here to watch over them and keep their minds straight, exactly like my father does. I told them that even though we do not have the same dad, our blood cannot separate us because we are like super glue and alike. I was told to stay true to only you and reject the small-minded liars because they will not be there for you, just like they told you. Take it from me, I have dug myself a hole that not even Houdini could get out of.

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Denver Center for International Studies Speaks!

Death by Life by Ethan Life is a hungry critter, and picks off the weak. I am weak. Life charges at me, it’s multi-horned head goring me. My inner liquids meant to be kept concealed by flesh seeps into the callused design. I remember the painting by Van Gogh. No bodies accumulate on the soil below to see far away dreams mate with beauty. The lights, drowning in fog but drinking bliss steadily strain the deepest emotions. The clouds are denser than star matter, acting as a barrier between heaven and fake angels. The artist is prohibited from discovering a new color, for the world does not allow lighter and darker shades of new creation. My eyes drop from my head, splitting open even with the snow acting as nature’s cold cotton. Colorado watches my spirit make the sea level of lost consciousness overflow. My family resides where creatures of the cold lie, and wait for an avalanche to quench their hunger for frostbite. We lost life in a place where finding happiness is as common as gold in the frozen-over streams. My Atheist Angel looks on at my demise. So many glances have been dislodged so they focus on me. But her gaze is blank, as blank as a canvas that puts the heavens and earth in perspective. She does not cry.


Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants

She knows that I am just another star that seeks energy off of her otherworldly solar flares. She is the inventor of my happiness, and she has the patents. I hold my eighth grade yearbook in my long-finger-nailed hand, as the pages, brown from my murky tears of nostalgia, drip with melted snow. Allies, enemies, gods, workers, thieves, murderers, all will reside in this book of mine. Paid 8 bucks for it. Does my life kill me because I loathe the creature that resides within the spiked head that impales me?

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Denver Center for International Studies Speaks!

You Can't Change Who I Am by Sophie A baby tatanka, new growth sweetening the air, nuzzling its mother, so young and free. I am from the backs of horses, tossed in their flowing manes and tails, my friends of the wind. I come from the sign of a newborn bison, snuggling with their mother. Las Pedras Ranch, my home makoche, open sky and wide plains. Growing strong, old enough to take care of herself, yet still needing the comfort of the herd. I’ve known her for all my life, throughout the years: memories, preschool, ballet, gymnastics. Why, oh why did grade school separate us? I am a cat, stalking through the under growth, catching birds, climbing trees.


Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants

The mashed potatoes, creamy, garlicy, smooth down my throat, the butter melting perfectly. I am from Ireland, Wales, and Sweden. So far away, yet so close to home. No traditions to be passed down, but love and looks will suffice.

Maximum by Maxwell I am a very warm guiding mother. I am a soft tasty Indian taco. The aroma reminds me of my tribe. The people around me Influence my actions day by day. The warmth of soup heats my belly. The taste touches my tongue and soothes my taste buds. All the trees reminds me of how great a person can become and how hard it is to knock that greatness down. I am me.

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Denver Center for International Studies Speaks!

This is Me by Spencer I came from one place but traveled to other parts of the world. My mom and dad are the ones that bring me. I have tried food from everywhere. When I look around the world, I see two things: good and evil happening everywhere. Sometimes I have a hard time, but my parents are always there for me. Sometimes I complain. I say my life sucks. But the truth is, my life is pretty good. And, then we adopted my sister. I thought it would be horrible having a sister and all. But I was wrong. I have lots of good times with her, even though sometimes she can be tough. My life might be easy. My life might be hard. But this is the life I was meant to have.


Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants

What makes me who I am? by Safari My backpack makes me who I am. I know what you’re saying. How does something as stupid as a backpack make me who I am? Well, my backpack doesn’t just carry school supplies, but it carries my future. Every day I come to school. If I choose to slack off or work hard, I determine what my future is going to look like. From books and pencils to houses and cars, my backpack carries my future. My mother also plays a big part of making me who I am. She shows me how the struggle can be real sometimes. She is short but her voice is very mighty. She taught me to “follow my dreams of I’ll spend the rest of my life working for someone who did!” Chicken also makes me who I am. And again you may ask, How can a food make me who I am? Let me tell you, it is not so much the taste but the history. Chicken is the root of soul food. Soul food came from slavery days when us African Americans were forced to make food for the white people. I will never forget the hard work,

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the discrimination. Finally, my grandma’s house makes me who I am. One day I want to be like her. I want to have a house where people can come when they’re worried and stressed, so you can hear my words and be blessed. I will own a place made out of paint and stone, a place where you would want to call home. Hopefully it is not in the hood, but either way it would make you feel good. So who am I? I am Safari, a person, who like my name, is very adventurous. I am caring and give good advice. I care about the future and my life. I am short but very mighty, and I don’t give up easily. I am a representation of my heritage. This is who I am.


Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants

Race by Taylor I am white, white like the color of my skin, white like the general assumption that I will do good, white like getting the job someone else deserved more, white like a society that throws away talent based on fear of darker skin. I am oblivious to racism. Never will I truly grasp the concept. Never will I feel how much pain it can cause. Never will I understand just how broad the hate is. Never will I feel like I am not wanted because of my skin. When I speak, they praise because even the fight against racism is led by white. Even though we claim to be against it, we follow the same pattern because even the anti-racists put their white people on pedestals. Even if we find it disgusting, racism is pattern etched to our brains.

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Denver Center for International Studies Speaks!

Who I Am by Jack My father is my leader. He always says, “the work is nothing compared to the victory.” He brings my family close. He works every day, keeping us in luxury while he sleeps on the ground. My greatest goal is to be my father. I am the warm bowl of matzo ball soup. The smell binds me with the past. It comes from a recipe generations old. I’ll never forget how it brings us together. I show my gratitude to the brick walls that protect me from the cold. This is the place that brings us all together. The sturdy wall protects us and keeps us warm. I am destined for adventure. It reminds me of my father who used it most. It has developed over generations of solitude. Now I have the choice to change the past and start a new tradition. I am always the one who is overlooked. People think I am small, but I will prove society wrong. I will start a new world.


Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants

I by Aileen I am the delicious cheesy bacon noodles. I am made of lots of tasty spices that make my family happy. I am made of cheese, noodles, spices, bacon, and love that gives me strength. I am from the mountains of Northwestern Colorado. The mountainous peaks, trees, and life refresh me. They are full of life that brings people together. My family comes to get away from the city rush. I use my artistic ability whenever I can. My mom, my older brother, and I all share this ability. I am the artist my mom is. My mother’s warm cooking helps us feel safe. She sacrifices her time for us. She teaches is how to lead a good life so we will be successful. She is the guardian of my family. The white buffalo, majestic and strong. She is independent and yet still part of a herd.

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She stands out from the rest in her own ways but is similar to the rest.

The Past by Quetzaltlaneziahuatxochi The past is history, the present is the future What happened a while ago does not affect you directly. What you do now can change everything. Yes, people are bound to mess up eventually. Everything in the past has affected where you are today. But you can’t change history. You can change today, so it won’t be the same in the future, by living in the past.


Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants

This is Me by Priscilla Take one day at a time is the quote that follows me every day. When I ask many questions about my future, “take one day at a time,� is what my mother would tell me. The hand that wiped my tears when I cried is the same hand that guides me through life. The single mother of me and one other, she created my life, filled with troubles and greatness. She is the one who makes my favorite food. She cooks mashed potatoes on my birthday, a holiday, or special occasion. This special meal bonds my family together. I will never forget how she makes it with warmth and love. This is me, my life. Take one day at a time.

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Denver Center for International Studies Speaks!

No by Shakaila Why? That’s the question. Stripes on their back as deep as the ocean, it would take years to stitch. Picking cotton but 110 pounds wasn’t enough. Asking for soap in the nicest way but you get hit just because of your skin color. It’s like turning away a hopeless, stray dog. You get sold at an auction like an old worthless antique. You ask for food to provide enough energy in order to work for the day but instead, asking like a puppy begging for a piece of bacon. Why did Abraham only free “some” and not all? It’s like giving a child a cookie, but not the other. How come when they tried to get away, they would just be another white man’s pet? Now God has answered their prayers


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for many days and nights. Glory, glory over the green earth. Sun and stars take up the story. No one shall ever bleed again. So shout deliverance for their freedom. This is banned forever from fountain and river, freedom breathes again. To my ancestors‌

My History by Mical I am the savory chicken and the soft delicious dumplings my grandmother has made year after year. I am painted with the rainbow and bred for speed. I am remembered as brave but mostly I am strong. I am sturdy as the apple tree that has been planted on our lawn, strong and sturdy enough to climb. I am your support passed down year after year one generation to the next. I am small and silver yet filled to the brim with memories from the past.

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I am a wolf stalking through the forest, strong and powerful, but gentle at will. I am me.

Tired and Struggling by Anpa'o It’s a struggle. A brown person in this world is disregarded like a disease. Sometimes I wish people wouldn’t stereotype me. I wish people didn’t put me in this box because of my skin tone. I wish for a lot of things that obviously don’t happen. It’s difficult going to a school, down the hallway and all the white people side-eyeing me because of who I am. I am tired. Why do people think they’re better than me because they’re lighter than me? It’s ridiculous and I’m tired.


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Love for the Game by Wambdi 10 seconds left‌ 9 I need to shoot. The countdown is like a rocket. 8 7 seconds left 6 I need to pass and cut, 5 no other choice 4 all on you 3 position your feet 2 get set. 1 Shoot when you have a shot to win. It’s like cutting the right wire on a bomb 0 Ka-doosh: the smell of a tie, overtime. If you make it, the crowd is like Super Bowl XLVIII and if you lose, it is like when the Beatles broke up. Basketball is life. When you get fouled, those are the downs to your life. Free throws are when your friends help in some way. If you win, it will be LOUDER THAN A BOMB!!!

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Denver Center for International Studies Speaks!

Wondering Spirit by Nicole I am on this path of life. I see mud and big stones in my way. I hear birds singing beautifully, today. I was raised by my parents, showing me how to walk and to keep going forward. Stumbling, hitting my forehead on the stone in my way. My parents are always with me Even though I don’t see them now, I know I will see them somehow. I chose this hard path. It is challenging and better for me. All I want is to be the person I see. Listening to the woodpecker’s melody and stepping on sharp stones that hurt my feet, I am still going steady with my heartbeat. I do not regret my choice of life, following the stony way next to the loud river. It is not always that bitter. I am seeking silence without leaving the river, around the bend it joins the silver blue lake. It is clear and quiet for my sake. Water is my true love. We are arguing and splashing around, yet there is still that strong bond. Wandering into a forest, I see squirrels running up the trees. The trees are stroking me with their leaves.


Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants

Spring is finally awakening, trees covering themselves in smooth, light dresses looking like most important mistresses. I am wandering into sunlight, walking out to the field full of flowers to see their wonderful blossoms’ powers. I rest my feet in the cool water of the lake, wondering what experiences more it will take, silently awaiting more challenges.

The Game by Star Life is a game of basketball. I study and study, then take it to the hoop. When I turn the ball over, I feel like giving up. When I make the basket, it’s the best. I scored high on my test. When I get called for a foul, I was judged for my race, criticism from people full of themselves. When we get blown out, it feels like I gave up. But I always get back on the court.

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Denver Center for International Studies Speaks!

The Ups and Downs of Painting by Sophie Life is a blank canvas, opening up an opportunity to graduate high school and get a steady job. Heading off to college is like having my painting in a museum. A degree in astrophysics creates a perfect painting with a PhD, such a high degree, in astrophysics, of course. A cat eats my canvas, while I run out of paint. That’s part of life, and I must endure it.

Untitled by Ethan International simplicity, overrides my cortex. Phones illuminate. Bones, like minds, are soon to break. The tide of wars hex, hypnotizes us. Death and gore give rise to blood.


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These saddened tones titter at my co-dependency. My blackened soul, so bitter, so alone. Hope to lose serenity. The failure is a friend. Keep it happy. Keep it near. Bad things comfort me, and the good I have to fear. The lord man says acid rain, not a spot of sky. My putrid ghouls relax the pain, gives the Cyclops an eye. I hate to look at the mirror, Mom said it’s not polite to stare. I’m alone, no love. No one to care, although I see them everywhere. When I live the life I lead, is led to a massacre. I’m bleeding, not retreating. Make me suffer. When I die, I know I’ve earned my blood. I fought myself for it, killed myself for it, mounted my head for it. The blood I draw from my self-hatred, ignited the torches. I sighted my contagion. Stay away. Stay far away,

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from this hospital patient. bed-bound, chained down, to a life-on-wheels. The screech of security breach is very real. My brain drowns, in itself, self-obsessed. Help is death. Infant years, were different years. I sit and hear, my wrists be seared by the lava of my imagination. My passions aged with carnivores. Just shut the skin tight door. Walk across the rigid floor, count the tiles, don’t let you see you smile.

A Mountain by Priscilla Climbing a mountain is like growing up. Starting at the bottom, you start to grow up or go up the mountain. Sometimes, you will fall a few steps down because of crumbly rocks.


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Decision by Taylor Life is the sum of experiences that we encounter as we go through life. Day to day struggles and triumphs are experienced by all of the world’s creatures. As human beings, when we encounter a challenge, we have freedom to choose how to react. Every decision that we make leads us down a different road. We will never come to exactly the same crossroads. Every decision that we make has significance. The tiniest choice that we make reverberates through the entire universe.

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Life is Art by Jack I walk up to the canvas of beginnings. I prepare myself for my first stroke, a stroke of life . I want my painting to be original, funny enough just like everybody else. Some people try to darken my painting to brighten theirs, though it does the opposite. It makes me want to prove them wrong but there are the few who want to support me and boost me with their words Throughout my work, I have many choices: be rich and cheat others or poor, but honest and kind? Help others or go alone? Carry my family or be satisfied and not give back?


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Slender by Aileen I am misunderstood. Everyone hates me. I am exiled from civilization so I just hang out in the forest. Yet people still chase me and there is always an accident. If nobody wants me, I just want to be left alone. But children play with anyone, as long as they don’t make them cry. So I play with them in my forest. But they always run away after a day or 2. That is why I am exiled, blamed for something I didn’t do. People make up things, like that I hate people I just want to be accepted. But because of them, I am alone.

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Soccer Life by Spencer I go up for the shot, but it gets blocked. They think I’m too young and that I can’t do it. But I can. I try to show them, but they don’t pay attention. They don’t even give me a chance. But later I scored. I proved to them that I can do it! They start to listen. We win. We did it! They don’t think they’re better than me, no one does. We win the next game. I go to the finals and win. My life is complete.


Xpress Yourself Workshop Participants

Expectations by Anpa'o It’s really hard with school sometimes. Just because of my skin tone, people expect me to flunk, and be addicted to drugs and alcohol. But I am thankful for people putting me in a box because it’ll only make me work harder, be the best, go to college, be better than you, exceed your expectations of me. I am tired because I have first world problems.

Happy by Wambdi Happy is a choice you make. Happy for me is when I see the girl of my dreams or when I am able to see my buddy Jamon at a Pow Wow. Happy is when I am able to dance as hard as I can, or when the girl of my dreams and I have the longest conversation. Our conversations are as long as I-90. Happy is when Jamon and I just get to talk at Pow Wows. But the biggest happiness for me is when I make the guy move on the girl I like.

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Denver Center for International Studies Speaks!

Travels by Ethan With a sickness of superiority, women’s rights are hanged. We drag our friends behind us. They never see our fangs, no matter the cost for another. Our conscience remains fresh and untainted. We forget the identity of those we screwed over, might as well be nameless. The smoke from cigarettes clouds our vision. The alcohol in our water drowns our precision. Christ has yet to be revealed. We look toward the sun till we’re blind. Our kind actions are concealed under rubble of ruined lives. The American flag waves high and proud, but lies slack with no support from the wind. If we have allies, we can massacre crowds without an army. We’re an empty skin. You can dream a bridge to glory, have it crack when you’re halfway across. You can build with bare hands a story only to let it slip and cry over your loss. You can paint a world of color, set it in the sun to let it dry, then have it insulted by another. And you see it through ugly eyes. You can lead our life to laughter, to a place where death is as rare as sadness. I can’t care enough about carnage, how much exists with each step. You need to leap over the hardships


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and bathe within what’s left.

Misunderstood by Sophie Squiggling through the soil, long, thin, slimy. Misunderstood eyeless, forever eating dirt to dig a new tunnel. Worm Yes, it’s a lame little worm. But they are misunderstood! Don’t dis the worms! They are essential to life!

Fulfilling a Long Lost Dream by Nicole Freedom for all shouts the topless woman, red color over her chest. Leaving behind her breast covering business vest We are equal. We are responsible for our own destiny Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, do not mess with me Just like Mulan, I dream of being a mighty warrior Still there is this huge, challenging barrier.

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Lizzy Stanton, how proud I am of this wonderful fighting mother who made the women in 1848 tougher. So long ago, this encouraging miracle seems to fade away. Everything looks like dark, dull, dreary shades of gray. What should we do? Queen Elizabeth, the first, great queen of England lead us into the battle for the holy land. Fight for today daughters and sons of this beautiful mother earth. Learn that we are not separated by our birth. We will believe whatever we got taught from everybody else. The heavy responsibility lies on yourself, whether to see or ignore the tears our mothers have cried for so long. Please, Ladies and Gentlemen, just learn to get along.


Denver Center for International Studies Speaks  
Denver Center for International Studies Speaks  
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