by Sarah Kay
Today, the day before the election, I spent the day at an all-girls school
in Nashville, Tennessee. After the day’s events were finished, they held
a reception in the Headmaster’s home, and I found myself alone in a
room with three girls from the high school. Someone had a sticker that
said, “I voted!” And I asked about it, confused, because of her age.
She told me they had held a mock election earlier that day. I asked
about the results, trying to keep my tone even, not wanting my own
politics to creep into my voice. She said, 43 Obama, 54 Romney.
I couldn’t keep a wow from slipping out. That’s actually better than
I would have expected, she said. It was clear, based on the way she
said it, what “better” meant, and I started to ask more about it, now
feeling safe that we were on the same team. The Headmaster re-entered
the room with other faculty members. The girls shifted in their seats.
We raised our chins, our eyes, crossed our knees. I answered questions
about poetry, about travel, about my family back home, and their recovery
from the hurricane. I did not mention the election. Neither did the girls.
We thanked our hosts, and shuffled into our coats, bracing against the
winds of the newly minted winter air. Once outside, with a safe distance
from the house, I quietly asked what the preparation for the election had been.
Some shaking heads made it clear there hadn’t been any. A junior named Cat,
looked squarely at me. We are in the reddest of red down here. Nobody bothers
trying to explain platforms or sway votes, because it’s not going to make
a difference. All the girls in this school, we all come from conservative parents.
Conservative administration. It’s amazing Obama even got as many as he did.
We swayed in the parking lot, and the ropes in my stomach wound tighter
and tighter. I felt like I had failed them. I shouldn’t have wasted time
on poems about peacocks and love. I should have been teaching them
about what it means to be a woman. About burden and responsibility and pain,
about how hard it was to get to where we are, how easily it slips away.
The three girls in the parking lot walked me to my car. They were smart
and outspoken, the way girls at these schools often out-rank their peers
from co-ed schools. They left me in my car, their green and white plaid skirts
brushing their knees as they walked. Have a good night, they said.
We’ll see you tomorrow for the middle school assembly.
Good luck, they said. I knew they were talking about the assembly.
Good luck to you too, I said. Good luck to us all.
Sarah Kay began performing her spoken word poetry when she was fourteen years old. In 2004, she founded the organization Project V.O.I.C.E. to encourage creative self-expression through spoken word poetry. She now performs and teaches spoken word poetry in venues and classrooms all over the world. In 2011, Sarah was a featured speaker at the TED Conference, where she received two standing ovations for her performance and speech on the “Rediscovery of Wonder.” Sarah’s first book, “B” was released in November 2011 by the Domino Project and has been the #1 top ranked poetry book on Amazon.
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