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One

One, Mixed Media by Ella Corwin

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers’ partnership with Grammy Award-winning artist Miri Ben-Ari and her organization The Gedenk Movement continues to flourish. For the 2015 Scholastic Awards, we wanted middle- and high-school students to explore their roles in creating a more tolerant society. The students were asked to create original works of art and writing that reflect upon the lessons learned from the Holocaust and other genocides, with the intent to raise awareness of the importance of increasing tolerance to safeguard a peaceful society. This year, we received more than 5,000 submissions that were self-identified for consideration for a Gedenk Award! Six talented young artists and writers were honored with the 2015 Gedenk Award for Tolerance, along with a $1,000 cash scholarship from Gedenk! The Alliance, Miri Ben-Ari, and Gedenk would like to congratulate the winners. They are:

  • Ella CorwinOne, Grade 8, Age 14, Northshore Christian Academy, Everett, WA
  • Jo de WaalLet Light In, Grade 10, Age 16, Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT
  • Lilianna HarrisLegs, Grade 11, Age 17, American Heritage School: Plantation Campus, Plantation, FL
  • Mya NunnallyA House of Leaves Moments Before the Wind, Grade 11, Age 17, Red Bank Regional High School, Little Silver, NJ
  • Lisa QianSquint, Grade 12, Age 17, Home School, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Cadence SeegerVictory, Grade 12, Age 17, Yorktown High School, Arlington, VA

Legs

Legs, Photography by Lilianna Harris

The judges felt that one work in particular – a poem titled A House of Leaves Moments Before the Wind by Mya Nunnally – truly captured the spirit of the award, and it is being further celebrated as The Gedenk Award for Tolerance with Honors.

A House of Leaves Moments Before the Wind

A poem for Kevin Carter, the photojournalist who took a picture ofbut did not save a child near death in the Sudan, posed in front of a vulture waiting for her death. He won the Pulitzer Prize for the photo, and committed suicide on my birthday.

Kevin Carter, thirty three, takes a drive
to a playground he used to visit when he was a kid
It is my birthday, four years before I exist
He leans his head on the window
the glass rattles against his forehead
the water pools above his cheeks

His hands are still like a calm sea
resting on the leather of the steering wheel
as he takes a familiar road
to a place where good memories still
are rustled by the South African wind

He handwrites a suicide note,
folds it over and over and over
until it is crumpled like the wings of a vulture

Remembers the taut brown skin of his greatest regret,
feels the small death inside himself
for only the memory of her lives
(and that, too, is about to end)

He tapes
one end of a hose from his exhaust pipe,
one end of a hose inside his car window,
waits for the black fumes to
wipe away his debt, tuck it inside a cold body,
forget the ace was ever dealt

the card is slipped back into the deck
the body drunk with poison, the debt nonexistent
a life for a life

later, they will read his suicide note
it will still smell of smoke and what could have been
it will crumble like stale bread so only
a few words can be made out

it reads,
“I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain
of starving children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners”
it reads,
“The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that the joy does not exist”
it reads,
“I’m so, so, so, sorry.”

four years from now, I will be born
I will be named Mya
my mother will cry when I am born
a healthy, American girl
there will never be a day I do not have enough to eat

in Hindu philosophy, my name means illusion
like a mirage above the
vast emptiness of the Sudan desert
like something that girl
could have seen when she
was dying for a taste of water
something she could have
marveled at from a distance,
but never actually touch

in Buddhism, my name is that of Buddha’s mother,
a mother who cared for the awakened one,
a mother who raised the bringer of enlightenment
I wonder what that dying girl had,
if she had a mother who sang her to sleep
if she had a mother who didn’t eat so she could
if her mother cried when she was born

In the Nepali language, my name means love
something that didn’t grow long enough
in Kevin Carter’s heart before it was
drowned by carbon monoxide
something that was never fully understood
never wholly developed into adulthood
by a dying girl in the Sudan

there are times when I am breathing
and I can hear the click of a camera shutter
and I can taste exhaust fumes as I swallow
and I think all birds look like vultures

I must remind myself of
healthy children singing on playgrounds
the hot sun falling below lakes
girls who do not die,
girls who grow old with one another,
girls who laugh in thick august heat

it took me many mistakes and
many lives to realize
the pain of the earth
does not override the joy of it

and if I could write to Kevin Carter,
tell him how I wished he could’ve known this,
if I could steady myself enough to
deliver the almost empty letter,
all it would read is,
“I’m so, so, so,
sorry.”

To learn more about Miri Ben-Ari and The Gedenk Movement, visit the following pages:

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