Flying fire phoenix with sparks and bokeh background


Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), King County’s juvenile detention facility. Many CFJC residents are Youth of Color who have endured traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. These incidents have been caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism, and other forms of institutional oppression. In collaboration with CFJC staff, Pongo poetry writing offers CFJC youth 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 youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To learn more about Pongo’s work of inspiring healing and relief in youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, register for Pongo Poetry Night, its upcoming event at Third Place Books Ravenna

The L.A. Riots

by a young person, age 15

It all started with police,
pulling over a black male
they saw his color then they beat him senseless,
beat out his eye socket and tasered him in the chest.

The went to court the next day
they beat the case — 
I guess beating a black male 
wasn’t really a mistake.

Folks got mad, so mad
they started looting
they started beating on people
cause they tried to show, every way,
that they had a voice
and no one heard.

If I was there, I would have tried to protest
tried to bring peace within the people
I would tell everybody to go home.
We can bring peace now rather than later.
Beating on black people ain’t a game
it’s crime.

RIP Rodney King 
Although he didn’t die.
He still was a victim 
to a meaningless crime.

I believe people should just get along.

May You Rest Your Soul

by a young person, age 14

I am truly thankful for weapons and armor.
It’s easy to be grateful when you grew up 
without a father but harder to be grateful 
when your uncle got slaughtered.
But through being grateful, I have to admit 
I came a little farther,
which makes me want to say how grateful I am 
for my grandma for raising 
an intelligent daughter.

I have to admit, for all this and more,
I feel like saying 
Thank you, Granny
Now may you rest your soul.
In the past, I admit, I might have felt
like your sayings get old,
but now I got to be grateful
because just like lemonade on a hot day
I’m sold.

Down and Up

by a young person, age 18

I was fifteen 
and I was Down and not up
It was like struggling
Like black
I was fifteen 
and I was Down and not up
Had to make money somehow
My brother knew what was up
He sold drugs to feed the family
But once my mom found out
She kicked him out
I felt gray
And Down
That he got kicked out
Two weeks later
He got shot
And was in the hospital
My mom found out about the news
I was mad about it
I felt rage – Red
My mom didn’t take the news lightly
She burst out in tears
She didn’t cry often
Something that hit like a bullet
This was two years ago
Now my brother has his own job
In construction
I’m proud of him
My mom is doing better
Financially he contributes 
A lot
I feel more better about that
I wouldn’t know what color for her
Like blue, more on top
And now
Well, I’m in jail
Getting my high school diploma and GED
I feel good
I’m Up

📸 Featured image by Anastasiya_g/

Before you move on to the next story …
The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With over 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. 
If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. 
We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!