...sharing thoughtful, mentor text-inspired lessons your students will love!
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A poem by Zachary, a 6th grade student
The gate blocks my view.
The gate sticks in my pictures.
It sticks into the ground before me
like the battle I will never get to.
I will never know
what it feels like to be
on the other side.
The Key to Freedom
By Emily, grade 4
There is a fence that binds me,
Through all the world I see,
It's dark then it's light,
It's day then it's night,
And now I find the key.
By Paula, grade 4
I longed to be free,
To dance, pray and have a decent sleep,
I longed for the Lord to set his people free,
But for now, I'm just sitting here waiting to be free.
Lulu's story about the gate, Grade 6
Lulu, 6th grade
A World of Dreams
My name is Hope, and I was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1962. That was a time when horrible things were going on in the world. I’m the youngest of six children. You can imagine how that feels, right? Let me tell you a little about my childhood.
My family lived downtown. That’s where most of the colored families lived in Richmond. For all of us, there was no crossing that gate. I’m talking about the rusty, iron gate that stood two blocks from my family’s apartment. It was the gate separating downtown from uptown, the white people from the colored.
I was always different from my other siblings. The outside world never concerned them. Everything they cared about was right there, in downtown Richmond. When I was a child, my life’s biggest dream was to not only leave downtown Richmond, but actually make a difference in the world. The worst part was that I wasn’t even allowed to think about that dream. My parents wouldn’t allow it, my teachers wouldn’t allow it, and most importantly, the world wouldn’t allow it, because, “The world is no place for little girls to be dreaming things that are simply just never going to happen.” That’s what my mother used to say whenever I told her about my dreams. You would expect a mother to encourage her child to “dream big.” But not with the heavy weight my parents had on their backs.
At the time, my father worked at the local post office, but somebody had been stealing packages. Who was there to blame but the colored people? All of them got laid off.
He had been searching for a new job for several months. My mother had started doing laundry for a family uptown. Our family was barely making it, financially.
That was just the least of our worries. Three middle-aged men had just been put in prison for refusing to sit in the back of the public bus. A police officer had recently beaten a teenager because he tried to climb the fence. It was an awful time, and people were doing the best they could to get through it.
Wasn’t this when God was supposed to intervene and help out? Those days, nobody had hope. Except for me. It turned out my name fit me just right.
There was only one place where I could express my feelings. That was my diary. I had just gotten it for my eighth birthday. I loved to write. My diary was my most prized possession. At least it had the most value from my point of view. My brother, Sean, thought it was dumb that I found so much value in a book. But that didn’t rattle me at all.
At the time, I had been writing many poems about what was going on around us. This is one of them.
Will we ever live in peace?
Will the fighting ever cease?
Will the world ever unite?
And come together to stop this big fight
Only one obstacle stands in the way
Awaiting the day
When there will be no hate
It separates you from me
Everyone seems to let it be
One day it will be gone
Hopefully not long
Whenever I used to write, I felt like I was letting everything go, shutting out the world.
I had written that poem while I was sitting by the fence. I remember the thoughts that poured into my head. While I was staring at all of the holes in the fence, I thought of all of the holes in the world we live in. These holes were the hatred and injustice. That huge hole in the very middle was the future if we didn’t make a difference in the past. The hard, iron wire that was pulling all of the holes together to form one gigantic hole, the fence, was what was putting a force field where there should have been unity in the world.
I remember when I sat at the dinner table that night and noticed that my parents had been acting strangely. They exchanged glances at each other.
I felt like they were keeping something from all of the children. Finally, my mother coughed and cleared her throat.
“Children, your father and I have some things to tell you,” she announced with a smile on her face. “We have some very good news.”
My father continued. “Today I got a job as a security guard at the Richmond airport. Margaret, do you want to tell them the other news?” asked my father.
“Children, you are going to have another sibling soon,” my mother said cheerfully.
Eventually my little sister was born. We decide to name her Jasmine. As she grew up, I realized she was more similar to me than any of my other siblings. She always wanted to do what I was doing. Nobody had ever taken an interest in me before. I took this as a compliment, and we are still extremely close today.
When I was about 18 years old, I moved to New York City to become a writer. I have just finished writing a book called That Gate.
I visited my family’s old apartment in Richmond, Virginia, and the fence was still there. But now it is just a school-yard fence. The situation in Richmond is now better. The world has progressed to become more united. I, too have moved on, but the childhood dream of changing the world still lies within me.
I am sitting now, with my three children showing them my diary from when I was a child. As long as I live, I will never forget that gate, and the knowledge it has given me about this world of dreams.
"Fenced Out" by: Ethan, grade 5
Why must I be treated this way?
I’m not an animal.
One minute I’m sleeping in my room
and the next
I’m fenced out of my neighborhood.
I hope this is temporary.
This can’t be forever.
What is my family going to say?
I might starve,
I might dehydrate,
I will die out here.
A rustling sound in the distinct behind me. What was that?
What are you doing?
What if it’s the tiger lose from the zoo,
we were warned about on the news.
Maybe it will not see me.
Maybe I should stay still.
Maybe I was meant to die.
"Trapped" by: Ashley
As I run to this old rusty fence I stare upon a polluted city. I wonder why I’m trapped in this old desert. It feels like I’m trapped in a scary dream. But I’m the only one who can see what this world has become. Starring into the city it seems so sad how all they care about is themselves.
Half the trees disappeared, the grass is dried and brown, and the river is like a wasteland. Don’t they understand that they are only killing themselves?
As I look around I can’t help but think that I’m a prisoner to this dessert. I wonder what the world would be like if we all lived like that?
And nobody could get out!
By: The Wonderer, Ashley
"Cage" by Willow
I’ve been trapped in a cage for years on end.
Scarred and starved my whole life..
I've been beaten since I was young
No idea why I starve
Fed slop and dirty water.
Never to be forgotten
From this world
Trapped in this cage forever.
Out during the pouring rain as if the sky was weeping for me.
"Nothing Can Go Wrong" by: Maeve
Nothing Can Go Wrong
What am I doing here?
Here in this life
Here in this world
I tried my best
But my life is a mess
What am I doing here?
Can I make a difference?
I am so depressed
I wonder if I should
Give up let go
What am I doing here?
My life has been battered
My heart has been ripped out
My dreams are shattered
Focusing on only what people think
And now my life is going down the sink
What am I doing here?
That fence with the cold sad metal bars
Restraining me from the joy of freeness
And simply me-ness
The free land awaits and you can see it
What am I doing here?
But something is strong
And well nothing can go wrong
That little voice inside of me says
I am who I am
And nothing will go wrong
By: Hopeful (Maeve)