Student Spotlight: Goodnews Ihueze (Summer '20)
"Alright, who wants to share their journal reflection?"
That's how I'd begin my workshop this past summer. No one wanted to share at first. Journaling...for a class? Who does that? I was teaching Girl Power: On the Streets and in the Books, a seminar on the history of feminist movements in the US. I had three exceptional young women in the workshop. I knew that beginning to explore part of their history, the history of women, would be an inherently personal experience. I remember reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" in my US History class in high school. I was reading Audre Lorde's biomythography at the same time. I couldn't help but consider how my story was the legacy of the history these women changed.
I wanted to give my students space to explore that pivotal intersection–the intersection between the personal, political, and academic. So I asked them to submit a written reflection on their lives in the context of our class discussions. This exercise empowers students to approach academic texts with a sense of urgency rather than view them in a strictly abstract way.
With time came familiarity. Then comfort. Then vulnerability. Their journal entries grew progressively more robust. The final project was to write a piece of creative nonfiction that somehow connected to themes from the class. Goodnews Ihueze (Summer ‘20), a rising high school senior from New York City, wrote a powerful poem. “I got more comfortable expressing myself while writing,” Goodnews said about journaling. “Through that I was able to write this poem. A lot of me is in the writing.”
I asked Goodnews why she was drawn to poetry. “It was hard for me to vocalize my thoughts in an essay format,” she said, “how would I convey the struggles of being the only Black girl or the only vegan?” She decided to experiment with form. “Let’s see if things start to make more sense if I write a poem,” Goodnews said. Unsure where to start, Goodnews thought, “what if I try to format my poem as the first half of a school day.”
The resulting piece is a poignant exploration of Goodnews’ high school experience. As you read her words, notice the footnotes where Goodnews explains some of the stories behind her words.
1 Goodnews: I was an admissions ambassador in middle school, but I never made that transition in high school. However, I distinctly remember being asked to do tours and admissions events, even though I wasn't part of the team. There are a lot of admissions ambassadors, and a lot of those people aren't people of color. I figured there would be a Black family at the admissions event that the school needed me to represent. Hey, a Black person goes to this school! It used to be a big problem when they would invite photographers. It seemed that the photographers had been told to target the people of color. I remember multiple times when a photographer would come up with a camera, and I'd say no, yet they'd try and get my picture at another point in the day. It was very stressful.
2 Goodnews: The wording is based on a SpongeBob meme, which points out empty words.
3 Goodnews: At school, it was the salad bar or a bagel. It's surprising that there aren't a lot of cheap vegan options near my school. I'm sure if I wanted to have unhealthy vegan options I could. But for the most part, it wasn't cheap.
These annotations have been edited and condensed.
Cece King is the Editor of The Lightbulb. Have a question we can investigate? Curious about a speaker, class, or teacher? Email The Lightbulb any story tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.