Writing: ‘Journey to the Mainland’ by Tatiana Williams
This piece placed third for high school writing submissions in the 2022 Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition, which invited students to respond to the open prompt “I’ve Got Something to Say.” The competition is an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing, spoken word, and art. art.
Journey to the Mainland
My ears pound as the dreadful noise of the alarm consumes the room. I begin to journey to the island. As I prepare, my fingers tangle in the unkempt jungle that is my hair as I attempt to separate each conjoined curl. The pain pulses through my scalp as I witness the many strands falling effortlessly to the floor. I slowly lift my head to unveil an unrecognizable image in the mirror.
There stands a young girl, with skin-colored a deep caramel, and a nest adorned above her temple. A single drop of a mysterious clear liquid trickles down her cheek and onto the bathroom floor. I watch as her eyes turn a bright crimson red and the liquid comes in droves. The girl disappears and I am drowning. Fighting with the waves of tears while gasping for a single breath.
As an African-American teenager, throughout the entirety of my life, I have been a minority within the majority. Stranded on an island of beautiful children with pale-colored skin and straight golden hair that flowed in the wind. Though I may have had individuality, I could not understand the roots of my origins. My culture was unknown to me. A treasure that could not be found after searching through the deepest of seas.
As I progressed through my childhood, I had grown tired of being trapped on the island. I searched for culture through books and the internet. Gathering every last drop of knowledge that I could. The island taught about Christopher Columbus sailing the seven seas while I went home and learned the story of Macon Bolling Allen - the frst black lawyer to practice law in the United States. Through time, ways of fnding culture became accessible.
Although independent research had been a method of searching for culture, it was never enough for me. I began looking through the lenses of family. I listened to my great-grandmother tell stories about her mother and grandmother before her. I sat attentively for hours while hearing a firsthand account of the challenges of jim crow, segregation, and slavery. It meant more than reading a simple definition from an outdated textbook.
Through time the root of the issue became comprehensible. Educational inequality is one factor that causes minority students to fail to succeed. It is more than not having enough school resources because it also pertains to the lack of coursework that keeps students engaged and informed of their respective cultural histories. The island neglected the black rendition and provided one side of the story when a tale cannot be clear until all parties are given a voice. I failed to find the treasure because a piece of the map was missing.
After graduating from the island I reached the mainland. In High school, I learned of a treasure greater than culture. I began representing my blackness openly. I joined Black Student Union, an organization that paved a way for a black minority student such as myself to feel heard. I discussed deep topics regarding current events and racial injustices alongside others who also had caramel skin and beautiful jungle hair. Through the years, I became the Vice-President, and together we learned lessons of tolerance while recognizing bias within our community.
The fnal piece of the map was discovered when the mainland allowed culture in a classroom setting. In journalism, I interviewed black teachers and a Sargent from the Los Angeles Police Department to write a feature story for the school newspaper about current day black problems. I also conducted independent research for an opinion article about the demand for a course that teaches African-American history. Although I remained a minority, I was no longer alone.
I left the island long ago and the mainland remained close behind. The waves of tears slowly dispersed and a warm light began to fill the room. The girl returns, her skin a beautiful caramel with a gold crown sat above. Her eyes are the color of semi-sweet dark chocolate and her afro is big and bold. My reflection stands with her chin held high as the sound of the alarm consumes the room. The treasure I sought had been found.