Voices of Youth: Photography and poetry on mental health and racism

This article is part of Concentrate's Voices of Youth series, which features content created by Washtenaw County youth in partnership with Concentrate staff mentors, as well as feature stories by adult writers that examine issues of importance to local youth. In this installment, student Alexa Oguejiofor examines examines depression, racism, and prejudice through her photography and poetry. Below you'll see three poems by Alexa, her photography, and her artist's statement on her photo.

The People With the Different Skin Tones

I hated the way they looked at me,
The way they peered at me as if I was some unknown artifact.
They made me want to rip off every inch of my skin.
They made me want to hide and to never be seen.
Those eyes
Those eyes
Those eyes haunt me
Where do I hide when I cannot change what I have been born with?
Where do I hide from all these violent crimes caused by the color of my skin?
Where do I hide from the policeman pointing the gun?
I have nowhere to go
As they shoot at me one by one.
Just because they had a different skin tone.

By the Color Of Our Skin, We Die

She never knew what that word meant 
Until one kid whispered "monkey" into her ear,
Until her teacher stared disgusted at her when she spoke.
She never knew that word
Until she heard Emmett’s whistle,
Until she heard George’s gasps for breath,
Until she heard Daunte’s plea and saw the taser hidden behind the cop's back.
Racism tasted bitter on her tongue.
Racism was another word for death, she thought.

To Be a Person in Your Eyes

If we put the guns down,
If we lay them down with our pride and prejudices,
Our opinions without evidence,
There is a hope that you and me can live in harmony.
There is a chance that another Emmett can make it 
Till high school,
 A chance that another George can help others breathe again,
A chance where death can know no color, and love can reach all colors.

What Am I But Black in your eyes

To be human is to breathe 
To be human is to die
To be human is to love
To be human is not in the skin

To Be A Person in Your Eyes

~ Alexa Oguejiofor

Artist's statement: This artwork is about being depressed and alone. I used the black and white contrast to express how everything is seen by the deepest depths when you're in the pit of depression. Even when something isn't so bad, in the eyes of sadness it's the destroyer of the little life you had. However, I've also set up the camera to capture the background where it is light. Even though the girl is surrounded in darkness, she is still hoping for light, for life.

Alexa Oguejiofor is a 10th grader at Lincoln High School. Concentrate staffers Lynne Settles and Sarah Rigg served as her mentors on this project.

To learn more about Concentrate's Voices of Youth project and read other installments in the series, click 
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