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Civil Conversation Project


Racism is an idea that this nation has lived under for hundreds of years. It has destroyed lives, dreams, businesses, and generations of men and women of America. In fact, the basis of our “great” country was built upon racism, dating back to the colonization of the land in 1492. As corny and cliche as it sounds, if I could solve any ethical dilemma in our society it under be racism. Racism has not only destroyed black lives, but the lives of many…

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Four Walls

by David Paris

Walls surround him from all four sides
Stuck inside, there’s a window, but it’s covered with blinds
A dim light occasionally peeks through as he dreams of a brighter future

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Paradise in Your Hands

By Abdiel Lopez

The wavering ocean lay before me moving methodically and rhythmically to a lullaby I already knew. Tonight I spend my tiresome body on the same grains of sand that I spent the week before, and the week before last week, and so on. The tears poured down my prominent cheekbones, tearing apart the molecules that once held my skin tight and beautiful after I applied mascara just hours before the weekly ritual. There’s nothing left to do; his voice resonates against my eardrums every second of my life.

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What am I to be?

By Jasmin Toubi

What am I to be?
I know I am to be,
But to be what?
To be special and different and all to myself?
Am I to be something to change the way everyone sees and thinks and feels?

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By Olivia Schwartzman

Lawrence is my neighbor. I am nine, and he is ten, and it is summer. We sit on the road, lined with flat prairie grass for as far as we can both imagine, wearing heat like weights on our heads. Our shirts stick. I pick at some loose gravel with my little fingers. It is a day that wraps the world up in warm fluid, making everything move sluggish and slow, as if swimming through molasses sun drunk. Lawrence is lying beside me, and I look down at him to see his fraying shorts, his skinny legs, and two knobby things, two dirty, pretty knees that look as if they haven’t quite hardened yet. I blink, and under my eyelids I imagine running so fast the trees are a blur, the only substantial image the mountains on the dry plain.

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A Dozen Cries Foul

By Ben Moss

Everyone was outraged, everyone. Nicholas, Nixon, Culpright, Culpright’s alter ego (Dewey), the boys shooting craps, the boys playing baccarat, Tannenberg, all of the women (even Tina and, as everyone knew, Tina was a major witch). The lovers’ quarrel had become so abrasive, so uncomfortable, so gratingly personal, that there wasn’t a soul left who wanted it to dig deeper. Nixon was frantically trying to console Amanda who was so distressed that she failed to realize the napkin she wiped her eyes with was mustard-stained. Tannenberg restrained Kevin from indulging whatever violent impulse was most associated with bitter domestic rage.

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You Had One Eye in the Mirror

By Alyssa Kincaid

Lawrence is my neighbor. January. Actually, it was a night. Driving in the back seat, propped up against grey leather, approaching the tall white apartment building with the windows on the side. The balconies facing outward. The air was cool when I stepped out, my feet hanging perilously above concrete ground. I zipped up my black leather jacket and wrapped my arms around myself. It was cold. The black sea stared at me close by, a vast mass of dark matter. Already, it was relatively late. The pale circle that formed the moon glowed, and my mind ran on a similarly circuitous track. My mind, chalk full of mechanisms. Ever mindful of the needle that allowed my broken record one-track thoughts to keep revolving, like a song that wouldn’t end.

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The Broken Words

By Shelby Grody

I can do so many things. I’ll sit my heart by a lake, and I can scratch out the shred of light in murky water’s dark gaze. Stand by a typewriter and I make it breath words that even a God would have to gaze twice at. I can even fly in a plane and draw out the most amazing images all inside of one’s imagination. Of course when I’m standing on a bloody bridge I think of these annoying thoughts. When I turned eight I realized I wanted to be a writer. Of course, when you turn eight you feel as if the whole world is splayed out for you. As if being in a kitchen that is all your own. When I turned eight my Dad taught me the difference between the sun and the rain; taught me about how a book is worth a thousand glances, but a painting of a sun or something you could never describe was worth a million looks even by the most stubborn eyes.

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By Annie Shapiro

The heavy metal door clangs shut with a definitive bang, and a blistering darkness fills the room with a single flip of a plastic switch. Two men sit in wooden chairs, crumbs gathering under the considerable weight of their burly stomachs, sharp beards attempting to conceal rows of coffee-stained teeth. Aimlessly chattering, they hardly notice the small speckles of green paint in the peeling wallpaper, the mundane drone of air conditioning that is the first I’ve heard in years, the clock above their heads that is pounding in my head like two giant bricks. I see all, I hear all, yet I hardly understand it at all any longer. Teeth scrape against teeth, tongues move, eyes scour and corrupted eyes attempt to focus, while my hands are near my waist, unhindered, as if they are sets of new hands, hands that are clean and orderly and free.

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My Mother’s Roses

By Melina Charis

Outside the walls of the church, the sky was a brilliant, cerulean blue. Clouds drifted across aimlessly, blending into each other and then disappearing. There were roses in cracked pots by the door, and I pictured children picking their ruby petals and crushing them beneath their fingers.

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