Writing South Carolina
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Founded in 2013 by Steven Lynn, dean of the South Carolina Honors College, this annual writing contest was designed to engage the state's future leaders and thinkers. Each year the Honors College invited South Carolina high school juniors and seniors to respond to the question "How can we make South Carolina better?" in 750 words or fewer, in the genre of their choice.

The finalists, selected by a panel of preliminary judges, were invited to the University of South Carolina campus for a second round comprising a forty-minute impromptu writing contest. This round was evaluated by two grand judges—South Carolina natives who have achieved national acclaim: short-story writer and novelist Pam Durban and poet Nikky Finney. Each chose a topic for the impromptu contest: write about a meaningful book and complete the statement "I come from...." This volume features the writing of the seventy-one finalists from the 2016–17 South Carolina High School Writing Contest.



Publié par
Date de parution 20 août 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611179996
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0850€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Seniors- Seated, left to right: Sydny Long, Madison Motes, Shannon Dunn, Maggie Mahoney, Camryn Quick, Victoria Riley, Cynthia Gonzales, Savannah St. Peter; second row: Jesni Sam, Jessica Elkins, Shionnah Wallace, Chyna Wallace, Alexandra Batista, Morgan Mayne-Alexander, Pam Durban, Sandra Lopez, Mainaiya Myers, Madison Jones, Grace Justice, Madeline Hahn; third row: Conrad Pentaleri, Caleb A. Hylkema, Sam Beckley, Codie Powell, Steven Greer, Aydian Rainey, Kimberly Frisch, Alaina Kiffer.
Absent: Charles Carter .
Photographs by Clint Cook.
Not all competition finalists participated in this collection.

Juniors- Seated, left to right: Chlo Hylkema, Michelle Mayer, Morgan Davis, Destiny Turner, Macy Gault, Karlee Jenae Price, Carleigh Gregory; second row: Sophie Bellomy, Bailey Abedon, Constance Reid, Mary Kathryn Davidson, Haven Miller, Natoria Smalls, Pam Durban, Amanda Taylor, A. J. Blanton, Molly Transou, Sarah Suber, LaVang Bui, Selah Hamby, Mackenzie Marcum; third row: Jasmine Smith, Vinita Cheepurupalli, Destiny Jackson, Taylor Kahn-Perry, Courtney Wickstrom, Adeline Rosenberger, Naomi Matthusen, Stephen Brooke, Hunter Burgess, Mia Jones, W. J. Queen, Landon Phipps; fourth row: Noah Barnes, Reece Brown, Malachi Jones, Angelica Rogers, Erika Clark, Jason Mahaffey.
Absent: Roann Abdeladl, Emilee Cox, Molly Cribb, Airielle Lowe, Janneke Morin .
Photographs by Clint Cook

Selections from the Fourth Annual High School Writing Contest
Edited by A da Rogers and Steven Lynn
2019 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/
ISBN 978-1-61117-998-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-61117-999-6 (ebook)

Kim Shealy Jeffcoat, Series Editor
Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration: The Key to Embracing Diversity
The Most Turbulent Journey to Peace
Roann Abdeladl (First Place)
Pallid Hubris
Chlo Hylkema (Second Place)
The Case against Capital Punishment
My Love for the Mockingbird
Angelica Rogers (Third Place)
Monster of Our Roots
The Journey Home
Stephen Brooke (Honorable Mention)
What the Headlines Won t Mention: Walter Scott 2015
I Come From
Taylor Kahn-Perry (Honorable Mention)
South Carolina Superhero
Am I Good Enough
Destiny Jackson (Honorable Mention)
Just One
Where I m From
Airielle Lowe (Honorable Mention)
Pain from the Past
From the Forgotten
W. J. Queen (Honorable Mention)
Unbuckling the Bible Belt
The Women Who Built Me
Adeline Rosenberger (Honorable Mention)
A Gordian Knot of Our Own
Courtney Wickstrom (Honorable Mention)
As a Metal Box
Bailey Abedon
Religious Reform
The Blue House
Noah Barnes
Toy World
I Come from Thank You
Sophie Bellomy
A Disguised Dilemma
Reece Brown
Murdered for Murdering
LaVang Bui
Vinita Cheepurupalli
Carolina in My Mind
Lust for Life
Erika Clark
The Powerful Voice of Positivity and the People
Don t Be a Reason Why
Emilee Cox
A Question of Safety
Everyday Heroes
Molly Cribb
Summer s South Carolina
My Past, My Present, My Future
Mary Kathryn Davidson
S.O.S. Save Our State!
Morgan Davis
Who Am I?
Not Everything Comes Easy
Macy Gault
Fighting for Longer Lives
Under the Influence of Stephen King
Carleigh Gregory
A Bigger South Carolina
Selah Hamby
Shooting Pebbles at the Sun
DNA: Do Not Be Afraid
Malachi Jones
Mia Jones
A Foster Kid Speaks Up
I Come from Forgiveness
Jason Mahaffey
Illegal to Educate
The Greatest Came from a Tragedy
Mackenzie Marcum
Reforming a Broken System: SC Alimony Laws
Naomi Matthusen
Whispering Oaks
Michelle Mayer
Our Hidden Beauty
Where I Come From
Haven Miller
El Estado Biling e (The Bilingual State)
I Come from Running
Janneke Morin
The Ceilings Don t Work, but the TVs Do
A Passion for South Carolina
Landon Phipps
Another Day
A Shared Birthday Gift
Constance Reid
At the End of Time
Even Death Has a Heart
Natoria Smalls
Building a Better South Carolina
Humble Beginnings
Jasmine Smith
The Island a World Away
From Timid to Confident
Sarah Suber
South Carolina, How Does Your Garden Grow?
What Planted the Seed
Amanda Taylor
Perfect Obliteration
What My Grandfather Gave Me
Molly Transou
Big Improvements for South Carolina
Success from Hardships
Destiny Turner
C for Corrosion of Curriculum
The Entitled
Savannah St. Peter (First Place)
Love Is Love Is Love Is Love
Grieving with Seagulls
Kimberly Frisch (Second Place)
They Tried to Take Your Voice Away
The Arm
Sydny Long (Third Place)
Ignorance s Education
The Transparency of Diversity
Cynthia Gonzales (Honorable Mention)
GSAs for a Better South Carolina
I Come From
Madeline Hahn (Honorable Mention)
For the Love of a Daughter
Love Yourself
Madison Motes (Honorable Mention)
Recipe for a Mixed Girl
Ode to Mother
Shionnah Wallace (Honorable Mention)
The Opposite of Moving Forward
Encouragement from the Doctor
Morgan Mayne-Alexander
How One Healthy Solution Can Lead to Others
The Secret to Success
Alexandra Batista
South Carolina s Final Exam
The Battle of Time
Sam Beckley
South Carolina s Movie Crisis
The Giving Book
Charles Carter
Murky Eyes
A New Horizon
Shannon Dunn
What Shapes Our Horizon
Unknown Loneliness
Jessica Elkins
Making Foreign Language Less Foreign
Palmetto Proud
Steven Greer
Natural Beauty and Beautiful People
The Power of Disagreement
Caleb A. Hylkema
Keep Them at Home
Those Who Shaped Me
Madison Jones
The Flaws in the Education System
Finding Family, Hope, and Trust
Grace Justice
The Call
The Road I Travel
Alaina Kiffer
Stereo South
Sandra Lopez
The Voice of the Silent Victims
I Come from You
Maggie Mahoney
Dysfunctional and Perfect
Mainaiya Myers
Getting to the Root of the Problems: The Deficiencies of the SC Public Education System
Inspiration from Fitzgerald s The Great Gatsby
Conrad Pentaleri
Domestic Violence and Deadly Silence
The Window to the Soul
Codie Powell
Hospitality versus Heritage
My Soul Book
Camryn Quick
One Choice
The Backs of My Family Members
Aydian Rainey
Crime against the Future
Traveling Two Roads
Jesni Sam
A New Generation
A Lesson from an Unexpected Place
Chyna Wallace
Southern Values
Where I Come From
Victoria Wiley
Generosity shows itself in many ways. For the 2016-17 South Carolina High School Writing Contest, generosity was personified by our grand judges. Short story writer and novelist Pam Durban and poet Nikky Finney-both nationally acclaimed, both South Carolina born and raised-didn t hesitate when we asked if they d speak to our young finalists and read their work. These are busy people. They teach, tour, write, and manage college classrooms as well as personal households. It took all our nerve to ask them, and we were thrilled when they said yes. We thank them, knowing that their time is limited and precious and that judging these entries was no easy task.
We also thank our presenting partner the South Carolina State Library and its executive director, Leesa Aiken. With their support we were able to give our finalists copies of earlier volumes of Writing South Carolina as well as Found Anew: Poetry and Prose Inspired by the South Caroliniana Library Digital Collections , which includes a foreword by Professor Finney and an essay by Professor Durban. Likewise we thank our other presenting partner, the Pat Conroy Literary Center, whose support allowed us to continue giving prizes to winners. We salute Thad Westbrook, a South Carolina Honors College alumnus who generously funds the prize for our first-place senior, naming it for one of his University of South Carolina professors, Walter Edgar. We also send a thank-you hug to our anonymous donor who funds the first-place junior prize, which is named for the late Dorothy Skelton Williams, an upstate educator who never met a child who couldn t learn.
This effort wouldn t fly at all without the University of South Carolina Press. Interim director Linda Haines Fogle and her staff manage the myriad tasks associated with getting a book edited, designed, published, distributed, and stored. We are honored to be associated with this group of professionals.
We also thank the high school teachers who proctored the second round of competition for the students unable to attend round 2: Susanne Cash at Byrnes High, Gina Lee at West Florence High, Cynthia Lehr at Socastee High, Heather Marshall at Greenville Technical Charter High, and Jessica Burke Stevens at Spartanburg High. And we thank South Carolina Honors College interns Ella Bock, Madeleine Collins, and Aeriel Lee for their good humor and talent performing the endless work required for the contest and this book.
Here s how the contest works: The South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina invites high school juniors and seniors across the state to enter. They must respond to our question- How can we make South Carolina better? -in 750 words or fewer, in the genre of their choice. A panel of preliminary judges reads all the entries and selects the finalists. You can tell by the thickness of this volume how many excellent young writers and problem solvers we have. Seventy-one finalists were selected, significantly more than in years past.
After finalists are selected, they re invited to USC to participate in a second round of competition. Round 2 is both celebration and exercise: besides touring the university s library treasures and listening to successful writers share their stories, finalists compete in a forty-minute impromptu writing contest. This year Professors Durban and Finney each chose a topic, one about a meaningful book and the other titled simply I Come From. You ll read those impromptu responses following each student s submission.
Our thanks and admiration to all the students who entered-whether chosen as finalists or not. They had the courage to accept our challenge and tell us things we didn t know. They are our teachers.
The South Carolina We Want
Young people have something many older people lose-a fierce sense of fairness. Grownups learn, usually the hard way, that life isn t fair. Injustices happen; people aren t who you thought they were; you can work long and hard for something and still not get it. Disappointed, we shrug, vent, and start again tomorrow.
But when you re young, injustices blaze like fire. Read these stories, essays, poems, and plays and you ll feel the heat of that fire. Our young writers have looked at their home state, and they re not liking all they see. When we asked them to tell us how we can improve South Carolina in no more than 750 words, they didn t hold back. From racism and religious intolerance to overdevelopment and pollution, our students chose their topics and researched them well. Many times they didn t need to go outside their own homes or neighborhoods.
It s okay, darlin . You don t have to be smart if you re pretty, a grandmother tells her granddaughter in Southern Values, a play by Victoria Wiley of Woodruff.
I come from a place nicknamed Mt. Pregnant because so many teen girls had nothing better to do, observes Madeline Hahn of Columbia in her poem, I Come From.
Others bear witness to what happens in the hallways and classrooms of their schools. I had a teacher who was ridiculed by students for refusing to denounce evolution, reports Adeline Rosenberger of Duncan in Unbuckling the Bible Belt, her essay. Middle school honors students in my class touted her as an atheist and pried into her personal religious beliefs because she taught evolution. I was appalled, but she held her ground even with a gang of students calling her a devil worshipper.
Is this the South Carolina we want? Is this the South Carolina adults even know about?
Thus the importance of the annual South Carolina High School Writing Contest, founded in 2013 by Steven Lynn, a Greer native and dean of the South Carolina Honors College. His goal, to provide a writing competition that would engage the state s future leaders and thinkers, is met with this book. Here you ll find a range of writing styles and opinions, all opening a window into worlds we may or may not recognize.
Think of it as a time capsule. Students were submitting their entries in 2016. They d witnessed the bad-to-awful-to-apocalyptic 2015, with the police shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston, the massacre of the Emanuel Nine in Charleston, and the catastrophic flood that destroyed lives and properties throughout the state. Meanwhile roads and bridges were crumbling, while meth use was rising. The video of the student at Spring Valley High in Columbia being thrown to the floor-desk and all-by a school resource officer seemed to put an exclamation point of shock and disbelief on that year. Does South Carolina have work to do? You bet.
If there was one central theme among our hundreds of submissions, it was a call for unity. Unity is what students believe will defeat violent crime, overhaul the education system and construct decent school buildings no matter where they are, improve the state s image, and, above all, create tolerance. If church and state are not going to be separated, then they want all religions taught in school. Social bullying is an evil they witness regularly. All students should walk free, they say, whether their heads are bare or in a hoodie or hijab. The South Carolina of the twenty-first century isn t the South Carolina of the century before. We re all colors now, and genders and orientations and languages. We need to accept that, unite, and get busy.
We like what W. J. Queen of Gaffney has to say. We need to help South Carolina s communities bond together, he writes in Pain from the Past, his essay. We need to allow children to create friendships with all kinds of people, no matter their gender, religion, race, or ethnicity. Once we give everyone the opportunity to grow to understand those who are not like them, we will become a society of acceptance and love. When everyone accepts everyone else, then places like my home of South Carolina can wipe clean the slate of bigotry from the past and become the utopias we deserve to be.
What else do we like about Mr. Queen? He is majoring in history and, in the summer before his senior year of high school, was considering careers in law or teaching. Like many of our writing finalists, as you ll see at the back of this book, he s not thinking solely of himself when he chooses his future. If that doesn t give us hope, nothing will.
A da Rogers
Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration
The Key to Embracing Diversity
Roann Abdeladl
Another good ol summer in South Carolina, complete with enough sweet tea and humidity to last a lifetime. For most teenagers, a summer spent in South Carolina means trips to Myrtle Beach, days spent roaming the mall to escape the heat, sporadic episodes of extreme boredom, and maybe even a few college tours here and there. But for me, a Muslim American, hijab-wearing teenager, summer in South Carolina also means getting stared at. A lot. In the religion of Islam, when a woman decides to wear the hijab, or the religious head covering, she must also cover her body and only show her hands and feet. That means in the middle of July I am wearing long pants and a long-sleeve top (if I muster up the energy to even step outside). I try to ignore people s stares and act as if I haven t suddenly turned into a zoo display, but as a paranoid teenager, it is difficult; sometimes the stares turn to whispers to profanity said to my face to a false stream of misconceptions about Muslims and Islam.
Living in the South, I have found that too many times I am seen as an outsider. I have found too many people making snarky, prejudiced comments about my hijab or who are afraid of a five foot one sixteen-year-old just because she wears a headscarf. Part of South Carolina s beauty lies in its growing diversity. Unfortunately, without the proper opportunity to differentiate between a terrorist and a true Muslim, students in South Carolina are thrown into the real world of diverse manufacturing companies and workplaces with little to no knowledge of how to effectively communicate with people of different beliefs. Many do not know how to respectfully but efficiently have a conversation with a coworker who challenges their beliefs. Most importantly, they do not know how to appreciate the differences between themselves and their diverse peers and to continue to work together with people of different backgrounds despite those disparities.
What is the remedy? From a young age, South Carolina students should have opportunities to delve into and have rich discussions with their peers about controversial topics such as religion. To improve our state, public high schools in South Carolina should be required to offer interfaith courses as electives. Based on a model of an organization that I currently run called the Youth Interfaith, these classes would allow students to explore a variety of belief systems and have conversations with peers of different religions about their beliefs. Through the Youth Interfaith, I host bimonthly dialogue events in the upstate of South Carolina with high school and college students. At the dialogue events, attendees are placed in groups with youth of a vast array of religions from Judaism to Islam to Christianity to Hinduism to Bahaism. In these groups, students discuss their own beliefs, ask questions to the youth of different religions, and talk about the differences between them. In elective interfaith classes, students will be given that same opportunity.
In public school, I find that teachers are hesitant to promote disagreement. They often shut down a conversation in class when students begin to differ or argue. Discussing religion and politics, even when connected to curriculum, is not promoted. The reality is, however, when these students become adults, not everyone in their office building will agree with them. In fact, most people in their workplace will have vastly different cultural and religious viewpoints. To truly live up to the goal of an impactful educational system, which is to prepare students for the real world, South Carolina s education system should change to embrace the growing diversity of our state. Educators strive to produce the best and the brightest students: students that go on to become change makers, trendsetters, and collaborators. Interfaith courses would help people of all backgrounds feel welcome and accepted in South Carolina, creating a stronger, more cohesive state.
Interfaith classes will foster an environment of understanding and unity from a young age while teaching crucial life skills, such as collaboration and participating in compelling conversations. South Carolina will be a model for diversity and inclusion by letting young people have those sometimes uncomfortable but eye-opening and mind-broadening conversations. And hopefully, these interfaith classes will help a certain Muslim girl spend a summer with a different type of stare. Instead of people staring at me, I will be staring out at the crystal blue waves of Myrtle Beach as I sip some classic South Carolina sweet tea.
The Most Turbulent Journey to Peace
Roann Abdeladl
I come from peace. A palpable, pure peace that infiltrates every aspect of my life. The peace I come from is unlike any other; my peace comes from a beginning full of uncertainty, a time of pure innocence, and an everlasting struggle.
My journey of peace began on September 11, 2001. Following the brutal attacks in New York City, my life changed forever. I suddenly became not just any average one-year-old American Muslim; I became a targeted one-year-old American Muslim. Oblivious to the turmoil boiling in the society around me, I started my life as an American Muslim child brought up in a faith of peace and a household of peace. But that is not what they said. As I grew older, I took the form of an eager child, prepared to energetically take on the world around me.
I vividly recall my time in elementary and early middle school in Taylors, South Carolina, as a period of innocence (and a period of some cringeworthy fashion choices, might I add). To a naive young child like me, everyone was a compassionate, understanding friend. Despite the tension and propagation of Islamophobia around me, I felt secure. Because I came from a place of peace. My faith taught me kindness to all, respect for the earth and its inhabitants, and to avoid hurting any creature, down to the ant that travels the crevices in the cracked pavement.
But that s not what they say. The period of innocence was seemingly short-lived. In July 2011, in the midst of the sweltering heat of the sun, I stood in front of my mirror and wrapped a thin, blue cotton scarf around my head. I adjusted the front of the scarf, smoothed out my matching blue plaid sparkly shirt and jeans (again, the terrible wardrobe choices), and walked out the door. At the age of eleven I had donned the hijab-the religious head covering for Muslim women-and unknowingly embarked on the most turbulent journey of peace.
Proudly wearing my hijab, I sat down on the plastic blue chair the first day of sixth grade. Rummaging through my bright pink, bulky backpack, I pulled out my materials for class and then, hands folded, sat patiently in my seat. The room was filled with the buzz of the first day of school, the sound of laughter and books slamming, and the beginning of new friendships. As I turned around to meet the girls sitting behind me, I immediately noticed them switching the subject of their previously hushed conversation. I went home that day carrying the weight of the knowledge that something was now different.
The burden of that weight increased as I grew older, and each day I came home the burden became more apparent, a continuous nagging in my brain. When I came home after a woman at the store profanely commented on my hijab, the weight grew. After standing downtown at a booth distributing flyers about Islam to promote understanding and peace only to be told to go back where I came from, the weight grew. But each time I went home, I remembered the peace I came from. My faith taught me to respond to the very weight that burdened me with a smile and a gesture of kindness to those who opposed me. Still, that s not what they say.
As my everlasting struggle and journey of peace persisted every day, I began to ask myself, who are they ? The media, society, and public opinion. But I eventually learned, after a difficult and continuous inner battle, that I should not wonder or ponder what they say. Rather, I have the power to show the world what I say. And I say: I come from peace.
Pallid Hubris
Chlo Hylkema
My ivory tower is my own body.
I am perfectly protected by my Dutch grandfather, my German grandmother, my Italian great grandmother.
I cannot help but think I take AP Chemistry because of the light hue that was painted on my skin. There are two boys who are several hues darker.
In AP US History, the same two boys. In AP European History, there are none.
Apparently, white is clean. Darker must be scrubbed until it is white.
The soil of the South is deeply penetrated with this melancholy prejudice, and the grime is packed under all of our fingernails.
How should we improve the state of South Carolina? We should end racism.
Okay ?
I mean we could stop glorifying those who believed slavery was a positive good, the statue that haunts the campus of Clemson University. I mean we could prohibit the flying of a symbol of hate that is disguised under the excuse of southern heritage, the small square that is plastered on license plates mandated by the state. I mean we could address the segregation that is unspoken but exists.
Why is the majority in AP classes white? Why is most of Beta Club white? Religion and Philosophy Club? Academic Team? I can only think of two black boys I share classes with. South Carolina is often seen as a state without hope, so deeply rooted in racism that it cannot escape.
I disagree. Where there is great desperation there is also great potential. To improve South Carolina, we address the consequences men like John C. Calhoun had on the social fabric of America and delegitimize his status as a southern hero. We strongly discourage the display of the Confederate flag by no longer making it available on license plates. We try to encourage all students to reach their potential by supporting them in the classroom, so their work can reflect as little as possible on what happens after the bell rings.
I will not accept inequality as an American citizen. I will surely not accept inequality in the state I was born, grew, and have lived in my entire life.
I will celebrate the destruction of my ivory tower, the lessened glorification of my hue, the filling of my classes with color. I will celebrate acceptance, love, and equality.
In celebrating these things, I will celebrate those who are oppressed. By celebrating those who are oppressed, I will celebrate South Carolina.
Chlo Hylkema
I come from not a single Ph.D. No doctors, no lawyers. I am a child of dreams, of cold apartments in Buffalo and mile-long skates through hazy suburbia. I am no child of prestige; I am a child of authenticity, a child naturally grown in an American field by workers with rough hands.
I come from handcrafted opportunity, a versatile woman of poise, of art, of sewing and baking, a man who labored tirelessly to ensure his children would continue to dream. I am a child of honesty; I come from families that can be reformed and remolded, reworked under hot water and made cohesively into a home. I come from movers, and because of that I am a blamer. I see the world through a chain-link fence, staring at dead grass on my side, the bright green on the other, and I am quite tragic. I ignore the warm house behind me, the struggle that got me there, the poverty that is no stranger to my father and his side of those extending branches. How dare I refuse to realize where I come from? I come from my mother of kindness, my father of humor and perseverance.
I am a child of years of work and education, or the lack thereof, blizzards, old bikes, newly enforced helmets. I am a child of the working class; I come from dedicated cooking and June sprinklers, blue bumper stickers that endorse love, that endorse acceptance, that move against hate and move against fear.
I come from a shared room, a cohabitated wish. I come from love and piety; I come from Pope Francis and Magnifikid! , the sweetness of incense and the truth of transubstantiation. I will put in tireless hours for countless days until I can grasp what I have wanted since I was a starry-eyed six-year-old, which has always seemed perfectly out of my reach.
I will look at my mother, my father, my grandparents, this home in Seneca, this gathering in Easley. I will seek blossoming cucumbers, and I will gaze wistfully at my siblings who reflect why I am. I will smile at the small chapel of St. Andrew, I will cross myself, I will know He is there. I will look at the picture frames of time that somehow slipped into oblivion, an existence of haze and warmth. I will look at the intimidating brick school that brought me from braces to a graduation cap and at Coach Bill and Mrs. Chandler and my own father. I will look at the old red theater, I will find the magnolia tree that provided a world of magic for my brother and me, and I will correct that age-old slouch that I have shouldered my entire life. I will look from where that six-year-old pulled me to, and I will live as proof that dreams are not for fools.
I will look at these things, and I will look at these people. I will look, and I will proclaim that I am nothing more than a reflection of those from whom I come. I am nothing but a reflection of their work, their love. I will look at where I come from, and I will say- Thank you.
The Case against Capital Punishment
Angelica Rogers
How can we improve our state? The question is topical. Some of my peers will undoubtedly describe South Carolina as an ineffable deity to southern values, needing no improvement. However, I find the problems of our state to be overwhelmingly overt: the case of capital punishment being just one example. The death penalty is not only legal in South Carolina but encouraged. The electric chair is a beastly disfigurement that mars our state. This barbaric and public display of judicial hypocrisy should, without a doubt, be abolished for our betterment.
The death penalty as a concept is not racist; however statistically one cannot deny that it is implemented in a way that disadvantages racial minorities. Statistics from the National Death Penalty Database show that when a Caucasian falls victim to violent crime, the death penalty is more likely to be sought. Although African Americans account for fifty percent of the murder victims in South Carolina, only ten of the forty-three execution cases since 1985 have had black or Hispanic victims. Thirty-three people were executed in cases in which the victim was white. This is a trend that continues nationwide, leaving minority victims without justice.
Capital punishment also targets the 860,000 South Carolinians living beneath the poverty threshold. More than ninety percent of people charged with death penalty crimes are indigent and cannot afford adequate legal representation. Their poverty dooms them to counsel with inexperienced, underpaid, and overworked lawyers, often provided by the state. As long as judicial murder remains legal, it continues to plague racial minorities and the poor.
Those in favor of capital punishment argue that it is a deterrent to violent crime. If this were true, one would assume that states without the looming threat of the death penalty would statistically have higher violent crime rates. The reality is actually quite the opposite. Nationwide, and in South Carolina, death penalty states have higher rates of crime than non-death penalty states. In the words of West Orange police chief James Abbott, I know that in practice, [the death penalty] does more harm than good. So while I hang on to my theoretical views, as I m sure many of you will, I stand before you to say that society is better off without capital punishment . Life in prison without parole in a maximum-security detention facility is a better alternative.
The notion that a drug kingpin does not already live with the daily fear of execution is irrational. The execution he fears, however, is much less dainty than that of the state, which in this case serves only to drain the taxpayers pockets.
The Eighth Amendment states that excessive bail shall not be required nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Capital punishment is a penological relic, originating from the earliest methods of corporal punishment, like slave branding, and dating as far back as 1608. This rudimentarily defines the death penalty as a cruel form of discipline. The United States is the only Western industrialized nation to practice capital punishment. This antiquates our country into a sadistic and savage governing body comparatively. Like barbaric slave whipping, executions have no place in a civilized society, and inherently contradict the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
From the point of view of a victim or a victim s family, the death penalty certainly has emotional justifications and provides society with reason to put down its most egregious members. It is for this reason that justice in the United States is not served through vigilantes. People fall subject to capricious urges for vengeance, whereas a government process is more likely to take a logical approach. Nonetheless, there is no moral justification for taking a human life in the name of insufficient and unfulfilling revenge. Nearly all people are raised to believe that killing is wrong, yet we live in a state that hypocritically puts people to death. Murder for punishment is still murder.
The possibility of human error cannot be eliminated. Since 1973, there have been 144 innocent people killed on death row nationwide. Activist organizations like the Innocence Project work to rescue those innocent people burdened with capital punishment. There is no way to know how many more innocent people have fallen victim to a graceless and flawed system.
Abolishing judicial murder is imperative for improving our state. If this public display of hypocrisy and barbarism is allowed to continue, it sets a moral and intellectual standard for South Carolinians that is, quite frankly, disgustingly low.
Works Cited
Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Six Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty. N.d. http://nodeathpenalty.org/get-the-facts/six-reasons-oppose-death-penalty (accessed 2 Dec. 2016).
Death Penalty Information Center. Experts Explain Why the Death Penalty Does Not Deter Murder. 22 Oct. 2007. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/2200 .
Death Penalty Information Center. Part I: History of the Death Penalty. N.d. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/part-i-history-death-penalty (accessed 2 Dec. 2016).
Death Penalty Information Center. Searchable Execution Database. N.d. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/views-executions (accessed 2 Dec. 2016).
Death Penalty Information Center. Fighting Crime in the U.S. and Internationally: Is the Death Penalty Necessary? N.d. https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/international-police-forum-death-penalty (accessed 29 Aug. 2018).
Ellis, Sarah. South Carolina Poverty Rate Nearly Steady but Still Ranks 9th Highest. Columbia State 20 Sept. 2014. http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article13886885.html .
Innocence Project. Help Us Put an End to Wrongful Convictions! N.d. http://www.innocenceproject.org (accessed 2 Dec. 2016).
South Carolinians Against the Death Penalty. N.d. https://sc-abolish.org/ (accessed 2 Dec. 2016).
My Love for the Mockingbird
Angelica Rogers
It is preposterous to believe people read novels in a conscious effort to become better people. Still, I wager instead that after reading we often do become better people anyway, without our consent. Harper Lee s To Kill a Mockingbird grasped my heart firmly during my adolescence and as a result lifted the burden of hate from it. This absolute masterpiece, which addresses honor in a violent world, changed my view of the facts of my condition and the conditions of others. It led me to conclusions that would expedite my journey toward knowing who I am.
At the age of fourteen I was not especially interested in examining my moral compass. I was selfish and unbothered and wholly blind to injustice, simply because I was not the target. When the small paperback version of Lee s novel was placed in my hands, I expected a folksy tale about southern values. I did not expect to encounter Atticus Finch with his rock-solid dedication to justice and the empathy I now hold close to my heart. I did not expect to be confronted by what now seems to be a metaphor for my own naive ideas about racism through the eyes of young Scout; and I certainly did not expect for those ideas to be utterly polarized. I did not expect the Ewells and Tom Robinson and how together they would shatter my personal fantasy of a righteous justice system. However, this small book filled with such revelations is what I was given by some gracious power above who must have known my heart.
While I read this heartbreaking story of love and truth and justice and the lack of these things, I discovered that injustice, namely racial injustice, happens. I was shaken to my core by this suggestion; the fact that such injustice was not happening to me did not eradicate it from happening at all. I was forced to stop staring at my own philosophical belly button and examine the pain of others.
This is why I find To Kill a Mockingbird so monumentally striking. Its sheer power over me changed me for the better in a way that is unparalleled to this day.
I am a better person because of Scout Finch, and I count my heart lucky to have been melted by this story of what it means to help another person. I did not expect Lee s comparison, and her shameless boldness, and the stone-solid tether she stretches between the concepts of injustice and humanity. But had I gone without it, I do not believe I would be a whole person today.
Monster of Our Roots
Stephen Brooke
There is something rotten in this state of ours. You can t smell it, can you? Not yet at least. No, your nose is pervaded by a cloying perfume. This perfume is a thin veneer of kindness and hospitality masking the body of cruelty and evil that has slowly decayed over years-no, decades-no, centuries .
Perfuming the deceased is an antiquated tradition, practiced in many cultures. Ancient Egyptians used fragrant oils in their mummification rituals. Followers of Islam perfume burial shrouds with camphor, as commanded by the Prophet. The Christian Bible often mentions the use of precious and costly oils to anoint bodies. While some may speculate on reasons, perhaps religious or mystical, the more likely reasons are simpler and far more macabre: to preserve and to disguise a gut-wrenching smell.
This practice is still at work in South Carolina. The perfume referred to as southern hospitality has covered up and preserved a terrible issue for far too long, an issue that lies in its very roots. Its flesh withered away long ago, but its bones, its core remains. Dead as it appears, I still see its hand at work around me. I see people pushed, pulled, defined by the cultures it shaped. I ve seen it myself, dividing friends, rending lovers asunder, and ruining lives. Every day it drives a wedge between people, denying proper education, work, and care; it steals care and food from the mouths of innocents. Its colors, its flag still hangs in repulsive rebellion. Its agents commit atrocities around us-figures of authority perpetuating acts of brutality, heartless butchery in a house of God-and for what? Have the citizens of this good state no sense of decency? Have they no honor? No soul? If they do, why do they allow this abomination to survive? Why? Why? Why?
The answer: because these citizens fear its absence more than the monster itself. A monster that perpetuates hatred, fear, and shame, all shoved away and masked with that sickly sweet perfume. This monster lies in wait, slowly building up a repugnant pressure behind the dam, waiting for the day it can roil over the walls these people have built, revealing what they hide-hideous and grotesque. Yet the South has done nothing to stop the monster from ravaging a race.
Like all monsters, there is a way to defeat it that is astoundingly simple. There is an answer. It is to stop pretending it is dead and gone. It is to cease the denial. It is to face the shame. The pain. The regret. It is to stop striking its names and words from books and, rather, to fling them into the sunlight. It is to set aside the mask of political correctness and to expose the real face in all its ugly horridness. There is a word, a wind that can blow away the clouding perfume, a hammer to knock down the walls.
There is a single word that began it all. An undeniable but small and simple one, taken far beyond reason. Misunderstood beyond confusion and into the realms of hate and fear.
There is another word. You may not see it. The perfume covers it-the walls are built around it. The construct of humanity , built by a few for their own covetous benefit. The Monster of the South, seated in and fed by the roots of the Palmetto Tree.
The Journey Home
Stephen Brooke
Life has a way of bringing us in a circle. When I first began J. R. R. Tolkien s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings , I had no idea what I was in for. I was taken on a magical journey through a whole new world, but in the end I learned the best place to be is always home.
The Lord of the Rings has incredible imagery. In The Two Towers , I remember first arriving at Minas Tirith, the vast military city that stood as a bastion against the evil in Mordor-the home of the dark lord Sauron, but also the only place where Sauron s One Ring of Power could be destroyed. Tolkien s description of layer upon layer of rock and steel put me there in Middle Earth. For me, it was an entirely new experience. To feel a story, that is a truly amazing thing. As Tolkien s characters Pippin and Gandalf entered the city of Minas Tirith, so did I. I could feel the awesome weight of carved stone, hear the clink of metal as soldiers ran past, smell the watchmen s fire. I was not reading a story. I was there.
I never expected to learn a lesson of life from fiction. However, an exchange between Gandalf and Pippin opened my eyes to something I will never forget. Pippin fears that Minas Tirith will be overrun, and they will all be slain. In that moment, Gandalf spoke to my heart. Death is not something to be feared. It is not the end. It is merely the beginning of another journey. The road goes ever on and on-it is not a happy tune. It is a sad reminder of lost friends and a hope that their roads still stretch before them. At that time, I had recently lost my grandfather, possibly the most precious person to me in the world. So Gandalf s statement was a reminder that I was not alone in my time of darkness. My grandfather was there-traveling his own road.
In the Shire, the rustic home of hobbits distanced from the rest of the world, Sam is a bit of a fool. He says so himself. Frodo s loyal gardener, Sam pledges to see the journey through to the end. Near home, he is rather useless-just a cook, after all, for Frodo, the protagonist who had inherited his fate from Frodo s grandfather, Bilbo. The farther they travel from home, though, the more this epitome of a Shire-hobbit shows the true qualities of a friend. Homely Sam stays with Frodo when no other would, he rescues him from the pits of hell, he carries his burden. No one could ask more from a friend, and in the end, Sam appeared to me to be the true hero. He does a curious thing, though. He wants nothing more than to return to the Shire and his crush, Rosie. He wants to return home, and by doing so, he carries home with him, reminding Frodo that even in the depths of hell and over a lake of fire, happiness is there. Happiness is there for you, so long as you can carry it in your heart.
Man is a tangled mess of life and flesh, tossed upon a sea of tragedy. It is our duty to remember we are an island. When we latch on to what is dear, Tolkien taught me that we can come to rest at home. No matter what happens, no matter where we go, no matter what heart-rending sorrows we suffer, there is a place we know. We love. We remember. And that is called home.
What the Headlines Won t Mention
Walter Scott 2015
Taylor Kahn-Perry
I wonder if he ever went by Walt. But I suppose
that would be a tough name to live up to. Consider Whitman,
Disney. Artists, some would call them, but perhaps
just the sort of people who understood craft. The craft
of a leaf into grass or the veins of the imagination.
I wonder what they would make of the craft of shooting
a man eight times in the back, the stylistic properties
of the five dots outlined in blood that cratered into his
spine as if it were a moon. I wonder if they would find precision
in the moon: the way it s placed into the slinky skyline and
beams white over a bloody battleground where soldiers fall
in a war Congress didn t quite declare
but seems to have no interest in stopping either. A black hand
grasps a white one and a mother and a father walk intertwined
toward their house, all too aware that if their knuckles were
clenched more tightly against one another, perhaps if they were both
men, not lovers but strangers, one armed, one not, one running, one
slickly shooting to the steady pace of his own relaxed heartbeat,
that they could easily be the next headline; it s all too easy to mimic
the rhythms of the great American history, an anthology of
tradition that preaches the impracticalities of peace.
I Come From
Taylor Kahn-Perry
From 613 fibers wrung
together to form a talis,
from long hours in Torah
study where the sun would drop
to give rise to the moon-
a single white bead
which inhales with the wind-,
from the thick y alls
which separate baruchs
from atop the bimah and give
a whole new meaning to bless her heart.
From resolute but all too familiar crosses that mark
churches on all four corners of my synagogue,
here girls become women at age thirteen.
Between teeth coated by braces, they speak the word
of God-we, with barely sprouted breasts,
direct our congregations to
please rise, Shabbat
peace, we say, with pieces
of ourselves shoved together somewhere down
our throats, somewhere where we ve seen mothers spread
their fingers around their children s back
sides, where we ve pledged our allegiance to the same
American flag which the veteran who sits by the bridge
on the way to Hebrew School waves,
waves like the ones at the beaches
which raised us to always say yes
Ma am, yes ma am
to the ladies who whisper
to their girls In that synagogue, right
there, those girls are going to hell. You
may be seated, we say, and here girls
who become women chant
Torah, exhale lisps
of sounds that come from letters we
only half understand, like Miriam,
we breathe out words of freedom-think
that veteran-we ask god Mi
Chamocha? Who is like you? and we hope-
pray-one of the women in the front row of the
synagogue-no matter if she
became a woman just
last week-will sing out and
From that baked glaze of challah
bread that, like the smiles
of southern women, moistens when it
breaks, I invite my congregation to
rise, rise like the tide just two miles over,
rise like the bread was not able to at Pesach, like
that Exodus from Egypt,
rise like the smell of pralines
on Market Street and oyster beds
along the Ashley. In Hebrew
that still slips into the vernacular
of fishermen from Beaufort and
schoolteachers from Sumter, but still
in the Hebrew my grandfather hid
in Germany but bellowed in Omaha,
I pray to a god who resides
along a cloud somewhere, his belly sore
from sweet tea and that slow,
taffy-like feeling after it rains.
South Carolina Superhero
Destiny Jackson
One dark and gloomy night, on the narrow streets of Charleston, residents and tourists were like bees in a honeycomb. Cars were everywhere. Everyone was rushing to get home. It was like people knew something terrifying was looming. Then, everything seemed to stop. Market Street was vacant, and all of the stores seemed to close all at once. In a dark alley illuminated by a single flickering streetlight, a man was getting beaten, basically tortured to death, because he just so happened to be selling drugs on their turf. They were the notorious gang Muerte, also known as death. They were the big bad wolf, and the people of Charleston were known as the little pigs. Muerte had everyone running toward their brick houses for safety. The people were terrified.
Noah Pierce was a very unlucky man. You could hear his faint cries and the sick thud of the baseball bat as it repeatedly collided with his body and echoed in the night. As he cried out one last time, there was a sudden gust of wind-unusual, yet strong. The wind was like a glimmer of hope, not only for Noah Pierce, but for everyone in the city.
In what seemed to be miraculously created from the gust of wind, a young man appeared who seemed to be in his mid-twenties. The set of his chiseled chin and strong muscular stature gave a sense that he had had enough. You could tell he was exhausted by all of the violence and how everyone looked the other way instead of doing something to stop all of the madness. As the wind began to die down and the light from the stars shined on him, you could see his costume. There was a drawing of a palmetto tree in the middle of an outline of South Carolina on his chest. That is when Noah Pierce realized the young man was his savior.
The mystery guy went over to the scene and simply said, That s enough. The gang members considered him a joke and began hitting him with the bat, but in the blink of an eye, the mystery guy immediately grabbed it and crushed it with his bare hands. It was remarkable. Not knowing what to do or how to handle the situation, members of Muerte ran like their lives depended on it. But the mystery man was too late. As he went to aid the battered Noah Pierce, he heard him utter a simple sentence before taking his last dying breath. You are my Palmetto Savior. Thus the Palmetto Savior was born.
Several months passed since the Palmetto Savior literally emerged from the winds. He had been helping people not only in Charleston but all over the state-saving people from burning buildings, car pileups, police brutality, but most importantly, gang violence.
The Palmetto Savior had been endlessly battling it out with the head of Muerte, known as Miedo-his name literally meant fear. It was said that Miedo was the definition of fear itself. The gang just refused to be defeated, they would not give up, and were determined to continue their usual routine. Every night the Palmetto Savior would scavenge the streets of Charleston to stop the terrorizing of the people.
One fateful day, Miedo got the better hand, deploying many of his members in many areas of Charleston all at once to begin selling drugs, breaking into houses, and abusing the people. The Palmetto Savior could not reach everyone at once, and that s when he realized he needed help; he needed to reach out to the very people he had been saving. He began pleading to everyone across the state: We cannot fight violence with violence. I may be strong and I may be fast, but I cannot do this alone. We must come together as a group and put an end to all of the gangs-not just Muerte, but every gang in South Carolina.
The Palmetto Savior would not stop until his point had gotten across to all of the people of South Carolina. They began to understand that they must stand as one, they must be united as one, and they must fight as one.
Am I Good Enough
Destiny Jackson
I come from sorrow. Growing up as a child, I always stood out like a sore thumb. I could not fully relate to the other kids in my kindergarten class. I was a broad thinker. While the other kids went out to play during recess, I would stay inside and paint the same little picture that seemed to be stuck inside my head-a flower, a bright yellow sun, birds, grass-but the time of day always changed. Even to this day I never fully understood why I painted the same picture every day as I watched my fellow classmates pass me by, but I do remember always asking myself, Am I good enough?
Several years went by, and I was now in fourth grade. My perspective of life had drastically changed. I no longer saw life as a painting of a flower. My views of life became much darker and filled with various questions as my classmates began to bully me. They called me names because I was too white for the black people and too black for the white people. That is when I started to wonder why race, ethnicity, and skin tone played such a big role in who we are and who we should become. Even though that question constantly circled around my brain, I could not help but think, Am I good enough?
Middle school awaited me, and the bullying stopped, but once again, my perspective of life had changed. It no longer revolved around a pretty painting of a flower nor questions about whether skin color defined who you should become. The question was Can I still make it even though no one else did? Growing up in a small town no one really knows about tends to discourage you. You begin to lose hope. I could already see it in the eyes of my classmates. They knew in their hearts that they were going to be stuck in this small town, and their actions proved it. As you drive along the roads in town, you see former students walking. They look different now because drugs and the loss of hope overcame them. I started to wonder if I could make it, or would I suffer the same fate as my friends before me? Or could I actually get out and do something great with my life? As we drove by another forgotten friend, I could not help but wonder, Am I good enough?
I am close to finishing high school, and my perspective of life has changed once again. It no longer revolves around a flower or questions of why skin color affected who I became, nor did it revolve around whether or not I could make it outside my forsaken town. It now revolves around this one question: When I make it out of my little town, will I be successful, will I make a difference? This question constantly circles my mind because I want to be able to change lives, I want to be able to give back to communities, I want to be able to put hope back into the eyes of kids in coming generations, to let them know they can make it if they just believe in themselves. Yet once again I ve asked myself, Am I good enough?
Just One
Airielle Lowe
Another mass shooting has struck America, though this time tragedy falls upon the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The deep lines etched across her mother s steadily darkening face do nothing to keep away the violent waves twisting inside her stomach, jostling her insides like a boat caught out in the midst of a storm. Even now, standing in the middle of the living room hiding behind her own small fingers while her parents sit on the couch staring at the television news, she can feel herself on that very same boat, struggling to grasp hold of something, anything to keep herself from sliding off as the inevitable looms forward.
Police have already identified the suspect, whose name has not yet been released, though they have proclaimed that this terrible act was indeed a calculated hate crime.
Her father is far from any better, lips constructing to form a deep frown that stretches across his face, fists clenched and arms stiff. She s always had some concept of life and death, bad and good, has seen the way it makes her parents droop, makes them shut off the television and send her back to her room.
But this is different.
Following the Wednesday massacre of the nine victims, the South Carolina Confederate flag has still not been lowered half-staff, angering many.
A brief image of the red flag flashes across the screen, white lines forming an X with blank stars trailing up its blue surface.
Her parents use the words Confederate flag , but she s never been able to pronounce it quite yet. Only recently has she learned to form bigger, more complicated words in class, though nowhere near any closer to being able to spell them.
It s odd how much of a reaction one simple little flag could raise from the two strongest people she s ever known. Every time they saw it hanging in the window of a store, on the license plate of a car, or in a picture on the wall, their eyes glowed with a fervor she didn t know was possible.
She thought the worst she d ever seen her mother was during the times she would come home from school, big brown eyes filled with tears when the kids at school made fun of her for her hair, saying it was too big and unnatural looking.
Her parents say the word racism a lot these days-yet another term with syllables her tongue can t seem to agree with.
Her mother tells her often she ll have to work twice as hard as the other kids to make it to the same level as them. Her father compliments her curly fro every day and reminds her that even if she doesn t look like everyone else in school and in her favorite movies, she s just as beautiful.
She figures maybe one day she ll know the answer as to why. Why some of the kids in school mock the large curls she was blessed with, make jokes about her sun-kissed chocolate-colored skin. Maybe one day she ll figure out the answer as to why that ugly racism word makes her mom cry at night and hold up signs at protests, makes her father yell at the television and step out of the room for long periods of time.
Her mom says the problem won t fade away within a day or two, or even a year. It ll take the hearts of the people carrying out these wrongful crimes and those allowing it to stop it. It ll take the hearts of teachers to actually punish kids when racism and bullying occur, not only to make sure that it doesn t ever happen again, but to educate them as to why it shouldn t happen.
It could start with her own teachers who pass off subtle remarks and small giggles as jokes. It could start with just one kid sticking up for the boy being bullied because of his too dark skin, the girl who s teased for her big hair.
Her mother says that the shooting at the church started with one person and ended with nine lives, gone.
But the start of a new beginning where every race can learn to love and embrace each other can start with one person too, and end with every life still blooming with energy and altered for the better.
It all starts with one person, one motion, and sometimes, just one simple word.
And maybe, it ll start with someone she knows, too.
Where I m From
Airielle Lowe
I come from the sempiternal youth that lingers between the thin pages of books sitting on the dark shelves of a mahogany bookcase, dust in the air of the local library as a sun-kissed skyline emerges from somewhere.

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