Pledge of Allegiance (Revised)
By Elizabeth Shvarts
Content Discussed: Mental Illness
Pledge of Allegiance: Revised” is a subversion of the American Dream through the lens of mental wellbeing; “gifted” is a gilded promise unraveled by statistics and a vow to embrace the strength of vulnerability.
We the children We the scholars We the chipped ivory towers We the chalkboard chastened chasing An american dream as soon as we learn the alphabet or rather The language of repaying a debt we never co-signed After all, what is first generation American if not a gamble on the Promise our todays will envy our tomorrows A sunrise streaked in UV light blue red-rimmed skies whites of our eyes Spider webbed help us piece ourselves together We the 7:30- 2:30 or 8-3, or overtime depending how long flute lessons two shifts at the laundromat therapy sessions if you’re lucky last Time I was able to sit still and stand tall and smile off the zoom screen Was 1 and a half years ago and aren’t We blessed but this temple is sick of sacrifices Instead of learning derivatives I am learning to count again Remember: love is not a transaction of pinches and poundage I am trying to remember that softness is strength When self care is a commodity and chronic stress the call that follows no amount of cotton candy scented bath bombs or stress balls or box breathing sense into staccato can help The American Psychological Association states 81% of Gen Z teens (ages 13–17) have experienced intense stress during the COVID-19 pandemic We the people need to unravel our roots Need spaces where we can thrive before we exist Not an extra credit gpas is pittancer pity doesn't taste as sweet as empathy As hands of friendship as art We the people pledge allegiance to love hard and deep to living without apology and the knowledge Joy is our birthright
As a spoken word artist, I’m accustomed to performing, poetically and otherwise, in front of audiences of 20 to 2,000. However, performing a poem to an audience of one (a camera) is a feat both harrowing and utterly delightful in its intimacy and precision. To ensure the best possible lighting/production quality, I set up a tripod with a ring light to capture my face. Additionally, since the poem would be repurposed for a future Mental Health Advocacy Program, State of the Kids: Uniting For Mental Health Movement, I wore a blazer, and after several takes I settled on a video in which I glanced at the paper briefly and directed my facial expressions and delivery at the camera as if having a intimate, dynamic conversation.
Elizabeth Shvarts is a 16-year-old writer hailing from Staten Island. An avid spoken word poet, Elizabeth is an NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador and finalist in Climate Speaks, a climate-themed youth spoken word program, highlighted by PBS, the Apollo, the New York Times and more. An advocate/entrepreneur as well as an artist, Elizabeth is the co-founder of the nonprofit Bridge to Literacy, which fosters a love for language through literacy in underserved kids from around the world. On the writing side, she's the co-founder of the international literary journal and youth community Aster Lit and its companion podcast Ad Aster.