December 1, 2021

Pongo poetry project | South Seattle Emerald

The mission of the Pongo Poetry Project is to inspire young people to write poetry to inspire healing and growth. For more than 20 years, Pongo has framed poetry with youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), the King County juvenile detention center. Many CFJC residents are young people of color who have had traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect and exposure to violence. These incidents were caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism and other forms of institutional oppression. In collaboration with CFJC staff, writing Pongo poems provides youth at CFJC with a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. Through this special bimonthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience and creative capacity of young people whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To learn more about Pongo’s work and hear directly from his young writers, register for ‘Speaking Volumes’, Pongo’s second annual fall celebration.


THE PAIN IS FULL CIRCLE

by a 17 year old

I want you to know what it is
when a person is in jail
Many people are no longer there
Not found
Do not answer their phones
See people’s true colors
Bad, negative

I want you to understand my pain
when i see the hurt i have caused
I feel worse about it than what I actually did
It’s deep inside you
it hurts
The consequences come back all around
of what i did
then shut yourself up
that hurt my mother
The pain is over

I want you to know how I express myself
My actions are like my worst enemy
He is thoughtless
It doesn’t reflect my true values
He comes when I’m bored
He’s the opposite of what I like to think of myself as
And who I wanna be
If I could tell her something
I would say Stay away
and don’t come back

I want you to know what I’m capable of
My strength is like my best friend
He is caring and kind
He puts others before him
I want you to know my heart

Dedicated to my mom

continue reading PONGO POETRY: Pain is a full circle

Arts & CultureFeaturedPoetryPongo Poetry ProjectYouth Poetry

Illustration of a blindfolded bear walking a tightrope holding a balloon among the clouds.  A rainbow winds through the image.  Illustration by Alexa Strabuk

The mission of the Pongo Poetry Project is to inspire young people to write poetry to inspire healing and growth. For more than 20 years, Pongo mentored poetry with children at the Child Study Treatment Center (CSTC), the only state-run psychiatric hospital for young people in Washington state. Many young people at the ICCS struggle with serious emotional, behavioral and mental health issues. About 40% of young people arrive at the ICCS after receiving a court order for treatment; however, at the end of their stay, most young residents become voluntary participants. Pongo believes there is power in creative expression and expressing pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience and creative capacity of young people whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. For the opportunity to learn trauma-aware Pongo techniques to facilitate personal and healing poetry in your classroom, therapeutic practice, or community space, join their training on October 23.


HOPE

by a 16 year old

There is a time in our life when it can get dark
But sometimes all we need is a little point of light
At night we wish there was a light to shine for us through

Hope is for everyone
Hope is strength
to get through the most difficult times of our life

We see the light tonight
but sooner or later the light will go out
and then the light that is inside our hearts
will shine for us

We can learn to share it and show it

continue reading PONGO POETRY: My super-hope

Arts & CultureChild Study Treatment CenterFeaturedPoetryPongo Poetry ProjectYouth Poetry

Illustration of an individual featuring a man in a prison jumpsuit with a chain around his leg attached to an 8 ball. The individual wipes the blood off a chalk outline of a body.

The mission of the Pongo Poetry Project is to inspire young people to write poetry to inspire healing and growth. For more than 20 years, Pongo has framed poetry with youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), the King County juvenile detention center. Many CFJC residents are young people of color who have had traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect and exposure to violence. These incidents were caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism and other forms of institutional oppression. In collaboration with CFJC staff, writing Pongo poems provides youth at CFJC with a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. Through this special bimonthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience and creative capacity of young people whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To learn more about Pongo’s work and hear directly from his young writers, register for ‘Speaking Volumes’, Pongo’s second annual fall celebration.


THE STREETS COME WITH IT

by a 16 year old

I never realized the streets are coming
with all these feelings
until i was in my cell thinking
on what the judge said after the sentence
not knowing which of my brothers
turned into a witness.
I’ve never been to the streets for attention
I’m just trying to get my mom and I out of the trenches.
But I still go to jail.
I can’t help it because people are always changing.
I try to do good but the charges keep popping up
because people keep stinging.
It’s like a double-edged sword
‘Cause every time I go to jail
it’s like an intervention
to get away from these streets
it looks like hell but they get so cold though.
All those dead brothers –
I cry every time I see everyone’s photo.
I’m trying to grow up.
I try to stay on my 7-4. *
I can’t bend. I can’t let them see me fall apart.
It’s like every time I shit
the whole team is groping.

I have to walk through these units
and still standing.
Especially in my cell,
looking at those 4 × 4 cell walls.
Dealin ‘with all these suckas
in these rooms.
But they wouldn’t try me though,
they don’t have the balls.
I’m just trying to get out of it
but this system is so flawed.
It wouldn’t be a fight at all
if these lawyers were doing their job
like when that police went down
when they drew my brother in chalk.
And it’s like I can’t even go out to walk
Without being afraid
that I’m the next one to get shot.
It’s crazy to think
after all my ancestors fought,
That’s all we have.
Trying to get money
to get my people out of the block
but I keep being sent
in prison to rot.

continue reading PONGO POETRY: The streets come with that

Arts and CultureChildren & Family Justice CenterFeaturedPoetryPongo Poetry ProjectYouth Poetry

eye with hand holding cigarette Illustration by Alexa Strabuk

The mission of the Pongo Poetry Project is to inspire young people to write poetry to inspire healing and growth. For more than 20 years, Pongo has framed poetry with youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), the King County juvenile detention center. Many CFJC residents are young people of color who have had traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect and exposure to violence. These incidents were caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism and other forms of institutional oppression. In collaboration with CFJC staff, writing Pongo poems provides youth at CFJC with a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. Through this special bimonthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience and creative capacity of young people whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To learn more about Pongo’s work and hear directly from his young writers, register for ‘Speaking Volumes’, Pongo’s second annual fall celebration.


TO RELEASE MYSELF

by a 16 year old

If my fist could speak
that would tell you how i feel right now
He could tell you what’s going on
Or he could tell you that I’m crazy

If my feet could speak they would remember
walking in downtown Seattle
with my little brothers
Smoking
The city around me
People
Cars
Stores
Chillin ‘
Listening to rap music

continue reading PONGO PONGO: Free me

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