Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. In the spring of 2022, Pongo began mentoring poetry with young people at the Echo Glen Children’s Center, a juvenile institution for youth serving criminal sentences. Studies of incarcerated youth indicate that up to 70% suffer from a mental health disorder and that many have experienced childhood trauma. The isolation, economic upheaval, and turmoil of the last two years have only exacerbated this issue. Youth at Echo Glen have endured significant mental and emotional challenges in the last two years, including increased rates of depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and behavioral challenges.

Pongo believes there is power in creative expression, and articulating one’s 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 youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To partner with Pongo in inspiring healing and relief in youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, register for Speaking Volumes 2022, its fall celebration.

Different Colors in My Life

by a young person at the Echo Glen Children’s Center

I am feeling tired.
I want to talk about madness
because I have been through things in the past

And it just goes so fast.
The time passes so fast.
I use red as my madness
And I use grey for my loneliness.

What makes me mad is there’s no
Respect in people
and you never have a true friend.

What makes me lonely is that
I ain’t got nobody there for me.
There’s always negative and
There’s no positive.

I use blue as my sadness
And when I feel sad is when
I lose loved ones. Time flies
So fast. It’s like casting my soul away.

I use yellow for joy. I feel happy
When I’m with my family.
Because they treat me lovingly.
They always give me positivity
And they motivate me to do better.

I use purple when I’m intoxicated.
I buy nugs from my plug
And I feel numb.
I get no hugs and I’m around thugs.
I pop pills to fill up the void.
I feel pain, but there ain’t no sane.
And I feel not myself.

And this is my life throughout the
Days, weeks, months, and years.

Family Cares

by a young person, age 15

This a letter from my journals, I swear I love all my people
I know they hate I’m in a cage, and all the things I did were lethal
I hope they know I’m trying to change, so I can see them better days

Go out fishing with my pops and with my brothers playing games
All my family’s moving out, I hope next there’s a reunion
Kick back with some good food, that’s when I’m out this institution

My mom’s always there, I swear that she’s the one that cares
Eight kids and she was patient, trying to get us all prepared
I call my sisters on the phone, they’re waiting for me to get home
They say they just had a kid, I cannot wait to see them grow

To my nephew and my nieces, do not follow down this path
Go to school, and get a job, and be way better than your dad
’cause in this life, these people die, for trying to make somebody cry

Hope you know what I am saying, just be better in this life

Dedicated to my people

Real World

by a young person, age 15

Crooked ass life
In this life there are no winners
You could make it to the top, or you could get eaten like dinner
Looking back now, I can’t remember when I won
Try to make it out this struggle, I’m just trying to have some fun

If you listen, you can hear about the way that I was feeling
I’m just trying to make it out, so I can say that I’m just chillin’
Ain’t no help, you gotta make it by yourself
Watch your friends and who you trust ’cause they will rip apart your health

I want to make it in a mansion, have a chef to cook me lunch
Have my family there too, I swear I love them all a bunch
Be the one that they look up to, so they can see I’m doing good
I’ll be the cleanest in these streets, to ever make it out the streets

This life crazy, young people out here killing for a name
And their mothers shedding tears while they’re standing on their grave
This is crazy, how we live, I swear it’s all part of this game
There ain’t no love for ghetto people, only for the ones with fame

This a letter from the gutter, I hope they listen to what I say
’Cause at end ain’t no one dare to see you in your last day

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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