PONGO POETRY | For Every Negative, There’s a Positive

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 learn more about Pongo’s work of inspiring healing and relief among youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, join the Pongo Poetry Circle today.

Wish Poem

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

When I was young, I used to wish I was older
Today, I wish I wasn’t getting in trouble, getting in detention

Every day I wish I get to see my family
My wish is the color of yellow cause it’s happiness

It is the sound of laughing playing and loving
My wish feels like I’m not gonna achieve it

My wish is always thoughtful
My wish is never getting in trouble
My wish is seeing brothers and sisters

Changing Ways

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

No New Year’s resolution for me
No crying decree
No promises, just average changes

Less time overthinking
More time exercising

Less time eating unhealthy
More time thinking positive

Not so many regrets
A few better moments

Not so many cold nights
A few more smiles

Less frowns
More silence

Less troubles
More changes

Change after all… is good
Change after all
Is all I know

For Every Negative, There’s a Positive

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

I’m from Washington
I’m biracial
Where I’m from we have Sunday dinners
We make gumbo with sausage, fried chicken, and rice
We also have mac and cheese and watermelon

Where I’m from we watch Law and Order
I watch it with my mother, my grandparents, and everyone
It’s my favorite show

Where I’m from we go to New Life Baptist All Black Church
Every Sunday
There’s a lot of Gospel singing
When I go home, I’m looking forward to wrestling
I can get all my anger out on the mat
I get to exercise,
it makes me feel good

I’m looking forward to seeing my brother
We love watching movies together
We like to box
Make music, and try to freestyle
I’m looking forward to leaving jail

I’m tired of being locked up in a box
I’m tired of doing what these folks want me to do
I wanna just do me on my own time
When I go home, I’m looking forward to finishing high school

I want to graduate and move on to college
To study psychology
Reading this poem, I hope you guys know
For every dark night comes a brighter day

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by 周杰意 Jieyi Zhou.

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