“Our Lives Matter: The Ballou Story Project,” a collection of essays, poems and photography of 30 teenagers from Frank W. Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., was published last year by Shout Mouse Press, “a non-profit writing program and publishing house for unheard voices.” Shout Mouse Press works to empower writers from marginalized communities to tell their stories in their own voices and, once published, be the change they want to see in the world.
“Our Lives Matter” showcases teens of color from a variety of backgrounds, all experiencing the pains of adolescence in a world marked by inequality, civil unrest and violence. There’s Anthony Simpson converting to Islam and explaining why, using examples of how he’s reached common ground between religions. K.F. had to leave school to care for her sisters when her mother went to prison. M.H. Jordan writes a letter to the folks on the bus who she felt judged her by her dress and skin. Triony Valdivia left the violence of Bolivia and will now be the first in his family to attend college.
The common theme through “Our Lives Matter” is one of hope and determination. These teenagers refuse to be judged and pigeonholed, offering their stories to emphasize their differences, their commonalities, their dreams and their commitment to education and change. Through it all forms a thread of hope that the new generation will make the world a better place and fight the barriers that keep us separated.
-Louisiana Book News