By Theresa Harrington
West Contra Costa County education reporter Shelly Meron wrote Friday about students from Richmond and Pinole who recited their poems at the New Stock Exchange.
Elishama Vallare of Ford Elementary in Richmond read his poem “Devasatation of Povery on the Streets,” and Shannon Chand from Stewart Elementary in Pinole shared her poem “Slavery.” They recited the poems as part of National Poetry Month in April.
The poetry event was organized by America SCORES, an organization that empowers students in urban communities using soccer, writing, creative expression and service learning, Meron reported.
I spoke to Elishama and Shannon today to find out how they got the ideas for their poetry and talk about their trip to New York, which neither of them had visited.
Elishama said he got the idea for his poem because he knows what it’s like to be on the street.
“I had the experience of being a poor person,” said the 11-year-old. “My aunt put us out, so we stayed in a mission for a while.”
Here is his poem:
“Devastation of Poverty on the Streets,” by Elishama Vallare
Did you know almost 39.1 million people in California are poor?
Poor people are older people, children, maybe even families.
On the street, I see gangs, dark mysterious alleys, and as I’m turning a corner
I see a poor man asking for money.
He looks sad, I can tell by the look on his face.
His clothes are tattered with holes.
You may not know what it feels like to be poor.
But I do.
When I was seven years old,
my auntie kicked me, my mom and my 24-month-old baby brother out.
A few days afterwards, we stayed at a mission in Seattle, Washington.
Living in a house with strangers, everyone looks dull without energy.
Strong feelings of frustration because an aggravated lady yells at my mom.
This is my story.
I try to help people who are poor by giving them a buck or two.
So pitch in to help your community!
You might be the one to end poverty in California.
This is it — you can “make the change.”
Although he was a little nervous about reading his poem at first, Elishama said he soon gained his confidence.
“It was like, ‘Okay, I can do this,’” he said. “Afterwards, a lot of people asked me to sign their pamphlets and some people said my poem made them cry.”
The people in the audience received pamphlets with information about the students. Elishama was happy about their reaction.
“It made me feel great inside,” he said, “like I was doing the right thing.”
Shannon, 11, said she enjoys soccer and poetry in the SCORES program. She didn’t find it difficult to write about slavery, she said.
“The subject just popped in my mind and I just started writing,” she said.
Here’s her poem:
“Slavery,” by Shannon Chand.
I have a dozen, or two, of friends.
They all are different colors.
Colors of black, brown, white, and others.
I would never judge on how they look.
Long before I was born, slavery was all over the world.
Slavery was bad.
Slaves were taken from their homes.
They were beaten for no cause.
They died from diseases and the lack of food and water.
They were shoved around, treated badly; creating bruises and chances of dying.
I don’t know how it felt, but I’m positive my ancestors knew slavery was a huge deal.
Martin Luther King Jr. did a lot to save us.
Maybe today we would be suffering with slavery, if it weren’t for him.
We should be proud of ourselves.
Also, we should be happy we aren’t a part of it.
Both children said they plan to write more poetry in the future.
“I like writing,” Elishama said. “It’s something I’m good at.”
How did Elishama and Shannon’s poems make you feel?