By Myra Michel & Reniqua Allen-Lamphere
A young girl born to immigrant parents trying to fit into American society. She realizes that she is uncomfortable with herself and the nation.
“What are you?” What am I? How do I go about answering that? Black as night, bright as day. Freckles scattered everywhere. “She’s different,” I’m told. Well, I’m not your mold. Glossed platter-sized chocolate eyes, A buttoned nose, and two pairs of lips so bare. The upper brown, the lower pink. It's not discoloration. Kinky oily coily hair that I have no choice but to wear. They are tied into two tough puffs. “Ouch!” I shout. They are tightly bunched together, resembling inky irises. “Ciara, nice hair,” they say. “It’s quite exotic.” Exotic I think not, maybe chaotic. I have curly hair everywhere, bet it’ll reflect through my silverware. Insecure, quite unsure. Conflicted you may have predicted. Cheeks moist and tender, coated with a glaze of warm chocolate drops. Drip-Drip-Drip they go, from my cheeks to lips they melt—felt from a state of confusion. But what am I, America? I love me. But maybe you don’t. I am an immigrant. Citizen. Status unknown. Black. Brown. I am democracy and I am a demon you say. I am your hope, your dream, your past, your present. Your plague. Crying into the everlasting night. I am your pain, your promise, your slave, your President. I am your foreigner, your future. I am your tears, your joy, your blood-stained reminder of your new word run amok. I am me, I am you, or maybe I am nothing at all. No, I am something. I am your contradiction.
We are both children of immigrants and one day we began talking about whether or not we have a cultural background outside of America and whether or not we felt connected to it. For both of us, the words came easy. Myra thought about a girl who did not love her hair, and with the color part she stands out of place. Reniqua remembered how it felt to be disconnected from both your body and the world. We both felt like we wanted to tell the story of a girl where America is her culture, but it’s also hard because it’s not, that’s why it’s so hard.
Myra Michel loves to read nonfiction novels about American society and how the American experience varies for numerous individuals and groups. Myra loves reading fairy tales and utilizes what comes to her mind to create short poems. Myra loves creative writing because it allows her to express what comes into her mind. She hopes her work would spark childlike joy and touch the hearts of those that go out their way to explore the world of literature. Myra hopes to collaborate her writing skills with her peers and create masterpieces with many other talented writers.
Reniqua Allen-Lamphere is a journalist who produces and writes for various outlets on issues of race, opportunity, politics, and popular culture. Her first book, It Was All A Dream: A New Generation Confronts the Broken Promise to Black America, about Black millennials, is out now from Bold Type Books/Hachette. She has written for The New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, The New Republic, Quartz, Buzzfeed, Teen Vogue, Glamour, and more, and has produced a range of films, video, and radio for PBS, MSNBC, WNYC, and HBO. Reniqua has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Rutgers University.