Poems by Aminata Keita

My Accent

Everybody has an accent
So why is mine a problem?
I’m fed up with the ignorance
The “You don’t belong here
The “I’m sorry honey, can you repeat yourself?”
No! I’m not going to repeat myself anymore

And I do belong here
I’m America too
I learned your language
I didn’t have an option

Now I speak your language
I do community service
I do track, swimming, and soccer
I published a book at the age of 14

America, I am your voice!
I didn’t know that to be an American
You had to make fun of others
Guinean, what am I? Poet

Where I’m from? Africa
I am not taking it anymore
The “Go back to where you came from” attitudes

Why don’t you come down to my country?
Let’s see if you last a day in my shoes
Let’s see if you can learn my language
By the way, I speak 4 languages

English
French
Mandigo
And Susu

What do you speak?
Oh yeah, just English
I can communicate, but can you listen?
There’s no problem with a British or Australian accent, right?

Why is it a problem to have an African accent?
Is Africa not good enough? Africans are smart too
I am smart, so I am not going to foolishly repeat myself
When I speak you will listen

Je suis l’Amérique
Amérique n’né di
Amérque; na na na!
I am America

Where I Grew Up

Because I’ve always been quiet
Writing my poems
They always want to know
Where I grew up

I grew up in the projects
Where rich families
Don’t allow their kids to visit

I grew up where you can’t sleep at night
Because your neighbor and her boyfriend
Are busy making love and smoking marijuana

I grew up in a place
Where you’d wake at 10 am
On Sundays to the smell of omelets and coffee

Where I shared a room with my sisters
And we were known as the only family
Who spoke Mandigo

Where people take from those who don’t have
And leave your pockets empty
Broke and more sad

I grew up where you can’t tell the difference between
The kid who just graduated college and the local drug dealer
They both look alike and can’t get jobs, the odds

I grew up where the police would check you
Whenever they want
Without a warrant or probable cause

Where I grew up
Even the dead have to wait
Until their number is called

I grew up in a beautiful place
Often wondering as I looked up
At the moon shining over me
Questioning what it meant to me
Whether or not it was full

Where did I grow up?
That’s where I grew up
What about you?

How to Write About Home

Tell them!
Tell them how you’re feeling drained
Unappreciated
Unalleviated

Don’t be shy
Someone out there is listening
Hearing you
Shouting for help

C’mon, paint
The picture of how you got home
Though you didn’t have an address
How you slept in a car

Let them know
How you grew up in the streets
How your dad used to hit you
To make you become a fighter

Tell them how
You made something of yourself
Talk about your story
How you could barely afford lunch
And no way in hell you were having dinner

Don’t hold back
Let it out
Let your emotions speak
They could be someone else’s
Saviour

AMINATA KEITA

Aminata Keita is a fifteen year old Guinean native. She has published two books, Sentences of the Heart and most recently, Struggles of a Dreamer. Aminata has been with Books of Hope since the fall of 2010. She speaks four languages. She is athletic, friendly, and very passionate about her writing. Ms. Keita considers writing to be her savior; she states, “’it topples my heart and washes the pain away” (Identity, 14). She is a recognized Spoken Word artist who is an integral part of the Words for Deaf Ears slam team. Aminata Keita aspires to become an accomplished writer and a successful surgeon in her future.

About BOOKS OF HOPE

Books of Hope (BOH) is a literacy empowerment program that brings creative writing workshops to at-risk urban and immigrant youth in the communities where they live. Our mission is to inspire the next generation of young authors.

Founded in 1999 by author and educator Anikah Nailah in collaboration with Mystic Learning Center and the Somerville Arts Council, Books of Hope (BOH) has published 150 books of poetry, short fiction, essays, plays, memoir, and hip-hop lit, written by youth ages 13 to 25.

BOH is a literacy empowerment program that brings creative writing workshops to at-risk urban and immigrant youth in the communities where they live. The program trains participants in four key areas: writing, publishing, performance, and entrepreneurship. Youth are mentored by professional writers, artists, and educators; their writing is made public through readings at schools and events. Our books are made available for purchase directly from the authors, through our website, or in independent bookstores. Annually in the spring, BOH authors hit the road on the Mystic Ink Tour, to give readings throughout New England.

For more information about Books of Hope, to order books, donate or volunteer, contact Soul Brown, BOH Director at booksofhopema@gmail.com or visit us on the web at http://booksofhope-ma.org. Your support empowers the next generation of young authors!

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