Category Archives: Nonfiction

STREAMS OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DEATH THAN “BLACK ANGER”

​The inevitability of death is second to “black anger” among the people of American society. Here, we cannot show frustration, distraughtness, bewilderment or rage. As long as we are stuck in a cage, they hold us morally responsible at a young age—when we’re in a black hoodie, off to the convenience store. Or, in Oregon, when we’re fleeing from a local 7-eleven to escape White supremacists in an SUV attempting to mow our Black bodies down. Or, panicky to the inescapability of a White man who dementedly ran a red light, pushing us off the intersection to destroy our Black bodies. Or, when our Black bodies are misgendered, murdered and invalidated of our gender identities, when our Black bodies are ruled dead by our own Black hands. But, it was heteronormative white supremacist patriarchy and systemic racism in American society that truly destroyed our Black bodies.

And, when you ask why our bodies are destroyed, we explain why, but you dismiss us, and choose to see us in the same deleterious auras that destroyed our Black bodies. You tell us to be calm; you implicate that we must forget all that has happened to Black life, and be the best that we can be, but the lot of our Black selves do not know what ‘being the best’ means when we are conditioned to feel less human. You consider our bodies weapons before we show our feelings, our ongoing pain, our Black suffering, and it shows that you do not care to know us layer by layer.

You perceive us as weapons, but why not deconstruct them, throw away the bullets and see what’s inside, how far we can be cocked back, loaded, until we release the ammunition? Or consider yourself pacifying to the flux of violence Whites impose on society. Their actions are excused while we continue to be demons in a gentrified city street somewhere in Manhattan, demons in a White-washed classroom in Monroe Woodbury High School, who can’t speak legibly because they are not White, demons who graduate from Harvard, or Potsdam University, and are still demons shone on through by the same deleterious aura.

And the demonic vilification of our Black bodies stops when we ain’t bein’ niggas, so-called “defiant,” and extremists when we, as Malcolm X put it, try to humanize and defend ourselves. Death, is an unsettling, but volitional or involuntary self-suspension of vitality, a pressing part of life, an inevitability that many of you and Black me find it difficult to come face to face with first hand, some who are indifferent to it, leaving it to dwindle in the back of their heads as if death does not exist, and others who accept death as it is, but “black anger” is contrary to this inevitability; for you to die, you are loved for how great you could have been.

Humans naturally lament over whoever dies, whether they knew them or not. Those who have thought of dying, are urged to live. The Black bodies who think death do not want to die, and a lot of us do not want to be subject to the experience of living in this Republic called America.

Be it a Black body that wants to stand on its own two feet or not, Black suffering and Black death emit a dragging melancholy, but the Black bodies are still considered “weak” when they end their lives. Suicide is more so “weak” when it is committed by Black people, seeing that, to the White society, we cannot have feelings. We are supposed super-humans in this regard. This “weakness” is often viewed through the White patriarchal lens. Black men are deemed “effeminate” for not being “manly” enough to assert their will to live. Black women are also seen from this lens, and their suicides go unaccounted for.

In the Black LGBTQIA community, suicide rates are irrefutably high, but they continue to go unnoticed. But Black suicide is not immoral. It is not evil, unholy, or impure of us to destroy our own Black bodies in an Earth that has long been corroded by White supremacy.

It is not evil for us to feel fatalistic in a world where White people have created systems that have made us feel that existence is pain. It is the illusion of Whiteness, American citizens who proclaim themselves under the illusion of being White, American society and the world, which cannot fathom a melanated human with a darker skin tone being in the same existential, intellectual, and economic plane as them.

Death is perhaps a comforter that helps humans, as a whole, to understand the human condition, while “black anger” is seen like a drooping virus, an intrusive fire alarm, which sounds with such incessant dissonance that they cannot bear to hear its screeching for too long.

about the author
Patrick Jonathan Derilus writes poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction essays. His work has appeared in The Voices Project, Scrittura Magazine: Issue 6, Cutlines Press Magazine, and Stonesthrow Review journal of New Paltz (2015). In October 2016, he self-published a book entitled Thriving Fire: Musings of A Poet’s Odyssey.

ODE TO FATHER’S DAY

April 12, 1949: You were born during a snow storm. How you laughed so when you told me—that one yellow tooth shone, soon replaced with a cap—brown brows furrowed in that dad sort of way. A snow storm in April, I said. What a thing.

December 17, 2016: I buried you during an ice storm in the baby blue (same color of your eyes) casket you picked out long ago. You wore a brown cowboy hat and boots to match your favorite outfit: black and blue flannel shirt, Levi’s jeans, brown corduroy jacket, and brown leather belt, crafted from the state of Texas back in the ‘80s. I found the outfit hanging in your closet, all together, pressed and polished, as if meant to be, as if you had it ready to go for a long time.

I knew that outfit well:

1998: 30th wedding anniversary vows renewed in it.

2000: Burial of mom in it.

2001: Married to mom number two in it.

2009: Buried mom number two in it.

2010: Attended your retirement party in it.

Four decades of my life’s memories of you smiling, laughing, yelling, crying, and preaching the things that fathers preach, while wearing that outfit all left me the day I buried you—maybe to resurface one day when I can think clearly, without guilt, pain, tears, and sorrow.

I actually watched you leave Saturday, December 3, as I spoke the words, “Daddy, I’m here; it’s me,” and I watched your foot move one last time—after two days of the most horrifying drive I ever made in my life.

They said you might have been hanging on to hear my voice one last time, but last you heard, I couldn’t come because my old dog was sick and I had essays to grade (and this is where I fail, because I knew how bad it was, yet I waited—almost too long).

What a horrifying drive to make from Ohio to Florida, with an old dog that’s having seizures, an old dog I can’t kennel because I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. I don’t know if she’ll die while I am away.

What a horrifying drive to make from Ohio to Florida, when it’s the last two weeks of a semester, and I have six classes worth of essays and final projects to grade and submit.

What a horrifying drive to make from Ohio to Florida, when I know you’re in a coma; when I know you’re not coming home; when I know I’ll have to pull the plug; when I know I’ll have to bring your dog home with me; when I know all that you’ve groomed me for, for the past few years, will finally happen: all the promises you made me promise of the things I’d have to take care of.

What a horrifying drive this life can be.

December 6, 2016: Hey doctor, I said, with the annoying echo of the heart monitor machine grinding beeps in the background:

beep

beep

beep

beep

and every once in a while, a sharp chirp would spike, and then, back to

beep

beep

beep

beep.

That’s it, I said. He wouldn’t want this. Remove the tubes, please.

And so they did.

And for hours, I watched your forced, reflexive breathing take over, your chest heaving like you were running your last Dayton Daily News River Corridor Classic.

I prayed for hours that you would go; go in peace. I told you it was okay, that I’d be okay, and I’d keep my promises the best I could; that I’d found all the papers you had put aside for me because maybe, just maybe, you knew your day was coming—(But did you really want it to be like this? Did you really want it to be because I pulled the plug?)—thinking all the while that we shared the same Lithuanian nose and large forehead.

I tried not to cry. You always hated when I cried, because you thought I was weak; but I only cry because that’s how strong I am.

I remember being two and sitting on your lap as we drove down a road in an old tan car with light brown leather seats. You let me hold the steering wheel. I don’t know where we were going, but I never thought it would be here. And now, looking back, I see snow and ice swirling around my feet as I stand over your grave contemplating the rest of this drive I have to make on my own.

What will become of me now, I wonder?

Orphan at 44. Instructor of English to those who can’t read cursive and only know communication via the latest iPhone model.

Executor to an estate: trying to figure out the probate; the car, home, and insurance policies; what to move, what to keep, what to donate; waiting to pay the hospital, the realtor, the lawyer.

Owner of an inherited dog I’m not happy to have because mine passed away January 2, 2017. I held my furbaby in my hands as I watched her take her last breath, my hand over her heart:

Tha thump

Tha thump

Tha thump

(skipping a beat because she had a murmur),

thinking all the while how you loved that dog so; feeding her “chicky” and cream cheese for snacks, just like you did your own dog.

And then silence.

Just like the machines in your ICU room, the silence killed me as I watched your heart rate and pulse race to the end as I held your hand and stroked your forehead; thinking like a naïve child that you’d actually sit up and flash your capped teeth in a smile that would tell me all would be well. And then the flat line. All these flat lines in my life. The thumps and the beeps.

And then the silence.

Nothing prepares you for the moment when the things you love the most in this world leave you. You might see it coming, but nothing prepares you for the moment when snow turns to ice, when the heart stops because it’s tired, and breath you once shared with those you love turns to silence.

I thought the boyfriend who once held a knife to my throat was the worst. I thought the night I saw my mother’s body zipped up in a black bag on a stretcher was the worst. I thought watching my stepmother cry as blood drained from her chemo-filled nose as she stared death in the face was the worst. I thought pulling away from the curb of the home I once shared with the man I loved, who replaced me with a younger model, in a rented U-Haul was the worst. But I was always wrong; it can always be worse. The funny thing is it will be again. It’s not over, this drive.

You told me once, over a beer with Johnny Paycheck’s “Old Violin” playing in the background, that you and mom took a chance on me; I almost wasn’t born, and because of that, I must be destined to do something. And because I was born on Father’s Day, no daughter of yours born on your special day would be destined to do nothing short of survive and do in this life.

And so, through the probate and the pain, the flat lines and the Father’s Days, I’ll write.

I’ll drive, and I’ll write.

about the author
Christy Lynne Trotter, a Dayton area resident, teaches English at Clark State Community College, and most recently, at Sinclair Community College. Her poetry has appeared in Mock Turtle Zine, and she has had a short story published in Flights. Christy’s short story work has also placed in a few local contests, and she freelances occasionally. In 2015, she wrote a profile on the city of Dayton for U.S. News and World Report.

TIME FOR FIREFLIES

When I was a child, the days were long, the weeks and months crept along slowly, and years seemed like an eternity. I laid in bed and stared through the window at the stars of the summer night sky. Listening intently to the older kids still outside laughing and having fun. Wishing I could be out there with them. Thinking how wonderful it was that summer was so very long.

As hard as I tried to stay awake until the last child went in for the night, the rhythmic sound of the crickets always lulled me into an early sleep.

But that was okay, because there was always tomorrow. I knew tomorrow would come and I could once again fill my day with hopscotch, jump-rope, running barefoot through the freshly mown grass, and catching fireflies at dusk.

Back then, time was measured differently. Back then it was marked by tangible things such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If the sun was up, it was time to be awake, (except for nap time which immediately followed lunch). If the sun was down, it was time for bed. Time was simple; it didn’t rush me.

Time was as ideal as my life. My parents, baby brother, and I lived in a new suburb outside Dayton, Ohio. Our house was built brand new just for us and was the first one in the subdivision other than the model home.

As a small child growing up in the early sixties, the middle class suburban neighborhood felt safe and perfect — perfect as something brand new should be. Everything in my memory of that time and place is bright, crisp, and clean. The yards were manicured and bright green. The skies were the bluest of blues with white clouds that changed shape as they floated lazily across the sky.

My house was equally as perfect, or at least, it must have been, as every new house built replicated its style. Ours was a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch with an attached two-car garage. Every home started life with two maple trees in the front yard, and two in the back, and all were situated on a third of an acre.

Backyards were separated with chain-link fences; enough substance to divide property, but short and open so that neighbors could see and talk to each other. Most backyards had a concrete patio with folding lawn chairs arranged in a semi-circle where the grown-ups sat in the evenings, sipping cold drinks.

A cool breeze would inevitably blow by, lifting any troublesome burden, and leaving in its wake, rest and relaxation; the ability of grown-ups to relive their youth as they watched their children play in the warmth of the summer air, laughing and running, and helping them catch fireflies at dusk.

I marveled at the fireflies. I cupped them in my hands and peered through the gap between my thumbs. In that small space, their tiny, magical bodies tickled my hands as they flitted around, making me laugh. Their bodies would alternate glowing and not glowing in a consistent rhythm that kept time with my breathing. Then, I released them and watched as they flew away before jumping in the air to catch another.

Back then, there were no goals, no “to-do” lists. The past didn’t matter and the future only held glimpses of what it might be like to be older, but it didn’t get much attention. What mattered was the here and now. What mattered was doing what I wanted to do right then. There was no guilt, no responsibility. My only job was to be me.

Growing older, however, did bring with it a few responsibilities which left less time for fun. Household chores needed to be done and a proper amount of time set aside to do them well. I helped take care of my baby brother sometimes. There were ballet lessons and tap lessons and piano lessons to go to and to practice at home for, which were all fun but required a schedule.

The more I had to do, the faster time moved. I noticed the days seemed shorter. There wasn’t always time to run, and jump, and play. My summer vacations were moving along faster than the years before.

No matter what the plans, though, I always tried to make time for catching fireflies. Instead of laughing as they walked and flew around in my cupped hands, tickling me with their small, wispy bodies, I began to marvel at how they were able to walk and fly and especially, how and why did they glow?

As they walked along my hands and arms, I stared at them intently, studying them. I wondered what their purpose for glowing was. I wondered why they only came out at night. What did they do during the day? Where did they go in winter? I would capture the fireflies and put them in a jar with grass and leaves, and my dad punched holes in the lid so they could breathe. I wanted to keep them forever, to be able to have them in the cold and boring winter. I wanted to catch fireflies in the snow.

I had a great respect for fireflies. I thought they must be something really important, really special in order to be able to glow. I thought of them like little insect fairies, somewhere far above the average insect, but not quite as high up as a real fairy. For a while, I caught fireflies in the front yard with my friends, but they didn’t truly appreciate the fireflies the way I did. They didn’t see how magical they were.

Some of the kids in the neighborhood would tear the glow part off of the bodies and squeeze it so that the glow liquid would be on their hands. Then, just to be extra sadistic, they would tear off the wings and throw the remains on the ground. It upset me, so I went back to catching fireflies in the backyard while my parents sat in their folding lawn chairs on the concrete patio, drinking their cold beverages. I didn’t want to watch what the other kids did to those beautiful creatures.

I tried to take really good care of the fireflies that I caught, maybe to counter the monstrosities that my friends were doing. I made sure I didn’t hurt the fireflies, and I made sure to only keep them in a jar for a couple of days because they were special and were meant to fly freely in the summer sky. After I released them, I would be back outside at dusk, catching them again, until they disappeared with summer.

In no time at all, I became a teenager with more responsibilities and homework and boyfriends and school clubs and lessons. I took notice that time didn’t last as long as it used to. Back then, though, I was living for future milestones, and didn’t mind the ever-so-slightly hurriedness of time.

Turning thirteen was a big deal, as was sixteen, and eighteen, and twenty-one. Life was filling up and opening up new doors, new freedoms. There was no time to catch fireflies, but it didn’t matter because catching fireflies at dusk was for children; it was a silly waste of time. Time was valuable, precious. I needed every second of my time to make goals, make plans, and work toward their accomplishment.

Soon I had daughters of my own and my whole perspective toward time changed. Suddenly, I wanted to hold onto it. I wanted my daughters to be children forever. I wanted to hold them and care for them and protect them.

The more I wanted time to stand still, the faster it moved forward. I was told that “children grow up so fast.” I couldn’t let that happen. I wanted to capture every moment together and make a memory.

I taught my children to catch fireflies at dusk. I relived my youth watching them cup the fireflies in their little hands and peek through the small gap between their thumbs. I relived the joy and excitement as they laughed with glee at how the fireflies tickled their precious hands.

As they grew older, I watched how intently they studied the fireflies and they wanted to capture them and keep them in jars with holes in the lids so they could enjoy them even in the winter. But, fireflies aren’t meant for winter, and deserve to spend their short life flying free, sharing their precious glowing gift with others, maybe being caught for a night or two to be watched intently by other children before being set free to do what they were born to do. I waited with my girls through the long, cold winters, looking forward to summertime when we could once again catch fireflies at dusk.

My daughters did grow up so fast, as everyone had warned me. It wasn’t long before they had friends to hang out with and activities and softball and so many other things to do.

One summer we somehow forgot to catch fireflies. It was the beginning of their accelerated time. The beginning of living toward future milestones. The end of living in the moment.

I lived for those milestones with them, but also began living in the past. I longed for those golden days spending time together, laughing and living and being. It all went by so fast.

They grew up and moved out. Time was at a dizzying speed. I began to age rapidly. Living in the past provided a great comfort, but has since become more difficult because the past is becoming more blurred. There’s no point in looking toward the future because it’s only a fleeting moment away.

I realized it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve even noticed a firefly. Do they still exist? Do they come out at dusk? I never did look up how and why they glow. I never discovered what their purpose for glowing was. I quit wondering why they only come out at night, what do they do during the day, or where do they go in the winter.

Now, with time moving at an alarming rate, I’m beginning to reflect and question. I know there’s nothing I can do about the speed of time. So, what should I do to make the most of the time left to me? What’s my purpose? Can I glow? Is it too late to live in the now? Is it too late to just be?

Maybe the acceleration of time is inevitable, but maybe instead of feeling hopeless and lamenting the speed, I could look at it as a sign; one that is flashing bright red neon in my face telling me that time is precious; enjoy it, live it, make it count. It’s a sign, giving me permission to play hopscotch and jump-rope and run barefoot through the freshly mown grass.

That sign is a reminder to see the world through the eyes of a child, the child version of me, full of awe and wonderment, a child who laughs and marvels as I once again, make time for catching fireflies at dusk.

about the author
Beeda L. Speis lives in Dayton, Ohio. She has an Associates Degree from Sinclair Community College, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Ohio University. She writes nonfiction and poetry, and is currently working on her memoir.

ANGLED VIEW, BLACK AND WHITE

GWEN E. OWEN

He would have passed the home goods—bright dish towels, candy-colored nesting bowls, end tables and lamps. He may have seen rows of small electronics encased in plastic. There would have been clothes on hangers, lines of shoes, tools and toys. Everything would have had the slightly surreal effect of fluorescent lighting, and the oppressively hollow feeling you get in a cavern.

At least that’s what I see in this Walmart, where I’m waiting for an unfriendly man in a blue vest to retrieve the bathroom scale I had ordered. While he’s gone, I wait and look around. It isn’t the same Walmart, but they are all the same.

It’s jarringly colorful now, but it was black and white when I watched John Crawford die. I wasn’t there, but security cameras were, and they watched and recorded, watched and recorded, so that all of us could be witnesses if we chose to be.

So, from an elevated angle and with grainy grey vision, I watched John Crawford roam the store, a cell phone to his ear, lost in conversation while his friend shopped for marshmallows and graham crackers. It was like watching a hamster rolling in a clear plastic ball: he was mobile, but not really engaged in the space he inhabited.

I watched a woman push a grocery cart nearby, two children orbiting. Was she in a cheerful mood? Was she annoyed? Or was she living one of the million moments we live that don’t really register at all? What words was she giving to her children?

I watched as John Crawford wandered through Sporting Goods and picked up an air rifle as he passed. Such an absent-minded act, as if his hand reached out of its own accord. I’m sure he had no idea of the significance.

If he had picked up a box of lightbulbs, a mop, or virtually anything else for sale in the store, his day probably would have continued exactly as he had expected it to. He would have left the Walmart with his friend, carrying marshmallows and graham crackers, and someone would have eaten s’mores that night.

Angela Williams, the shopper, would have continued with her day as well. She would have left the store with her children, and a couple of weeks later she would have gotten married, just as she’d been planning. If John Crawford had idly walked around the store, chatting on his phone and carrying a mop, I would not know his name, or hers. I wouldn’t know anything at all.

But he wasn’t carrying a mop, and someone called 911 to report a black man carrying a gun in the store. They said he was waving it around, pointing it at children, even loading it, but I watched him do none of those things. From a distance of time and miles, I wanted to shout that lies were being told. I wanted to warn him that he was in danger. But I only peered through the window of my computer screen, powerless as a gargoyle crouched above the scene.

I watched police arrive at the store that must have seemed oddly quiet and mundane, considering an armed man was reportedly threatening children there. I watched as they found John Crawford in the pet food aisle, and shot him almost instantly. He would have had no idea anything was wrong until his protective bubble exploded under the fluorescent lights. I imagine his mind filled with question marks and exclamation points as he fell to the floor.

I saw the shopper Angela Williams react to the sound of shots. She abandoned her grocery cart, reached for her kids and ran toward the exit. They almost made it, but she collapsed behind a digitally pixilated circle so I could not see her lying on the floor. I saw her kids though, held by employees in Walmart vests, and I saw paramedics kneel around the blurry circle.

Later, in a small police interrogation room, John Crawford’s friend Tasha was questioned for hours by police before she was told that he had died.

I was there too, a ghostly presence in the room.

I heard the shouting, the questions and the accusations, and I watched her cry. She died a few months later in a car accident. More recently, Angela Williams’ teenage son died in a drowning accident. He was 15.

Now I imagine a sort of cartoon afterlife in which John Crawford, his friend Tasha, Angela Williams and her teenage son all find themselves pulling up chairs at a table. I don’t know if they would have liked or hated one another in life. I don’t know if they would have found things in common, or if they’d be too disparate to connect at all. But in this afterlife, they sit down together awkwardly, expressions of surprise on their faces.

“Well, look at this,” one of them says. “Things sure do go sideways, don’t they?”

The unfriendly man in the Walmart blue vest brings me the digital scale I ordered. I pay for it and turn to leave as quickly as I can. I don’t want to be there. The lights are too bright, the space is too vast, and there are too many overwhelming, insignificant, extraordinary stories in every aisle. Too many plans, big and small. Too many expectations and assumptions. Everyone wants to make their selections and then make more. Everyone expects to finish their conversations and then start new ones. Everyone wants to go home.

I want to go home.

I maneuver through aisles of merchandise, all of it wanting to be picked up. I pass other shoppers and the bits and pieces of their lives. And, from an elevated angle, I watch myself heading toward the exit, my purchase in hand, and my vision in black and white.

about the author
Gwen E. Owen is the Content Writer for the Dayton Metro Library, which means she writes content, and she’s quite content doing so. She lives in Kettering.

SPECIAL FEATURE: CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES OF THE MIAMI VALLEY (CSSMV) REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM

CSSMV’s Refugee Resettlement Program serves refugees in the Greater Dayton area. Refugees are individuals who have fled or been forced to flee their countries of origin because of fear of persecution and violence. Often, they leave their homes with few possessions. They may spend decades in refugee camps before being resettled in other nations. Many never return to their home countries. As part of this special feature, which showcases a collaborative project by U.S.-born and refugee students, we had the chance to ask a few questions of Katie Jipson, TAG-D Coordinator of the CSSMV.

MT: Your organization serves as a portal for refugee resettlement. What does that mean? What support do you provide refugees who come to the region?

KJ: Refugees are funneled into cities through nine national volunteer agencies, or volags. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is our agency’s umbrella volag. All refugees coming in to the country have a specific location to which they are being sent. This means that each case (family, individual, etc.) is selected by a volag, and then sent to one of the city locations. We are the only portal, or service agency, for refugees coming into the Dayton area as there are no other agencies under any other volags in the city or surrounding areas. Cincinnati and Columbus have agencies under volags, but those are the closest two.

MT: What support do you provide refugees in the region?

KJ: The post-arrival support we provide is mainly as a referral agency. Pre-arrival is preparing and securing housing, and setting up the house, utilities, etc. Post-arrival we refer
refugees to social services agencies, schools, hospitals, health care, etc. We do not provide language access for any other agency outside our own.

MT: How many refugees does your agency help resettle each year? How many do you expect to help in 2017?

KJ: We resettle about 250 refugees each year. Last year, there was a push to resettle more, so we resettled more than 300. This coming year, our numbers are again at 250.

MT: Who are the refugees that come to Dayton? What are the circumstances that they are fleeing?

KJ: Our largest population comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). We also see some refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Sudan. Everyone is fleeing from persecution, that is what makes them a refugee. Each circumstance depends on the country from which they are fleeing. The Congolese have a long history of persecution, whether by colonial powers, governments, or business empires.

MT: What do refugees bring with them when they resettle? What do they need when they get here, and in the weeks and months that follow?

KJ: Depending on where the refugee is from and where they have lived, they might bring with them as little as nothing but the clothes on their back to upwards of 15 suitcases. It always depends. They need everything. When we are setting up their housing, we are using money that has been set aside for them specifically for housing (rent included). We try to stretch every dollar, so donated household items are important. Everything from a couch to shower curtain rings to utensils to shoes.

MT: What is the biggest challenge that refugees face here?

KJ: Language access. That includes the individuals learning English and organizations providing language services. The Dayton community is in need of interpreters. There are just not enough to meet the demand.

MT: What should people in the Dayton area know about the people who resettle here? What would you most like them to understand?

KJ: They should know that these families are just like me or you. They want to be safe, happy and successful in their new lives. They did not necessarily want to come to the United States but were forced to do so. Some people were very successful doctors, teachers and business owners in their home countries, and now they have to restart here.

MT: How can people in Dayton help individuals and families who resettle here? What are the most important needs that your organization and the people you serve have?

KJ: Help can come in so many ways! Donating household items or volunteering time. Welcoming new families into their neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. Asking our agency to speak at their church or organization to learn about these wonderful people. Learning Swahili or
Kinyarwanda would also be a big help.

To learn more about CSSMV, the people they serve, and how to help, visit them online at http://www.cssmv.org/services/refugee-resettlement/, or phone 937-223-7217. You can also read refugees’ stories and learn more about refugee resettlement in Dayton at http://www.welcomedayton.org/.

SPECIAL FEATURE: THE HOME PROJECT

homeprojectThe Home Project represents a collaboration among several Dayton-area high schools and Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley’s Refugee Resettlement Program. Altogether, about 30 students from Dayton Region STEM School, Belmont High School, Oakwood High School, Longfellow Alternative School, Chaminade Julienne High School, and Ponitz Career Technology Center met and worked together to produce the collages and statements that appear on the cover, the back cover, and in subsequent pages. Below, Noah Meyer, a senior at Chaminade Julienne, describes the project, which lasted from January to June 2016:

“In 2015, my brother and my mother began volunteering their time to tutor and mentor refugees with Catholic Social Services. Inspired by this, beginning in September 2015, my friend Spencer and I decided that we wanted to work with young refugees in our local area as well. We set up a meeting with Michael Murphy, Director of Refugees, to talk about our options. Initially, we had hopes to organize a tutoring program at our high school, but we soon came to the understanding that more than help with school or language, these young refugees needed a base of support and friendship in their new homes. Based on this, we developed a program to connect refugee and native-born teens through regular get-togethers in which they worked together on artwork and fun activities.

“This art project acted as the mediator between two different groups of people. You cannot force people to get to know one another, but this art project brought us all together through a common project. The goal of the art project is to capture each person’s idea of home. Refugees are tossed into an entirely new place under poor circumstances, so we hoped that this would give them a way to express their ideas of their original home while incorporating their feelings about their new home in Dayton. We decided to group people in pairs and trios so that we could merge every person’s ideas. It quickly became apparent that, despite our different backgrounds, none of us are all that different.”

All photos and collages courtesy of Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley and partner schools.

ARTWORK from THE HOME PROJECT

STATEMENTS from THE HOME PROJECT

about the authors and artists

Belmont High School
Eric
Stephen, originally from Democratic Republic of the Congo
Valeur, originally from Democratic Republic of the Congo
Bereket Gebre Belmont High School, originally from Eritrea
Ahmed Seid, 9th grade, originally from Eritrea

Chaminade Julienne High School
Katie Bardine, 10th grade
Beatrice Hawthorn, 10th grade
Phillip Hawthorn, 12th grade
Hkawn Myat Labya, 10th grade, originally from Myanmar
Esther Labya, 10th grade, originally from Myanmar
Noah Meyer, 12th grade
Spencer Mullins, 12th grade
Jacob Troutwine, 12th grade

Dayton Regional STEM School
Fatima Boumahchad, 12th grade
Zayneb Moumkine, 11th grade
Anjali Phadke, 11th grade
Maya Quale, 11th grade
Vyshnavi Ramini, 11th grade
Pooja Shirrahati, 12th grade

Job Corps
James Gar, originally from Kenya and South Sudan
Bior Gar, originally from Kenya and South Sudan

Oakwood High School
Elizabeth Ordeman, 12th grade

Ponitz Career Technology Center
Fred, originally from Democratic Republic of the Congo
Florida Gebrehiwot, 11th grade, originally from Eritrea
Fanuel Gebrehiwot, 11th grade, originally from Eritrea

Numb Courage

Jaylin Paschal

It was a bad night for both of us. The bartender cut us off and some asshole (pickpocket, opportunist, whatever you may call him) stole my wallet out of my purse while I was trying to convince you that broken could still be beautiful.

We stumbled out of the bar smelling like liquor and pipe dreams. Even the moon had this haunting look of disappointment pressed into it. Cab drivers were already too tired to pull up to the curb beneath our swollen feet. Eventually one man, too desperate to pass up the fare, drove us back to your apartment.

Once there, we found a strange comfort on your balcony. We dangled on the edge a bit to flirt with Danger; to let Gravity know that drunk girls don’t fear falling.

We woke up late the next day covered with bruises and scrapes without matching explanations. We found that broken heels had scratched your hardwood and turned our noses up at the smell of our own vomit. We cleaned to the best of our abilities and tended to each other’s shameful injuries. Band-Aids and Neosporin were ineffective in a desperate attempt to fix ourselves or to erase the past twelve hours.

When we were done cleaning, and the hangovers had dwindled to mild headaches, we shared a cigarette out on the balcony, still toying with the idea of brokenness and beauty sharing spaces. We stood against the door this time, though.

Sober girls know that Gravity would make a mess of them.

about the author
Jaylin Paschal is a journalism and political science student. She publishes her sociopolitical rants on her blog, Creative Liberation.