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Student-poets inspired by MLK’s legacy

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, a dinner was held in the Fred Rogers Center to memorialize civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. At the dinner, three students were announced as winners of the 2018 MLK Day Poetry Celebration Poetry Competition.

Michelle Gil-Montero, associate professor of English, said, “All three winning poems explored the complexities involved with how we define ourselves — not only how those definitions can be limiting, but how the process of self-definition brings us into conflict with ourselves and, often, with each other.”

Tyrique Anderson, a freshman psychology major, won first place for his poem, “Being Mixed,” which he read at the dinner. Junior English major Mallory Truckenmiller received second place and senior English major Anthony Horner received third.

Dr. Anthony Leach, professor of music and music education at Penn State University and director of the Essence of Joy Choir, was the guest speaker.

First Place:

Being Mixed

by Tyrique Anderson

First things first,

I’m not mixed—you mix a salad,

My situation though is complex,

It is like dark chocolate combining with cookies and creams producing a Twix,

I remember waking up every morning, it was like choosing left or right Twix,

Today am I black or white? Or somewhere in between?

I remember the uncertainty of what race or ethnicity to bubble in on standardized tests,

I remember the names like powder and buttermilk,

Also people will say I got rhythm like a white boy,

Or flow like Langston Hughes,

Or that I listen to white people music,

Or pray like black pastor,

And supposedly I talk like a white boy whatever that means,

Around 6th grade something that my art teacher said about glue resonated with me

“A little dot sticks a lot”

I began to recognized people knew my color before they knew me,

Black people will say, “You aren’t black or black enough”

You don’t know how it feels for hear someone say, “You do not belong”

When every part of your anatomy is screaming I do,

My white friends didn’t get it right either,

Every time they had a question about race they had to ask me,

I appreciate you trying to learn,

But am I your only black friend?

Why do I feel like a trophy?

Why do you assume my mom is white and that my dad has to be black?

Why do you assume I like basketball or play sports?

I forgive you, but how many times do I have to do it,

I finally got sick of choosing, because every time I chose – I ended up rejected,

I had to accept it!

As I look in the mirror,

I don’t see a Twix,

But I see me,

What do you see, when you look in your mirror?

Second Place:

Name Omitted for Legal Purposes

by Mallory Truckenmiller

She is foster girl

She is moon eyes and big lips

Beneath natty unkempt hair

She is trust and she is love

She is naïve and free with goodnight kisses

She is foster girl

She is energy with nowhere to go

And creativity with no one to see it

She is love without a beloved

although she loves quickly and fully

She is rooted without a home

She is foster girl

She is bad name and bad manners

She is a list of wrongs

She is a bad taste

She is bad

She is foster girl

She is without history

She is ambiguity

What color was your mama, girl?

She is forgotten

She is individual

She is foster girl

She is broken but not undone

She is hope

She is joy without reason

She is begging for a reason

She is foster girl

I love her

I hate for her

I hold her and brush her hair

I wait with her for a home that I cannot give

I tell her she is limitless

She will forget

She is foster girl

She is with me but I cannot keep her

She is foster girl

She is gone

Third Place:

a synonym for humanity

by Anthony Horner

I. the human mind when I think about it



milk and clouds.

both really simple and

tremendously complex;


a blank canvas

the neutral one that goes unnoticed

the way I feel

answering clearly

the half moon

sliver of everyone’s

nail bed that shows

when you push back

the pencil that never gets used

next to the colorful ones.

II. I have seen so many things.

almost all text in books

is seen as the opposite of white,

even if opposing two colors

doesn’t make any sense.

you can’t see

what is hiding in the dark?

when everything around is black?

burnt edges of my breakfast toast,

Do blind people only see black?

who needscolors

when black is perfect

for every occasion,

casual or sophisticated,

sexy or sad.

III. two hours under this fig tree


an old fig tree in an abandoned orchard

I became acutely aware

the only person

with all my thoughts,


everything I know

could no longer trail them along

I understood

I wandered

I created a stack

I am special in the way

every human being is special,

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like myself.

IV. with love, for good.

the unique ability to choose;

the responsibility to choose well,

the ability to make mistakes







without any fears.

I have dreamed

during myyears

to be limited

in order not to take

Photos: John Wojecthko

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