WVHS sophomore wins Stop the Hate writing contest with original poem


WVHS sophomore wins Stop the Hate writing contest with original poem

May 10, 2022

Congratulations to WVHS sophomore Naa Korkoi Aryeetey – who goes by Kooki (pronounced Cookie) – on winning the 2022 Stop the Hate Essay Contest sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County. The honor was bestowed during a late April symposium hosted by the Federation entitled “Scandinavia During the Holocaust: the Impact of Leadership and What We Can Learn by Modeling Agents of Positive Change.” 

The symposium included a screening of the documentary film A Passage to Sweden, followed by dinner and a Zoom session with the film’s director Suzannah Warlick, during which students were able to ask Ms. Walrick questions.

The writing contest asked participants to focus on individuals who have demonstrated responsible citizenship by taking action to effect positive change in their communities. Kooki chose to write a poem about Ruby Bridges. As a small child in 1960, Bridges advanced the cause of civil rights when she became the first African-American to integrate a southern school, William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. Bridges became a national icon for the civil rights movement and has been a lifelong activist for racial equality since. In 1999 she established The Ruby Bridges Foundation, which promotes tolerance and creates change through education. 

The April symposium wrapped up with two contest winners reading their submissions aloud before being recognized with certificates and monetary awards. Kooki’s English teacher, Ms. Marilyn Brozycki, initially encouraged her to submit a piece for consideration. 

“Kooki is in my English 10 Honors class, and she is a very talented writer on top of being an excellent all-around student,” said Ms. Brozycki. “She wrote an amazing poem focused on the impact of Ruby Bridges, and the panel of judges said that the decision to choose her piece as the winner for the Grades 10-12 category was unanimous.” 

Kooki said that when she was in the process of writing her poem, she wanted to connect with readers to describe something complex in a beautiful, simple way. 

“When I write, I enjoy being able to hook people into a meaning [by] the way things are worded,” said Kooki. “I was very happy to participate because not many opportunities come up to be able to tell people about complex topics like racism in a way they can picture and understand from an outside view.”

Ms. Brocycki joined Kooki at the symposium to hear her read the winning submission, and to see Kooki honored by the Federation.

You can read Kooki’s submission below. 

“It was amazing winning the award,” said Kooki. “And, I feel like it’s proof that writing is a powerful tool that can bridge gaps between people and create a more beautiful world.”


Billions of Flowers
by Naa Korkoi “Kooki” Aryeetey 

You were a little girl back then, just 5 years old,
A ruby rose amongst snow and cold.
And In the face of a world unwelcoming and cruel,
A girl named Ruby Bridges, never missed a day of school.

A new world was beginning, one step at a time.
A movement for justice, still in its prime.
A flower born into a desert full of strife,
Spread her petals far and wide, bringing new life.

She steps out, early in morning, to go to school,
Ruby Bridges, a girl akin to a jewel.
goes to school were she’s not welcomed,
Where people like her are very seldom.
An Amber kiss in a field of Gardenia pale,
Ruby Bridges blooms and will prevail.

The day breaks, and she’d walk to class
And as she walked, many people she’d pass.
They’d scream and shout and rage and pout,
Yet, the day breaks, and she’d walk to class.

What inspires the hate of a race?
For their hair, their skin, the features of their face.
If my petals don’t match yours, will you turn away?
petals dark and rich that shine gold in the day.
Will never match yours, yet our stems are all green.
Our water is all wet, our roots all unseen.

There are billions of flowers, spread across Earth.
Pale flowers with shiny petals,
Dark blooms that drip dew as day settles.
And yet, all water is wet, all bloom in spring,
Deep down, all made of the same thing.

I see myself in Ruby, in a little girl with curled hair.
With flowers and bows and a dress worn with care.
She moved with grace, like a flower toward sun,
Stared the light in the face until day was done.

I am Ruby, in what I thought was the worst way.
Yet as sun shines and moon dips, day after day
My struggle is the best of me. I see that now.
In the way rosemary blooms on a tongue when ground,
In the way books tell stories despite being bound,
I am but a flower waiting to bloom after snow,
After sorrow and sadness, I am able to grow.

A little girl back then, yes, 5 years old,
My petals bloomed, green stem and shining gold.
I bloom with a million shades, a beautiful brown,
Against the snow of an unfamiliar town.
And in the face of a world unwelcoming and cruel,
I have yet to miss a day of school.


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