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When do you need to think about colorectal cancer screening? It could be sooner than you think.

You can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by:

Getting screened

Eating a healthy diet

Avoiding alcohol

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People without a family history of colorectal cancer should begin screening at age . If you have a family history, you may need to start screening sooner. There are many options for screening, including lower-cost at-home tests. Talk with your healthcare provider about when to start screening and the best screening option for you.

Not smoking

Exercising

Learn more at uvahealth.com/colonscreen or email your questions to crcscreening@virginia.edu. Maintaining a healthy weight

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INSIDE 5 LETTER FROM SONIA A letter from the Director telling about the experience and what to expect. 9 ON WRITING Professor Bonnie Gordon writes about writing and shares experiences.

22 USING VOICE Zaneyah Bryant discusses how she uses her voice to get things done in the community and beyond.

This issue is curated by and features original works from The Girls Are Alwrite participants. Readers will have an opportunity to become acquainted with this community’s next generation of writers and thinkers. It is our hope that this issue allows the Charlottesville community to see the talent our youth possesses as well as allow new and fresh perspectives of an ostracized and oppressed demographic to be heard. It is time we acknowledge that Black and Brown girls’ voices apart of us and their imaginations are to be respected.

Vinegar Hill Magazine is a space that is designed to support and project a more inclusive social narrative, to promote entrepreneurship, and to be a beacon for art, culture, and politics in the Central Virginia region. | Contributing Writers Sonia Montalvo, Brande McCleese, and many others. l Photos by Locs Image/ Marley Nichelle unless otherwise specified. Advertising and Sales Manager(s) SteppeMedia Publisher Eddie Harris Layout & Design Sarad Davenport © 2021 Vinegar Hill Magazine. All rights reserved. w w w. v i n e g a r h i l l m a g a z i n e . c o m | V I N E G A R H I L L M A G A Z I N E   3


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Letter from the

Director Sonia Montalvo

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s a black child growing up in the conservative town of Charlottesville, I can’t recall very many teachers that would affirm me or my love of writing and reading. I recall as far back as third grade when I was super proud to have had the highest reading score in my class. The assistant principal of my elementary school at that time couldn’t fathom that I could read that well, so she took me to her office and made me re-read the passage several times until my score was significantly lower than the first time. “I knew they had your score wrong. You can head back to class now.” Instances like this would continue to happen to me throughout my time as a student up until I graduated from high school. Instances that would attempt to discourage me from sharing my thoughts and ideas with teachers who had no interest in uplifting me. It was the village outside of my educational experience that would affirm my learning and encourage me to go for my goals. At a young age I knew that If I wanted a space authentic to myself, that it would be up to me to create it. I have tons of journal entries from my childhood that are solely dedicated to my early ideas of what creating a platform, or rather a village for young Black and Brown girls to share their stories would look like. It wasn’t until after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, a move back home from Houston Texas to Charlottesville Virginia, and participation in a 6 week business bootcamp run by community legend Kaye Monroe that I would manifest those journal entries into a reality. In 2018 I submitted a proposal for funding to UVAs Equity Center through long time mentor Bonnie Gordon that would ultimately change the course of how The Girls Are Alwrite would expand within the community. Three years later, as an organization, we have walked alongside over 40 young women writers in the Central Virginia area and hosted 4 intensive workshops and camps in the community. I am brought to tears when I think about the fact that young innovative girls of color come together every year to be bold w w w. v i n e g a r h i l l m a g a z i n e . c o m | V I N E G A R H I L L M A G A Z I N E   5


and unapologetic both in their skin and their writings. While this is a life long dream of mine to see girls of this community create imaginative original writings authentic to their lives, there is no way that I could do this alone. Before I get out of the way and allow you all as readers to see the beauty the girls have created, I would like to acknowledge the entities and persons who have assisted in making The Girls Are Alwrite a continued reality. Major thanks to Director Ben Allen and the Equity Center for their gracious funding to move forward the vision of our organization. To Bonnie Gordon, I appreciate you for standing in and assisting us with your insight and your willingness to get in and support in whatever capacities you can. To Madison House, thank you for your continued support of our goals in working with students in this community. You all have been extremely helpful. To Rebecca Deeds and the Morven Farms, We are so appreciative of your time and efforts in making TGAA happen without a hitch every year. We are thankful that our students have been able to create pieces and enjoy what nature has to offer at The Morven. To Sarad Davenport and Eddie Harris of Vinegar Hill Magazine, Thank you for standing beside me and pushing me to become a better servant of my community. The genuine and unconditional support you all have shown me is impossible to repay, but I will spend

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the rest of my life singing your praises. To Kaye Monroe, thank you for pushing me to be a better Founder and person. You are an inspiration to so many and there is no way The Girls Are Alwrite would exist without your tutelage and guidance. To the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Virginia, it is with a full heart that I say thank you for letting us as an organization, pilot our program within your clubs. The opportunity to work with seven of your students in 2018 has propelled into something that I could have never imagined. To my mother, Joann Jamison, thank you for your unconditional love and unwavering encouragement. All that money you spent at Barnes and Noble to push my love of reading and poetry did not go to waste. You are the reason I will never quit. To the parents of our participants, thank you for allowing us to be a part of your children’s lives and for trusting us to pour into them. You all are amazing and are responsible for cultivating the pure talent of the young writers we get to witness every year. To my TGAA Tribe, Brande McCleese, Navi Johnson, Tessa Thompson, Arnice Cottom, and LaNija Brown; We did this together! I am indebted to you ladies and forever grateful for the way you go above and beyond to make these workshops happen. Thank you for the ways in which you love the girls of our community. You are the backbone of this organization and I’m so happy to know you. To our interns both past

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and present, you all have pushed through barriers for this organization and exceeded my expectations year after year. To our 2021 intern, Taylor Brooks, you have been an absolute gem to The Girls Are Alwrite, thank you for joining us this year. To the many partner organizations who have worked with us throughout the years, we say thank you for your continued support of this program. Last but absolutely not least, to the participants past and present of The Girls Are Alwrite, you are absolutely beautiful. I’m so proud of the work you all have done.Thank you for sharing your hearts with us. You all are the only reason we show up to work. We are all so honored to know you.Thank you for allowing us to be there to cheer you on as you share your gifts and talents.

sharing in the beauty of the young women writers you’ll soon be introduced to, that you are equally as responsible and a part of this village as the rest of us. Sonia Montalvo is the Founding Director of The Girls Are Alwrite and a lover of communities. She is a 2015 graduate of Elizabeth City State University, where she earned a B.A in Communications Studies. Former Journalist, Sonia has written for the likes of Atlanta Black Star, Vinegar Hill Magazine HBCU Buzz, and has been featured on several podcasts. She is the author of two poetry books, What if I Fly? published in 2016 and Ad-Lib which was published in 2019. Sonia has worked in the Non Profit sector for 8 years and has a passion for working specifically with Black and Brown Girls through mentorship. She will be attending North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the spring as a commuter student for her Master’s in English with a concentration in African American Literature.

The opportunity to work with seven of your students in 2018 has propelled into something that I could have never imagined.

Black and Brown girls of this community deserve to

be heard. Their voices matter. Their existence matters, and they will continue to spark change in both their communities and the world. The Girls Are Alwrite seeks to be both a village for girls who have stories to share and a safe space for them to create. My only wish for you as a reader is to know that by reading this issue and

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On writing “Writing gives me what I think dancers have on stage in their relation to gravity and space and time. It is energetic and balanced, fluid and in repose. And there is always the possibility of growth; I could never hit the highest note so I’d never have to stop.”

Toni Morrison (1981) by Bonnie Gordon Toni Morrison made writing an enduring disturbance that agitates and never resolves. On August 6, 2019, news feeds broadcast her death, and the world began the work of remembering a woman who made memory a creative practice. In an essay published two days after her death, she wrote, “I urged memory to metamorphose itself into metaphorical and imagistic associations. But writing is not simply recollecting or reminiscing or even epiphany. It is doing.” In Charlottesville August 6, 2019 I read the news at the second day of the first Girls are Alwrite camp; a summer program founded and directed by Sonia Montalvo which began in 2018.

If I were a different writer, I could effectively convey the excitement of this new program for Black and Brown girls as an embodiment of the spirit of

was then a rising 7th grader, wrote a breathtaking poem that projects her own brave creativity. “I’m Fearless. I’m a Dancer. I’m Unique.”

I’m Fearless. I’m a Dancer. I’m Unique. —Sa’haja Sawyer

Rising seventh grader Dior Dennis wrote, “most of all I am looking forward to 7th grade. I am excited to learn new things about math, reading and science and my favorite, history. And my family will help me every step of the way.”

Three years later, the Girls are still writing. They wrote on Zoom in August 2020 as school systems began to announce their plans for remote learning. This fierce program showed the power of reimagining education; of w w w. v i n e g a r h i l l m a g a z i n e . c o m | V I N E G A R H I L L M A G A Z I N E   9 Toni Morison. Each young writer began that week with her own bound book of blank pages. Each one finished the week with a collection of her thoughts, feelings, words, stories, and sounds. Sa’haja Sawyer, who


using the zoom box to think outside the education box. This year, over a year into the global pandemic they convened with masks and hand sanitizer. Julia Dorta wrote an op-ed that you can read here about the shift from a virtual to an inperson writing camp. She thought about drawing with sidewalk chalk; turning a country road into a canvas. Taylor Brooks, this year’s multi-talented intern, made a hopscotch design and led the jump rope hilarity. The in-person version of The Girls are Alwrite invoked what my music colleague Kyra Gaunt describes as the Magic of Black Girls’ play. As I watched I was reminded of a beautiful article Dr. Gaunt published last August in the New York Times in which she argues for the musicianship, teaching, and learning of games that Black girls play. “And during a pandemic year with shelter-in-place orders and productive rebellion, spreading a little Black girl joy is needed more than ever.” Thanks to the tireless energy, creativity, and vision of Sonia Montalvo, The Girls are Alwrite is now a Charlottesville institution. The word institution here means more than an organization; it connotes influence, amplification, and incubation. Writing about Elizabeth State University, the HBCU she attended, Sonia wrote, “ECSU nurtured me and allowed me to grow as an individual with a voice. It has given me a sense of pride about myself that I will continue to carry.” She has used that voice to make change. Sonia’s passionate commitment to words and to the girls themselves is an inspiration. She has a contagious spark that I couldn’t miss when I met her in the steam lab of City of Promise in 2016. A gifted writer, Sonia saw at an incredibly young age the potential of writing for social change. She saw that locally and nationally, we have not worked cohesively to meet the specific needs of Black and Brown Girls, and she developed a program designed to address these needs through creative writing. In each iteration of

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The Girls are Alwrite, Sonia brilliantly manifests a community among women and girls of color and gives girls tools for creative expression. As the girls fill journals with words and drawings, as they record songs, as they tell stories; they create memories and traditions that fly in the face of institutions that have worked to render women’s voices silent and invisible. They live out Audre Lorde’s imperative that “poetry is not a luxury.” The magic of The Girls are Alwrite rests in giving the girls the space and power to tell their stories and in celebrating their creative practice. It encourages them to speak in the tradition of Toni Morison, who did so much to amplify black women’s voices, Black institutions,

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Photo of Intern Taylor Brooks by Demareya Mosley

and black passion. Dr. Bonnie Gordon is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Virginia and a founding Faculty Director at the University of Virginia’s Equity Center. She plays viola and studies Music History. Bonnie is the mother of three children and has been happily married to her husband Manuel for 20 years. Dr. Gordon is the Director of UVA Arts Mentors, a program that pairs students of the university with students from the community to provide exposure to the arts. Author of several books centered around music history,race,and gender; Bonnie’s writing works to amplify the experiences of early modern music.

Photo of Julia’s artwork by Demareya Mosley

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Life Before and After Quarantine Photo of Julia Dorta drawing by Marley Nichelle

by Julia Dorta

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uring this week in The Girls Are Alwrite camp, we played outside one day. I drew with sidewalk chalk. While I drew, I had so many ideas and inspiration. And now a few days later, I know that I felt more inspiration than at any moment during this year’s quarantine. The feeling of being outside drawing with people, in person, felt so much better than drawing by myself in my room, a feeling I had grown used to a while ago. COVID restrictions have been getting lighter since the vaccines came out, so naturally, things like camps and schools are beginning to

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go from virtual to in-person, but what are some of the consequences of switching so suddenly? This is my first time being in The Girls Are Alwrite camp in-person, and while I’ve had so much fun, learned so many new things, and even made some friends, I can’t say there aren’t any downsides. It was a lot harder to speak out in person than in the virtual camp. . It was easier to speak to a screen than to people. But a call seems a lot less connecting than being in person. I got to know people better when I was physically with them, not limited to the private zoom chats for conversation.

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There’s also the education aspect; the camp is for learning, after all.. In the virtual camp it was a lot harder to focus. Staring at a screen got boring fast, and I tend to space out a lot too. That’s why school was so hard too; you lost the ability to be connected with the teacher, and they lost the ability to know when you need help without you asking for it.. In person, I got to have the nice bonus of having the teachers there to help keep me going, and I had more inspiration when I was with others that were writing than when I was with myself. Being around others who have a passion and determination for writing inspired me to write more and better. Of course there’s the anxiety factor. Switching to being in person after growing accustomed to interacting

through calls can be a daunting and difficult task for most people. In a call you can easily mute yourself, turn off your camera, whenever you need a break. In real life, you can’t do that. For teens and children especially, I have a feeling that it’ll be harder to do this switch, specifically because they don’t have as much experience with in person social interaction as an adult. Switching can be hard — it was extremely difficult for me — but it isn’t impossible. The most important part is to stay calm, and slowly get used to your surroundings. Sometimes activities you did by yourself can feel so much nicer when you’re with others, even if you’re not talking or close to them. As a society, we need everyone to work together so we can get

through this. Julia Dorta is a rising 9th grader in Albemarle County and will participate in her school’s engineering program this upcoming school year. Julia has always been a lover of science but has found that the need to express herself creatively is just as important. Julia loves to paint, draw, read and write. Born in Miramar Florida to a Venezuelan family, she is the youngest of three siblings. Julia believes that writing and painting is a way to say something without having to say it. Currently studying Spanish Literature, she is learning to see the world in books. Post graduation, she is interested in exploring arts and sciences and is unsure of which she will choose for her career path.

Photo of Julia Dorta jumping rope (also pictured, Alaja Gough, 2021 intern Taylor Brooks and Karlins Johnson) by DeMareya Mosley

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Pieces From Past Years Great Summer Day By Lynashia Booker 

It was a great summer day; I remember it like it was yesterday. My mom and the rest of my family decided that we should go to the river to go tubing. My mom said to us, “we should get out of the house and enjoy the day.” “You’re right, mom. We should go to the river and go tubing.” I told my mom as she talked to the whole family.   We went to the store to get everything that we needed to go tubing. We grabbed all the floats that we needed. We went back home to get ready and to start pumping the floats with air. We soon left to go to the river. My brother got a little scared because it was something he’d never done before. Once everyone made it into the water, we started to float down the river along with the wind.   We made it to an area where we could stop and get out.   “Alright guys, let’s get out now,” my mom said as she was getting out of the river. Once everyone got out of the river, we began to talk about how great the day was and that it was the best day ever.    How we would never forget this day.  The END. 

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A Baby Girl Was Born… By Briasia Booker   On June 14, 2006 a baby girl was born. That girl’s name was Briasia Octavia Elizabeth Booker. That’s me. My mother who was 26 at the time already had 3 kids. 2 girls and 1 boy. Everyone in the hospital room. My grandma, my uncle, my great uncle all in the room stand around. My great uncle looks at me and says bri and to the end my dad adds Asia to finish It off. Then to do my middle names. They gave me the middle names of my great grandmothers. Two days later I went home with my grandma to her house where I stayed for 2 months. Then we moved to Hardy drive where I’ve been since then.  At the age of 6 I lost my dad. He had congestive heart failure. On Memorial Day I was with my grandma and she woke me up in the middle of the night. She told me we had to go to the hospital, so I got up and got dressed and we rushed to the hospital. They told us he had a massive heart attack and didn’t make it. the whole time I was there I didn’t cry. I didn’t show any emotion and I don’t know why through all of it I had my friends or someone to talk to

that’s why it’s always good to have true friends. They can help you through hard times. Having someone to talk to about problems or just to have fun with. Having friends can help you with a lot of your problems.   That’s why at the age of 13.  I always look forward to seeing my friends. Hanging out with my friends helps me stay on the right track because I can always ask for help or advice. When I am with friends and family we always laugh and talk about this.         The Girl with Blue Eyes  by Destiny Johnson  The year was 2005.  It was a normal day for 12-year old Amiya Brown who lived in a small town called Keebler where a lot of poverty took place. Amiya was not a normal girl. She was in fact half-robot half-human in her eyes. She had two beautiful blue eyes, well, that’s at least what her mom said. Everyone at school would pick on her because it was irregular for a black girl to have blue eyes. But all she wanted was to be normal but she knew that her eyes gave her the power to see the future, but only once she has become of age, which was 13. As the year went on, Amiya grew more and more anxious.    *March 3rd 2006  Today is Amiya’s 13th birthday. On this day, she would have her first vision. As the day went on, Amiya began to worry whether it would be good or bad, happy or sad. The clock struck 12 but there was no vision. Suddenly, there was a big BOOM! Amiya’s eyes began to change colors and the light’s flickered on and off until everything just stopped. Something wasn’t right. Amiya went looking for her mom. When she found her,

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Continued from previous page. she had a shocked look on her face.   “What’s wrong?” Amiya asked her mom.  Her mom yelled out, “Your eyes! They’re brown!”  Now, Amiyah had a shocked look on her face. She ran to the mirror and started to cry. Her mother came over and asked, “why are you crying, I thought you wanted to be normal?”  Amiya wiped her face and said, “I did but I think I liked to be different.”  “Well, that’s why you have to be grateful,” said Amiyah’s mom.   “I wish I had my blue eyes back!” Amiyah said with confidence.  The house began to shake at her command, her blue eyes were back, and she felt grateful for everything, even her beautiful blue eyes.       Untitled  by DeShawna Timmons    From the sparkle in her eye  To the fire in her soul  From the magic in her melanin   To the depth of her voice  And the width of her teeth  Her heart like gold  Her skin like silk; honey  Overflowing with grace  She stands tall  Whether that be 6 feet or 2  From the beauty of her style   To the boldness of her voice  Hand crafted with love  Made perfect with her imperfections   She stands proud; tall  She is strong with no muscle   A temple with no structure  Floating with no foundation  She stands tall     A Beautiful Baby Girl was Born  By Dior Dennis    On March 1 2007 a beautiful young lady was born. Her name was Dior Brooks Ann Dennis. My dad said I had a lot of hair. My dad also said I was a very fussy baby. I used to pick food off his plate. My dad also used to call me dirt because I would find worms in the dirt and I would use red dirt as season salt and black dirt as pepper and I would sprinkle the dirt on the worms then we would leave them in the sun for a day. The next day, I would feed the worm to the chickens. I don’t know if they even ate them, but it was fun and that’s where me and my cousins’ bond really formed. My dad also still calls me baby doll or doll baby because when I was little, I looked like a doll from ages 1-5.   I had all the Scooby doo birthday parties. Scooby doo was also my brother’s and my dad’s favorite tv show and movie. My grandma used to tell me about how my first words were “dada” and how every day I would fall asleep on her after we came home from the park. Little did I know that my grandma had cancer and at age 7 I lost her. It was a very hard time for me but my family was always there for me, especially my cousin Semaj and my dad to help me out in the time of need and I spent every weekend at her house which is now owned by my uncle and her house looks completely different when I first saw it redecorated. I couldn’t believe that her house was still there. But most of all I am looking forward to 7th grade. I am excited to learn new things about math, reading and science and my favorite, history. And my family will help me every step of the way.   w w w. v i n e g a r h i l l m a g a z i n e . c o m | V I N E G A R H I L L M A G A Z I N E   1 5


Continued from previous page Protests are Speeches by Sydney Brown Speeches that have powerful meaning  With people marching through cities and towns  Speaking their opinions  Trying to make change  And activists organizing Boycotts  and marches  marching with protesters  and raising awareness for important causes 

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yourlifematterscville.org • Your Life Matters Cville

DEAR BLACK MAN,

The world is constantly pulling you down and attempting to dim your light but please don’t stop shining. We need you, we love you, we care for you. We support you. We hear you and we are listening. We see you. Keep taking up space because we need your existence—your strength, your style, your handsomeness, your swag, your soul, your smile, your eyes, and your mind.

Thank you Black Man. – a Black Woman named Rai

©2020, The Social Light

Visit us on Facebook at Your Life Matters Cville for a list of Free Wellness Resources. For general information, please contact Jackie Martin at jgmarti1@sentara.com or 434-984-5655.

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How I Use

My Voice by Zaneyah Bryant Being a voice for the community is very important to me not only because I enjoy it, but because many people my age are scared to use their voice for social change and what is right. In the summer of 2020 a group of girls including my twin sister Zeniah “Zee” Bryant and our older sister Zyahna Bryant formed a group called the Charlottesville Black Action Youth Committee ( BYAC.) After the killings of both George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it sparked us to form this group to get more youth involved with activism and social change. In June of 2020 our group had our first protest. Though it was a protest, we called it a Block Party. We danced, protested,ate good food and laughed with one another. It was such a positive and joyful time. Since last sum-

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mer when we formed the committee, we have put on a lot of mutual aid events and taken direct actions in our city. Our main goals are mutual aid and taking care of the community. We do things like feed the homeless,deliver food bags to community neighborhoods and help families with their bills. Recently, the city of Charlottesville decided to remove several Confederate statues.On the morning of July 10th, 2021, at 5:35am I woke up in my house along with my sisters and mom. We were so excited to finally see a dream come true. Back in the Spring of 2016 my sister Zyahna Bryant wrote the petition for the Confederate statue at Lee Park to be brought down. After five years of threats, hate mail, and verbal abuse sent to our mom’s job and our home. When the big decision

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Zaneyah Bryant with the Vinegar Hill Curation team photo by Marley Nichelle

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was made, it was more about more than the statues, it was a symbol of progress and resilience finally being heard. Confederate statues are symbols of hate, unfairness, and pain. Being Black and living in Charlottesville is very interesting. It is challenging and racist. Charlottesville is a small city, though we have very big dreams. My dream is for everyone to be able to accept one another for who we are, our different race,color, identities and backgrounds.We are all not equal, and we never will be, but we are coming together to make change and to bring awareness to what is right and fair. Charlottesville has much more work to do, but it’s exciting to see our city moving in a positive direction. Being an activist is about more than protesting. It is important for you to always help in your community and take care of those who aren’t as fortunate as you. BYAC continues to do mutual aid work throughout the community, because we keep us safe!

a part of the brand she helped build with her sisters and family called Black Women Built This. She participated in The Girls Are Alwrite NonFiction group where she wrote under the coaching of Tessa Thompson. She loves pools and water rides. She has shared with her coaches that she plans to continue in her activism and eventually attend a four year college to become either a Therapist or a Lawyer.

Zenayah Bryant is a rising 10th grader at CHS and a young activist here in Charlottesville. Seeing the need for change in her community, Zenayah, affectionately known as Nya, is co-founder of the Charlottesville Black Action Youth Committee and

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Through My Eyes by Demareya Mosley

Photo of DeMareya with her camera by Marley Nichelle

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love taking pictures because it lets me see what I see, but in picture form and it helps me tap into my creative side. Also, it helps me have patience. I want to practice more. I love taking pictures, but I also like to edit every one of the pictures I take. I think that I will continue to take pictures in high school and probably in college.    I think my mom and my counselors will continue to help me tap into my creative side and I have them to thank for that. Sometimes I get stuck, but I dig deep and get it done. When I get older, I would like to pursue creative arts because that is best for me.   The first picture I want to talk about is my tree

picture. Once I saw that tree I knew then and there that it would look cool. I love mushrooms and they were all over the tree, so I took a picture. I am very happy with the product. I also really like how detailed the tree was and how the edit really sat into the picture.   I also want to take more pictures like of my mom or of my house, and other things very important  to me and I like to take pictures of the other girls because they are important to me also.    The next picture I want to talk about is the “blueberry tree” which is really  just a  Juniper Cedar tree that I nicknamed. It is one of my favorite ones because you can see specks of blue so clearly. I literally looked at it and I said, “wow

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Photo by DeMareya Mosley

that is a pretty branch.” Art has been something that has been around me ever since I was born i alway loved art class ,and I loved when we could freely draw because that is when my creativity really showed. Every art teacher has told me that my art pieces are “Special”but, I believe that all art pieces are! I love when I look at my pictures and say “wow those are cool,”because I work very hard on them ,and get good angles. I am very grateful that you are even reading this right now because a lot of kids would now have the chance to be writing this. On the last note, remember to always be creative and never give up on your dreams. 

Demareya Mosley is a rising 9th grader attending high school in the Charlottesville area. Always having a love for the world of performance arts, Demareya is well versed in the art of dance, drawing, painting, photography and public speaking. In 6th grade, Demareya was selected to write and deliver a poem for her school’s graduation. Her photography work has also been featured in Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries’ Art of Building Community Banquet. Participating in many physical activities, she recently found a new love for boxing and is interested in exploring it more in the Fall. Demareya is big on positivity and encouraging students to believe in themselves.

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Photo of Sahaja Sawyer by Demareya Mosley

Photo by DeMareya Mosley

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Poetry coach intro by Brande McCleese

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his is the third year that I’ve participated in The Girls Are Alwrite teaching poetry. In many ways, leading this workshop rejuvenates me. It’s wonderful to see the world through the eyes of the girls and to watch them create pieces that reflect them and the way that they see the world. In our second year at The Girls Are Alwrite, which was virtual, observing the girls create in a vacuum of sorts was interesting and it allowed for some freedom even while confined to computer screens. Watching the world as these young women see it is empowering and it will always make me proud to be part of this organization. Even during the virtual camp last year, we were so amazed by the girls and their voices. Their ability to take imagination and transform it into beautifully written thought year after year is nothing short of remarkable. Since 2019 , the ladies have

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been a diverse group focused on learning and creating pieces dear to them and true to their hearts. They gain confidence through expressing themselves and I’ve been inspired by their tenacity and dedication to building pieces of which they can be proud. This year, my group was small in nature but mighty in feeling and powerful in the sense that these beautiful writers took poetry and made it their own. Both of my students came in every day sure of themselves and their abilities, and these are traits that even as a College Professor, I see my adult students are still trying to perfect. The imagery and description in each of these ladies’ pieces has quite honestly moved me to step up my own pen game. For them to be so young and so talented is truly a gift I am honored to witness. I am in awe of the hard work they’ve put in over our time together. This year despite

the size of the group they still produced pieces that made me proud of playing a tiny part in their creation. Brande McCleese is an English Professor at Elizabeth City State University. North Carolina born, New Jersey bred poet, professor, and essayist Brande N. McCleese learned the art of storytelling at the feet of her maternal great grandmother. Her love of the written word was stoked by her maternal grandmother and paternal aunt. Brande’s love of poetry was fueled by reading the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks and Claude McKay. Receiving her MFA in Creative Writing further enhanced her love of poetry and fiction and also formed the foundation of her teaching style. She is a lifelong student and reader who loves sharing her passion for writing with others.

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Photo of Coach Brande with poetry student Ayden Johnson by Navi Johnson

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Poetry Pieces I’m a Woman by Sa’haja Sawyer Water by Ayden Johnson

Black Girl Magic by Zeniah(Zee) Bryant (Fiction student) Black Girl Magic! Black Girl Magic! What do you see? I see Sha’carri Richardson soaring in her track cleats. Black Girl Magic! Black Girl Magic! I see Kamala Harris mandating the country. Black Girl Magic! Black Girl Magic! What do you see? I see Zaila Avant-Garde not missing a beat! Black Girl Magic! Black Girl Magic! What do you see? I see so many amazing, beautiful, Black melanin queens. Whether young or old, shy or bold, you have the power to change the world.

The water is beautiful the water is blue-ish green the water has fish, frogs, and flowers the water has power the water has hope the water can go up, up down like a slippery slope the water has lily pads the water has a fountain the water is like me because I have power I don’t have flowers but I have things that attract to me just like water people love me just like they love water To Ayden by Ayden Johnson I really wanna say how much I appreciate you. You’re kind, loving, and responsible. One thing I really love about you is your eyes. When they shine in the sun, they are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Your softball skills are also amazing. Everything you put your mind to you’re good at.

My skin color is beautiful I’m a strong black woman I love my hair I’m beautiful I’m confident I’m fearless I’m a dancer I’m unique I’m tall I’m a basketball player I can dress I have style I’m pretty I’m the sun I’m a Leo I’m the moon I’m loveable I love my nose; my nose is beautiful I’m purposed I’m a diva I’m strong I’m a beautiful black woman I lead the pack in many ways I don’t need someone to call me pretty I call myself pretty beautiful you can call me anything and everything every sarcastic word can’t break me, and you won’t break me I’m a black woman I’m strong and independent I’m a woman.

Keep up the good work. ­—Me

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VINEGAR HILL

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Fiction Coach intro

by Navi Johnson

It seems like yesterday that Sonia and I arrived at Tuttle Dormitory at the University of Virginia for the Young Writers Workshop in 2009. If you would have told me then that I would spend three summers as a fiction coach, I’m not sure I would have believed it. I always believed that teaching wasn’t my ‘thing’. In 2019, Sonia asked if I would join her in her ambitions: to teach black and brown girls the art of expression through prose and poetry. Of course, I said yes. I didn’t think much of it, so I didn’t realize how much it would impact the girls or myself.

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We arrived in 2019, where I met Brande McCleese and Tessa Thompson for the first time. After meeting them, conversing, and coming up with a lesson plan for my first teaching gig ever, it dawned on me: I felt like myself again. The Girls Are Alwrite propelled me into my higher consciousness and became something I didn’t know I needed. At the time I had three girls in my class. Teaching fiction is amazing with young girls because you get to see where their minds go. Oftentimes we think the younger generation lacks imagination due to the influx of technology, but in my

class, that’s not true. Through their fictional creations, they projected their feelings, hopes, fears and life experience. They learned that even fiction writing is a form of resiliency. Even in our 2020 Zoom sessions, when COVID kept us away from each other, none of them held back or gave up on their craft. If anything, the pandemic made us stronger, experienced life a bit more and ultimately made us better. Now, in 2021, the world is almost entirely different. We live in cautious times now, whereas when we began three years ago we lived carefree. It was a blessing to be able to

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Photo of coach Navi with Fiction Students Ayden Johnson by Marley Nichelle

teach again in person with five young ladies and to experience life through my students’ pens. I grew with these girls, I’ve been inspired by them and I am proud of them. Sonia says that we ‘love on’ the girls hard and influence their journeys as they take on life, but really, it’s the girls that are most impactful. They taught me that teaching is my ‘thing’, I am heard and loved. They taught me that know matter what we go through, we are indeed alwrite. I love working with The Girls Are Alwrite and I will do it

over and over. I look forward to its expansion in the coming summers and to be a part of the continuous growth to come. Navi Johnson, also known as V the Writer is dedicated to the way of the word. She is the author of two books and is a graduate of Virginia State University with a B.A in English and went on to study Journalism at Syracuse University. Johnson, also a singer and songwriter, has just recently released her third studio album, Delivery. Navi is the founder of RVA Black Farmers Market which works to amplify the presence

of Black growers and Merchants in the Richmond area. The Market, birthed in the midst of the pandemic, creates a platform which seeks to encourage the regeneration of black dollars in her community. Mother to a newborn son, Navi’s overall mission is to encourage young people to use their voices to manifest confidence and ambition.

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From ECSU to The Girls Are Alwrite by Taylor Brooks

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y Name is Taylor Brooks. I’m from York, Pennsylvania and I am an incoming Sophomore at Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. I am a Psychology major with a minor in Education. There are many occupations that I

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am interested in and I am determined to find out which ones the future will lead me to!

imagined.My excitement was immeasurable. The thought of quitting my job at Post Cereal and helping out with The Girls Are Alwrite this summer was like a breath of fresh air.

At the beginning of the summer, I received an email that was going to change my experience from that day on. I was approached by my Professor Brande McCleese about being an intern for The Girls Are Alwrite. After learning more and meeting with staff, I was ready to become a part of the team.

During camp I took on the role assisting with day to day operations, facilitating large groups and assisting with transportation needs for participants.In direct contact with the songwriting group, I was also able to assist students with recording their songs as keepsakes. This internship has given me a chance to work on and enhance my communication and critical thinking skills as well as connect with youth.

In the weeks after, I learned what would be expected of me as an intern and got to see how things work behind the scenes.Part of my excitement about being an intern for TGAA came from my love of Creative Writing and I was excited to take part in a program like this. It was way better than I could have

This week I learned so much about the ladies. The whole week I woke up with energy and excitement that I never knew could exist coming from me. I learned enough to know that I could not let them down. I wanted to put forth enough work for the girls after witnessing their talents. The ladies gave me motivation and drive to put my best foot forward. I couldn’t thank them enough for this experience and I am excited to continue living with the story and memories we made!

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Fiction Pieces The Girl Who Hated Red by Diamond Keyes There was once a girl, a new girl in the town. She hated the color red and stayed far away from it. Her friends always asked her why she didn’t like it but she never told them the real reason. Her classmates and every kid in town made fun of her for it but she never paid them any mind. She and her family had NOTHING red in the house and her friends never brought anything red around. However sometimes kids would flash red things in front of her but she always got from around them. Until one day… She and her friends planned a girls day out. They went shopping, went on a trail walk and other things they liked to do. After it got dark they ran into a fellow classmate on the way home. He stayed bullying “the girl who hated red.” So he started taunting her with a red piece of paper. She told him to stop but he just laughed. A second later, she fell to the ground and in a poof she had turned into a ladybug. Afterwards they took her home to her parents so she could return to normal. Now her friends found out the real reason she HATED red.

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Summer and Jacob’s Story by Karlins Johnson After lunch Summer and Jacob went to the park where they played on the swings, monkey bars, seesaws and the big slide. After a while, Summer smiled and said to Jacob “Go have fun. I’m going to take a nap. She went to take a nap on a bench. Jacob smiled back and nodded. While on the monkey bars, Jacob had climbed on top and was very proud. Not long after, a little boy about eleven years old had climbed up too and pushed Jacob off the monkey bars. The boy said sarcastically, “I’m sorry, my hand slipped.”Jacob was steaming with rage. He hit the boy in his ankles and tripped the boy and he fell. Jacob said to the boy while standing in front of him: “that’s not very nice. If you do it again I’m gonna tell my sister.” The boy replied: “not if I tell mine first.” He got up and ran to his older sister and told us what happened but changed up the story. Jacob realized what the boy had done. He ran to the bench summer was sleeping on and woke summer from her nap. As soon as she woke up, the boy

and a girl about the same age as Summer were standing in front of them. “Hi, what do you need?” Summer said. The girl replied “ I’m Lucia and this is my little brother Jordan, Jordan here tells me that your little brother had hit him”. “ Jacob….” Said summer. “Y-yes summer?” Jacob said while scared that he was gonna get in trouble for something he would have never done. “Tell me what actually happened”. “w-well I had climbed on top of the monkey bars, and I-I was standing on them, then that boy got on top with me and pushed me off and I scraped my leg”. As he teared up. Lucia said, “what are you talking about?! Your brother attacked jordan!”. “…..” summer was silent. “ lies,” Summer said quietly. Lucia asked “what’d you say??” In a not so nice tone. “YOU’RE LYING!!” Summer yelled. Lucia, Jordan and Jacob were shocked. “I wasn’t actually sleeping, I wanted to test how well Jacob would do by himself at the park for 10 minutes. He obviously did a good job”. “What are you talking about??” Lucia asked. Jacob and Summer said together: “Jordan is lying! How

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can you not tell! Were you not watching?!” “No…I wasn’t…I’m really sorry for the way my brother and I acted, hopefully we can get along!” Lucia said. “Of course we can be friends!” Summer said while smiling. Lucia smiled back. “But… there’s something you boys need to say to each other” “mmhm” Lucia added. The boys looked at each other, and said together: “I’m sorry for hurting you.” And shared a hug. Ever since then they’ve been friends and eventually best friends. Priscilla’s Curtains by Zeniah “Zee” Bryant It was getting darker and darker as Priscilla drove down the rocky country roads leading to her mother’s house. “Did I take the wrong turn?” She thought to herself. “Am I lost?” It had been over six years since she’s been home, and she had driven over five hours to surprise her mother for her 50th birthday. As she got further down, she started to remember where she was. She saw the familiar houses and trees that had been there since she was a little girl. “Is that it?” she whispered to herself, she saw a big yellow house with an orange reef on the door. “There it is!” She quietly said laughing to herself. She had remembered mailing that exact reef to her mother last Mother’s Day. Priscilla knew it was late, and she was hoping and praying that the front door would be unlocked, as she quietly pulled into the paved driveway and turned her car’s headlights off. She then carefully opened her door, until she started to hear a barking noise. She had forgotten all about Otis. Otis was the dog her brother had gifted their mother before leaving for the Army. He was the last to leave home, which meant their mother was living on their own. “Dang-it Otis!” She quietly yelled out. As Otis continued to bark. Priscilla crept onto the porch until she saw a light turn on, she had spotted her mother’s shadow coming toward the door. The porch light suddenly came on. “Momma!” Priscilla yelled out before her mother

could open the door. “Baby!” Her mother yelled back. As soon as she opened the door, Otis pushed past her and started jumping on Priscilla until he got a hold on her pants. Priscilla swung him around into the house, but he wouldn’t let loose. Priscilla grabbed onto the curtain hanging in front of the windows and started whipping Otis so he would let loose. “Get in the cage now Otis!” her mother yelled out. After Priscilla got her bags into the house and everything was situated, she took a seat beside her mother on the sofa. “Why was Otis biting on my momma?” “He probably doesn’t remember you, look, it’s been over six years!” she said. “But I’m sure he’s just as happy as I am to see you. And let me say, this has been the best birthday surprise ever!” Being in Love by LaMira Jackson I heard my heart beating; it was beating as if I just ran a whole mile. My cheeks turned red, and a smile started to show. I felt I was in another world. He was the only person I saw. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning, like a scientist who had a breakthrough, a proud parent. It was only us, no one else. A little nervous shake flew through me. When we made eye contact and I felt like the world stopped. Something about him made me as happy as I can be. As we both quickly look away and blushed, I looked back at him. Only this time we both stared into each other’s eyes longer. My cheeks turned red once again. Something about him just put me in a very warm, cozy atmosphere. The Sense that Didn’t Happen by Julia Dorta 7:48am March 23rd ,2021. Tuesday. The classroom filled with a deafening silence. I could hear my own breath leaving my lungs and

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Fiction Pieces, continued... leave my mouth, only to hit the palm of my hand. It was dark, the only source of light that my peers and I had was from the faint rays of the sun peaking through the window. It was too weak though, so everything from the colorful backpacks to the neon highlighters scattered on the table looked like it was in greyscale. We were all crammed under tables and desks, and some people had even hidden in the cabinets. It had already been about an hour since the loudspeaker in the corner of the room announced that the school was going into lockdown. Someone guessed it was not a drill, but at this point we all knew it wasn’t. What if it was a school shooting? It couldn’t be, since it had been silent since the nightmare had started, but maybe no one had been shot yet? Maybe everyone was safe, maybe it was a false alarm, and we could continue our classes? The chances of that happening seemed to disappear completely when the sound of footsteps could be heard from outside of the door. 8:39am, March 23rd , 2021, Tuesday. I wonder if the teacher would get mad if I cursed right now? The teacher, Ms. Lake, was young and fit. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she ran in the morning. She was squatted near her desk with the fire extinguisher sitting next to her for the worst-case scenario. It didn’t make me feel any better about anything, but I guess it was better than nothing.

weren’t paying attention to the chat. I closed the group chat when they started planning a hang out session. I’m surprised they could be so relaxed during this; it felt like they weren’t even here. There were a few notifications from my mom and dad. The lockdown was on the news, huh? Maybe the police are here too. 8:42am March 23rd Tuesday Suddenly, there was a bang at the door. The group chat went silent, and all phones were off. 8:43am Seconds had passed, bringing a second bang with it. 8:43am I should’ve texted my parents faster. Another bang. 8:44am Bang! I didn’t notice I was holding my breath. Was that the fifth bang? The girl next to me had grabbed my hand. I didn’t know her. 12:45pm Bang! Her hands were cold and sweaty. BANG!

It had been a while since those footsteps had passed, so my classmates had begun to take out their phones, probably to text their parents. I should do that too, high?

6:00am March 24th , 2021. Wednesday. I woke up in my room. The only thing I could recall was banging on the door before passing out, or at least my parents said I passed out. My backpack was on my desk, but it looked like someone had gone through it, judging by the papers and books surrounding it. Too bad they didn’t bother to put anything away.

I pulled my phone out from my pocket and opened my messages. The class group chat was exploding with texts, some people were freaking out, some were somehow joking around, and the restwere either telling everyone to shut up or

My attention drifted to my desk, where a note written on written on a neon pink sticky note was stuck on the lamp. I took it off and read it, already knowing it was written by my dad in neat cursive.

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‘Morning babe! I hope you slept well. Your mom and I headed to work early, but we left you breakfast!’ I grinned, though it didn’t last long when a thought crossed my mind. They didn’t mention yesterday! Maybe they didn’t want to bring it up, although that didn’t seem like them. 6:24am March 24th , 2021. Wednesday The bus today was horribly loud like almost every other day, but I think that’s what’s creeping me out the most. Why is no one even phased about what happened? Event thinking about what happened and sent shivers down my spine. The school began to come into view from my window. It looked completely normal, there weren’t even any police cars or anything, just the brick walls of our busy high school.

related to the shooting. I felt like everyone was brainwashed or memory wiped, but that only happens in sci-fi novels, right? Ahead of me, I saw her. The girl who had grabbed my hand during the lockdown. She couldn’t have forgotten; she was even more terrified than I was. I quickened my pace, running up next to her and tapping her shoulder. She turned to me and tilted her head. “Hey,” I said. “You remember yesterday, right? The shooting?” She paused for a minute, as if she was trying to recall her memories. Then she laughed. “What shooting?”

One the bus stopped near the entrance, everyone started rushing out. I didn’t hear anything

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Songwriting Coach Intro by Arnice Cottom

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s a first time coach in The Girls Are Alwrite writing camp, I was extremely nervous about being able to fully connect to these young girls through music and songwriting. It's a vulnerable space to be in when writing but it's extremely therapeutic and rewarding. That nervousness went away as each of their creative minds showed me that they were more than capable of expressing themselves and their lives through song. They shared their experiences and thoughts while showing their interests in different music genres like K-pop, Heavy metal and inspirational. I watched each of these young ladies and the beautiful spirits that they are, build their confidence through music. I am more than grateful to have been a part of that process! Throughout the week each student in my group pulled deep from both their imaginations and hearts to gift their journals with the beauty of their lyrics. This has been an extremely precious experience to be a part of. I am confident that I have learned so much

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is nothing short of amazing. I can’t wait for you all to see their work!

more from them, than they could have ever learned from me. During our writing process, it was extremely important to me to allow the girls the space to be their true and authentic selves. Songwriting is a vulnerable space to be in because the words are feelings that only they feel in the moment. The beauty of that in itself, is that others will be able to relate to those feelings and connect on a personal level. Prior to my arrival at The Girls Are Alwrite, nerves took over me. My students reassured me that it was okay to feel these feelings by merely observing that they felt them too. Together we laughed and cried. Together we have shared our experiences and built bonds that I hope to hold on to for the rest of my life. Our group is diverse, unique, and I take pride in knowing that no two songs are exactly alike. The time I’ve spent with these young ladies

Arnice Cottom serves as a new addition to the coaching staff of The Girls Are Alwrite. Arnice is a classically trained singer and songwriter who has traveled the country to share her gift of song with others. Arnice is a 2015 graduate of Elizabeth City State University alum with a B.A in Communication Studies. At ECSU, she was a member of the University Choir and developed and trained her love and craft of singing under the direction of Dr. Walter Swan. In 2018, Arnice obtained her M.A in Public Relations from Trinity Washington University. She now serves as the Marketing Specialist at the CFP Board of Standards INC. Outside of that she is the Founding owner and Editor of Black Women Strong, a blog catered to reframing the narratives around mental health and Endometriosis.

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Songwriting Pieces Pandora’s Box by Demareya Mosley

What it Feels Like to Love Yourself by Cherrish Smith

I’m 15, 15, I’m 15, I’m15

I love my family They're always there for me I'm happy as can be! I feel love

Her mother told her when she Grows up that life will be harder She shrugged it off Because she thought it will be good Will all her friends obviously Her thoughts were so wrong 15 year old girl locked in a box with her thoughts and now she’s kicking rocks with pandora's box So she thought She locked herself in her room Wondering why people have to be so cruel Guess she didn’t think this through Guess people have these people's feelings too Six flags seemed to have nothing on you Feeling like other people Do think about her too Guess that’s why She has a hard time trusting others too 15 years old and hates school All her grades have been bad too She doesn't know what to do Everything around her seems sad too She doesn’t know why She is stuck in the same place, Same thing……

They never let me fall And help me whenever I call Support me through it all I feel love So I walk out with my head held high Confidence is in the sky Never want to run and hide Cause I know What it feels What it feels What it feels to love myself To know that I have family I don't need no one else Tired of feeling alone And I'm out here on my own Like a cell without a tone It ain't home I hide my feelings inside Sometimes I want to cry And I can't let go of my pain It ain't home

Let her go in a place where she is known Trapped but she doesn’t want to let go She seems like her own foe I’m 15 so you know I’m not here to put on a show

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Songwriting Pieces, continued... I'm Not Your Teacher by Nia Clarke-Peters I'm not your teacher, Google is free Learn it for yourself and not from me I want the world to be better but it feels like a lie. The internet is stealing our culture While protesting in the streets, we die. I'm not your teacher, Google is free Learn it for yourself and not from me You say you want to help the cause But throw me under the ladder But I'll never stop the fight for my rights Because Black Lives Matter.

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Non-Fiction Coach intro By Tessa Thompson

According to Hoover Public Library “Nonfiction refers to literature based in fact. It is the broadest category of literature. The Nonfiction Department has books and videos in many categories including biography, business, cooking, health and fitness, pets, crafts, home decorating, languages, travel, home improvement, religion, art and music, history, self-help, true crime, science and humor.”

After hearing their background knowledge, I then share a few definitions like the one above as well as examples of popular nonfiction works that they may be familiar with. By describing and defining nonfiction campers are able to form ideas about what kind of nonfiction they may want to write.

that have or are currently informing who they know themselves to be. This process is a powerful tool. It is cathartic and encourages young writers to embrace confidence.

This year, I had the distinct pleasure of working with three amazing young ladies. They each chose nonfiction to learn In past years campers have how this genre could expand written pieces about birthdays, their writing. After reviewing role models, personal loss, the different types of nonfiction and more. Their writings were they could pick from, they all Each year I start the week at warm, moving, and powerful. chose to write autobiographiThe Girls Are Alwrite by askThe non-fiction writers’ group cal pieces as their main work. I ing campers why they chose is often the opportunity for the then explained methods they nonfiction as their genre of participants to tell the stories could use to organize ideas. study. I ask them to share what that they live each day in real Their completed projects are they know about the genre. life. They share experiences nothing short of brilliance. w w w. v i n e g a r h i l l m a g a z i n e . c o m | V I N E G A R H I L L M A G A Z I N E   4 3


Each piece exudes black girl magic in every phrase. Their memories demonstrate joy, laughter, pain, perseverance, determination, and most of all hope. A hope in themselves and hope for the future. It has truly been an honor to work and learn alongside these young bright minds. Getting to know them through writing exercises and relationship building activities has been so rewarding. Together we embraced each other’s beauty through literary expression. I know that they will grow up to be world changing leaders.

Tessa Thompson M.Div is a Community worker and Activist here in the Charlottesville community. Author, Entrepreneur and mother of one son, Tessa’s life’s work centers around community healing and caring for others. A graduate of Virginia Union University with her B.A in Religious studies and Philosophy, Tessa went on to attend The Interdenominational Theological Center. With over 15 years in education, Thompson’s background in working with youth stems from wanting to see others enjoy the love of learning. Tessa works as a Program Coordinator at Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries and founded Ms. Tessa’s Community Care and Consulting LLC where she creates and implements workshops that aid in bettering the community.

Non-Fiction Pieces I am Sydney by Sydney Brown

I am Sydney Brown. I was born August 9th, 2008. At Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, VA. One of my earliest memories is my first birthday party. It was a pool party at Meade Pool. At my party, I remember having lots of friends and family there. I also remember getting my face smashed into my birthday cake. Even though my parents took pictures, that is everything I remember. Another memory I have is when I was around one or two years old. My family and I went to the beach. This was my first beach trip. I remember myself playing in the sand and having fun. One thing I loved to do as a child was to hang out with my friends. My friends and I used to go to the park and play on the swings. Another thing we used to enjoy doing was to have sleepovers. At the sleepovers, we would do crafts, watch movies and have fun. One memory I have with my friends is when we went to Richmond and we had a painting party. We painted our initials with lots of colors on canvases. As a child, my parents were the people who really encouraged me.

sometimes but that is what encouraged me. A memory my parents and I have together was when we went to Great Wolf Lodge. I remember us having fun in the arcade. We also spent time at the waterpark there. We had lots of fun. On August 12th, 2017, my family and I went to a waterpark out of town for my ninth birthday. We had lots of fun that day and when we came home that night we turned on the TV and saw that Charlottesville was on all the big news channels. Once I started to listen and watch the news, I realized that there was a rally on the downtown mall. Then I heard that some people were injured and one person had died. I heard that this woman Heather Heyer had died from a car attack during the rally. This was very shocking to me. Even though I was very young at the time I never expected anything like that to happen. As the years have passed, I learned a little more about what happened. Now I am currently twelve years old, going into the eighth grade. I attend Buford Middle School. Despite being virtual, my 7th grade year I'm looking forward to my last year of middle school. When I'm older, I would prefer to become an entrepreneur or a chef.

For example, they would fuss at me

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I am Aerial by Aerial Dickerson

place I had ever seen. The water would sparkle when the sun's light would beam down on it, and I had seen the cutest baby I was born August 10th, 2007, at UVA dolphins ever and they were so little and Hospital in Charlottesville Virginia. I was born adorable. and raised in 3 different places, but I was People I have looked up to since I was a little mainly raised in Fluvanna County. When I was girl are my aunt, stepmom, and of course at least 1-2 years old I remember getting my my grandma. They have always loved me head stuck in stair railings and it hurt really unconditionally, helped me go down the bad but at the same time it was kind of worth right path, and have always been by my side it I still remember it to this day because me no matter what. and my siblings poke fun at me for it and we all laugh about and talk about the good ole One of my biggest accomplishments in life times. are making it all the way to high school with Some things that had changed my point of Covid-19 around and passing the 8th grade view of the world was when my mom got which was very difficult for me because I was incarcerated I was told I was at least months behind a computer screen and in my comfort old at the time But when I found out what zone for the first half of it and I’m very proud she had done I was just like she’s evil and of myself just because it was my first year of didn’t want anything to do with her But then high school. I realized she has her bad ways and hung out with the wrong crowd but she’s not a bad Now I’m 13 years old and I will be 14 in 11 person at all and she’s trying to do good by days and I will be going into my freshman herself, take care of her kids, and take care of year of high school and hopefully when I herself. Another thing that changed my point grow up I can be a pediatric nurse or a NICU of view was when my best friend which is my nurse because I love working with little kids. papa passed away from cancer I was really upset about it because he had been raising I am Zaneyah me since I was a little girl and it was always by Zaneyah Bryant good energy around him except for when I would get in trouble At his funeral I didn’t My name is Zaneyah Bryant, I was born here show any emotion about it but deep down it in Charlottesville, Virginia at Martha Jefferson took a really bad toll on me and even though Hospital. I was born January 18, 2006. I have he is gone and resting I still miss him and a twin sister named Zeniah and an older love him to this day sister named Zyahna. When me and my twin sister we’re young we used to wear matching Enough of the sad stuff I remember a couple outfits from pajamas to church clothes. When years back when me and my siblings all lived I was younger, I enjoyed things like going together and did fun things together and to summer camp, as well as the pool and bonded. We would either always go to the sprinklers. park, watch movies, or go swimming. It really meant a lot because I love bonding with my One memory I have as a child is going to family, especially my siblings. Carowinds, an amusement park in North Some things I loved to do as a little girl was Carolina. It was lots of fun and I really play with Baby Alive dolls and braid my enjoyed the wave pool. I love pools and Barbie dolls hair, I found so much enjoyment water rides. Another memory would be out of those activities I even got my older my 13th birthday party, for many years me brother and sister to play barbies with me and my twin sister wanted to have a hotel and I absolutely loved it because I had birthday party for our birthday. So our mom people doing the things I loved, and they finally let us have one, we're so excited. She were doing it with me how great is that. let us invite 5 friends. When I was at least three or four years old I went to the beach with my family and let me tell you it was the most magical and prettiest

Growing up I attended Clark elementary, Venable Elementary, walker, Buford and now I am a rising 10th grader at Charlottesville

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high school. From Clark until 2nd grade at Venable me and my twin sister we’re in the same classes. Each and every year. When we got told that we wouldn’t be together anymore we were so sad. One thing that has changed my outlook on life would be the killing of George Floyd. Not only because he was black but because I have black male cousins, friends, and an uncle. I fear for them because just like it was George Floyd it could be them any day. Being young and black it’s important to know your rights and worth at all times especially when having encounters with law enforcement. As I mentioned I am currently a rising 10th grader at Charlottesville high school, I am excited to be going back into the actual building and having my first official year of high school. Virtual learning was challenging but also relaxing at the same time. Having the ability to wake up at 10am was the best, but also very hard because it was hard to

learn through zoom, and listen to teachers talk for hours and hours. One of my biggest accomplishments in life would be getting through virtual 9th grade and passing the grade and all my classes. It was hard but I made it through. Another one would be being featured in the cville weekly 2021 power issue, which is a magazine/ newspaper that features young people who are making a change. As well as being a co-founder of the Charlottesville Black Youth Action Committee Mutual Aid. When I get older, I want to become a therapist or a lawyer. But in the meantime, I want to finish high school, graduate and go to college. I would like to attend Eastern Carolina University, James Madison University, or Howard University as well as one of my favorites: Old Dominion University. One of my biggest goals is to change the world with activism and using my voice for what’s right.

Circa 1956 at The HIPP on the famous 2nd Street in Richmond, Virginia

Hidden In Plain Site: Richmond is a VR exploration of distinct but easy to overlook sites around Richmond, VA, that tells the story of the Black experience throughout history. hiddeninplainsite.org The HiPS™ VR Experience is curated by: TM

Just visit hiddeninplainsite.org and

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OCULUS

DESKTOP

MOBILE


Don’t Matter Your Height or Size Baby it’s Time to Shine by Alaja Gough

“Don’t matter your height or size, baby it’s your time to shine.” I don’t like singing in public. I’m usually sitting alone in my room humming a melody or singing a song; feeling as if nothing else matters at that moment. And I’m free like a horse in the wild running and running without anyone telling them how to feel or how to move.

At first when thinking about my song and how I was going to write it I wasn’t as confident as I would normally be. It didn’t feel like I was singing in the shower or in my room imagining that I’m at a concert with hundreds of my fans laughing and having a good time. It didn’t feel like singing in front of my family without a worry of them judging me or looking at me strangely.

I was thinking of all the ways I could mess this up, how I could get the wrong beat or how people might think about me. That’s how I got the idea for my song. I envisioned a little girl feeling down and not feeling confident about dancing in front of people, and someone, like a spirit or a friend, says, “get up, it doesn’t matter your height or size” and “it’s your time to shine.” Like, you can do this, Be Brave, Be yourself. And I thought I’m the little girl and my spirit friend is Ms. Arnice. She was definitely the one gassing me up. And I would call her my #1 support.

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My Lead Alaja Gough (songwriting) Get up now Get up now Get up now Come and dance Get up now Get up Come and vibe with me Yeah yeah yeah My feet grooving My body’s movin Toes tappin’ Crowds clappin’ Get up and move with me Don’t worry about the beat Just come and follow me Don’t worry. Don’t worry Just follow my lead Just move to my lead Just follow me I need you to follow me Don’t worry just follow me Ignore what people are sayin Come on the dance floor baby Follow my lead Move your feet That’s what I’m sayin Come to the dance floor baby Ignore what they are sayin’ Follow my lead Move your feet Come on baby The stars are shining so bright The floors lighting up the night People are dancing. People are laughing We’re having a good night

Come on girl it’s your time Left, right, side, side, step, slide Get up now Get up Get up now We’re having fun tonight Get up now Get up Don’t matter your height or Size baby it’s your time to shine Our feets grooving Our body movin’ Toes tappin’ The crowds clappin’ Get up and move with us I’m so glad you found your light Now it’s your time to shine Don’t ever be shy Let them know you’re the star tonight Alaja “Lay-Lay” Gough is a rising 8th grader here in the Charlottesville community. She is passionate about becoming better at sports, more specifically soccer and basketball. Alaja loves to help others whether it be friends or people in the community. She began writing in the 5th grade in her spare time and started writing songs in the 7th grade when she realized that music was her “comfort zone.” When she gets older she wants to become a Polyglot to learn several different languages so that she can translate her songs for people who speak other languages. Her ultimate dream is to become a singer and dancer so that she can create art that will allow people to enjoy themselves.

Don’t be so shy

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Never Too Young To Inspire by LaNija Brown

and LatinX girls? What was a cartoon character, actress, or book that you felt represented by?

W

orking with the Girls are Alwrite for the past two years has been rewarding to say the least. Last year, I was brought on as an intern, with my main tasks being to create social media content, and help to facilitate the zoom meetings for the camp. This year, I was promoted to co-facilitator, which allowed me to interact with the girls on a more personal level and really get to know what inspires them as creatives. The main difference from last year for me is how involved I got to be with the class(es) material. 3 days out of the week, I was able to substitute teach the classes while the main coaches enjoyed a break day. This year, I got to teach the poetry, fiction and nonfiction groups. The first thing I noticed was the dynamic in each group. I was already surprised by how much they took initiative in helping each other out. Need spelling? I can google it. Synonyms? I can tell you a new word before you finish the sentence. Inspiration? I got a story for you. I was able to see how the girls became more comfortable and therefore more authentic in their work. It was inspiring because

each of their pieces were influenced by another girl, and that collaboration is a key element of Black Excellence. I also noticed the sheer range of backgrounds represented. On the surface, we already have quite a few categorizations going on. Black and LatinX, writing and photography, Songwriting and fiction, nonfiction and poetry. That is already a lot of diversity in background and interest alone. But these girls bring with them their own experiences and interpretations of what’s right and wrong in the world. They all carry themselves in a different style that is reflected in what they create. Outside of group work, I was also able to do a lot of activities to get to know them as well. I will always remember a discussion we had about halfway through the week based on how race/racism has affected their lives. The questions were as follows Photo by Marley Nichelle What is it like to grow up as a minority in the US Do you feel like you are represented well in the media as both Black

In answering these questions, the girls shared a heartbreaking amount of awareness of the different effects of racism in their lives and how many people believe that their age is an automatic correlation to ignorance, which couldn’t be any less true. I also connected with them by sharing my own anecdotes, shocking them and myself with how little has changed. I told them that my hope for them going forward is to be unapologetic. That their mannerisms, styles, experiences, and expressions are all powerful and valuable. As long as they continue to stay authentic to who they are, they’ll be Alwrite ;). LaNija Brown-Easterling is a Senior at University of Virginia, majoring in Media Studies with a Minor in African American Studies. Brown-Easterling is a spoken word poet and community activist in Charlottesville and Orange County. She currently serves as Family Group Lead for Oneway, UVAs Black Christian Campus Organization and volunteers with middle school students at Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries. LaNija has also served as a writer for UVAs Black Monologues for the last three years. After graduation, LaNija plans to jump head first into the world of Media and begin working with underserved rural communities to assist in preserving and recording the rich histories of their residents .

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Freestyle by Brande MCcleese

O

ne of the perks of being an educator is that sometimes you have the chance to encounter very special students. I lucked up and met mine very early in my career. In my second year of teaching at Elizabeth City State University, a student in an upcoming class came to my office to ask questions and just to get an idea of who I was as a professor. I was new to the university and not many English or Communication students knew me yet. That student was Sonia Montalvo and I had no idea how she would change my life. In 2016, after she’d graduated, she reached out to me asking for help editing her first book What If I Fly? Sonia is a gifted writer so I was honestly excited to support her in any way. We remained in frequent contact and it In 2019, she asked if I was willing to be the poetry coach

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for her writing camp in Charlottesville. Despite the three and a half hour drive, I immediately said yes. I knew that the camp was motivated by her vision of creating an environment that didn't exist for her when she was young. In producing The Girls Are Alwrite, Sonia has carved out her own lane She is instilling creativity in not just the participants but in the coaches as well. We were all young creatives once and for many of us, the opportunity to congregate and fellowship with other creatives wasn’t something available to us. Seeing Sonia’s dream play out each summer gives me such immense pleasure.

the similarities and differences between them. This year, during the week we got to see girls develop a sense of confidence in themselves and in their words. With The Girls Are Alwrite, Sonia is effectively changing the way that groups of girls see themselves, the way they view sisterhood and mentorship. By the end of each camp, as coaches we are just as impacted by what’s been accomplished as the girls. The first year reinvigorated me as a poet and a professor, and each year has given me a new respect for what Sonia manages to accomplish.

Participating in The Girls Are Alwrite is a much more rewarding experience. In spending time with the girls, watching them create and learn the power of their voices is empowering. It's a reminder of why there's a need for spaces where black and brown girls can be themselves and learn to appreciate

V I N E G A R H I L L M A G A Z I N E TA K E O V E R I S S U E I S S U E


Photo of Brande McCleese by Marley Nichelle

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Profile for Vinegar Hill Magazine

Vinegar Hill Magazine: The Girls Are Alwrite Issue  

This issue is curated by and features original works from The Girls Are Alwrite participants. Readers will have an opportunity to become acq...

Vinegar Hill Magazine: The Girls Are Alwrite Issue  

This issue is curated by and features original works from The Girls Are Alwrite participants. Readers will have an opportunity to become acq...

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