Poetry Festival will be held:

Saturday, April 27, 2024

2020 Winner

2 Sides to the Same Story

Papa and Mama gave my brothers the talk yesterday.

She said I didn’t need it, but I could join if I still wanted to be informed on it.

I never understood the talk,

never understood why everyone was so scared after it.

I also never understood why they also said it stuck to their minds,

yet when the time comes . . .

they forget all the steps Papa and Mama told them.

One thing happened and my brothers had a slight encounter with the police,

I don’t think it was that bad.


But maybe that’s why they never told me the context of the meeting in their office downtown.

My brothers are good boys, no attitude, no issues.

At least that’s what Papa said they should be

when they see a man in a blue uniform pull them over.

“Keep your hands far apart and on the dashboard, over the wheel.”

“Don’t reach for anything unless asked for it.”

“Describe your every move BEFORE you do it.”

We don’t want no more burials on this block,

or in this house.

My brothers asked my Papa,

“Why do we need to know this?”

Couple days later they found out why.

Sirens going off

“Please pull your vehicle over sir.”

“Can I see your ID?”

“Are you under the influence?”

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

My brother thought that he was supposed

to answer that last question.

He told that white man in the blue uniform,

“Ion know, some dumb reason, prolly.”

“Dumb? Oh you think driving too slow is dumb, huh son.”

My brother, oh he forgot the most important step . . .

don’t argue back unless you have a death wish.

He told that man,

“On an empty highway?”

Do you know,

on average in the United States, a police officer

takes the life of a citizen every 7 hours.

I should know, I have an app that tells me so.

That day, March 24th, 2015. MY brother was the name I saw on that app.

Poor brownskinned baby.

Now missing his life.

All because of a system that contradicts our talk completely.


“Now cadet, tell me what you’ve learned today?”


“Pull over anyone with skin color different from ours.”

“Speak kindly, but insult them so they get ‘ghetto’.”

“Accuse them of things, simple ones at that.”

“If I see them move at all, fire.”


Mama and Papa taught us everything they could.

Told us cause we darker and different,

they not gonna always like us.

It’s not like how 2 PAC said.

We lost my brother

to the very people who promised to protect and serve.


“Thank you cadet, you pass.”

Congrats, you’re a certified killer, protected by the law.


Ariana Marquez

EL Haynes PCS

Grade: 11


Washington, DC


San Salvador, El Salvador

Favorite Author or Book:

Author: John Green. Poets: Jasmine Mans, Rudy Francisco. Books: How It Went Down and Dear Martin

Dream for the Future:

As of right now I don’t really know what I hope for the future, I just hope it turns out good and everything will fall into place if I try hard enough for it.

Inspirational Figure:

My teachers Mr. Miranda, Mr. Simpkin, and Ms. Rucker