People & Places

YWP: ‘Chase for Equality’

About the Young Writers Project

YWP only green-webYWP, an independent nonprofit based in Burlington, Vermont, engages young people to write and use digital media to express themselves with clarity and power and to gain confidence and skills for the workplace and life. YWP publishes about 1,000 students’ work each year here, in newspapers across Vermont, on Vermont Public Radio and in YWP’s monthly digital magazine, The Voice. Since 2006, it has offered young people a place to write, explore and connect online at youngwritersproject.org, which has only one rule: Be respectful. For more information, please contact YWP executive director Geoffrey Gevalt at [email protected].

Sylvan Williams, age 14, is a freshman at U-32 High School. She writes about how the fight for equality is more important than ever now. She says, “You can’t fight for your rights if the people are more comfortable remaining silent. / You have to lift your head / and lock your eyes on the horizon / and open your mouth. / And you have got to yell.”

YWP Sylvan Williams
Sylvan Williams, 14, is a freshman at U-32 High School in East Montpelier. Courtesy photo

Chase for Equality

By Sylvan Williams

Click below to hear Sylvan read her work.
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When I was younger, I thought that I lived in a world where everyone got along and everyone was treated equally.
I would read books about the struggles of those fighting for their rights, and thought that it was over now.
That they won.
I never thought that I could still get discriminated against because I was a woman.
I never thought that my friends would get yelled at in the streets because of the color of their skin.
I never thought that my next-door neighbors would get so many more opportunities and get valued so much more because they were men.

Well, I guess ignorance is bliss.

I learned the hard way that I might not always be as welcomed or respected for who I am.
But my fear is that some day people won’t get the luxury to learn the hard way.
My fear is that those rules will be set in place from the first time they open their eyes,
and that it will be all they ever know.

I had the opportunity to talk back to people that said that I was less because of my gender.
I had the opportunity to speak out against the people that told me my clothing was too masculine.
Or they didn’t agree with how I cut my hair.
I was never told to keep my mouth shut
or my head down.
But now I realize that I wasn’t told to do that because I was safe
or because I was already equal.
I was never told to do that because that’s not how you get things done.
You can’t start a revolution if everyone would rather stay home.
You can’t fight for your rights if the people are more comfortable remaining silent.
You have to lift your head
and lock your eyes on the horizon
and open your mouth.
And you have got to yell.
You have to yell to the heavens and to the earth
and to the people that hold you down
and the people reaching their arms out to lift you up.
Because there are many of each.
And the people lifting you up are the ones you read about in books when you were a kid.
The ones that I thought were the end of the revolution.
These people have been here a long time, and they’ve made significant progress,
but they’re still fighting.
And so are we.
Because if we don’t get out there,
Then the revolution does stop,
and we lose.
And that is when our greatest fears come true.

And it is only with the people who have been fighting their whole lives
and the people who have just begun,
that we can win.
And when it seems that the finish line is pushed forward every time we near it,
that’s called progress.
And progress is the only thing that makes us able to win.
Because we will never stop fighting.
Each time we win,
we find a new spot on the horizon, and we keep running.
And I will be chasing that horizon until the day I die
because that is the only way that we will keep our fears from catching us.
And it is the only way that we can ever hope to be equal.

Check out the February/March issue of The Voice, the Young Writers Project monthly digital magazine. Click here.

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  • I could have written this in 1961 when three veterinary colleges were under court order to accept women. I was one of two women accepted to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and was told by the Dean that we were accepted to “keep the courts off our backs” and so that we could be “lab partners”. It was four years of discrimination for Marty and I but we got through it. I was tied for first in my class which was unacceptable by the Dean and the men running the veterinary school.

    However, today veterinary medicine has changed DUE TO THE PERSISTENCE OF STRONG AND DETERMINED WOMEN and approximately 80% of the graduates are now FEMALE.

    This fourteen year old girl is right on. Equality will always be a fight whether you are female, black, not Christian, trans or homosexual. We need to recognize that the fight is not over.

  • chris wilmot

    It’s disturbing liberal teachers are brainwashing students in vt to believe they are bad people.
    Shameful

    “Who taught you to hate yourself”?

    Malcolm x

    Words that are lost on today’s liberal teachers