It was just five months ago that Afiya Ervin sat down at a gathering of young writers feeling out of place. Writing out her feelings was as foreign to her as the unrest that she saw in Ferguson, Mo., after a young black man was shot by a white police officer. So she called her poem "I've finally started writing."
But on Sunday, as she sat down at a write-in to work through her feelings about the events that have rocked her hometown over the last week, the 16-year-old Baltimore City College High School student filled two pages in no time.
When I turned on the TV, I almost forgot how bright Baltimore was
Because now the flames from cop cars and CVS blocked the way sun danced on the looters faces
The lights and cameras flashed too bright and stunned me from seeing the way the father was only taking toilet paper and milk or any other necessity his family needed
The helicopter was too loud and left a ringing in my ears
So that I can not hear the screams from every Baltimorean asking, crying, and begging for justice
Ervin's poem, "I almost forgot," was one of several written by students at the #Blackwordsmatter write-in in Charles Village.
The nonprofit Writers in Baltimore Schools, which has been working with city students since 2008, hosted the event — the second of its kind — at the 2640 Space, formerly the St. John's United Methodist Church, on St. Paul Street.
The organization held its first write-in shortly after a grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
"With Ferguson, if I didn't want to deal with it, I could shut my laptop and not deal with it," Ervin said. "I can't just shut it out of my world this time, because this is my world."
On Sunday, the students didn't limit themselves to confronting the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, the six police officers that have been charged in the case, or the rioting and looting that have devastated blocks and communities.
They also addressed what it means to black, ignored — and very much at odds with police.
Or, as 21-year-old University of Baltimore student Nekia Hampton put it: