Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge. They are chaotic, sometimes painful, sometimes contradictory, but they come from deep within us. And we must key into those feelings and begin to extrapolate from them, examine them for new ways of understanding our experiences. This is how new visions begin, how we begin to posit a future nourished by the past. This is what I mean by matter following energy, and energy following feeling. Our visions begin with our desires.
Audre Lorde, poet and social justice activist
This quote holds the essence of Shout Mouse Press‘s newest release, Humans of Ballou. This collection features interviews and photographs of and by Washington DC’s Ballou High School students and educators. For the past academic year, I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Ballou seniors and juniors on their college personal statements and/or scholarship essays, which then were reimagined, transformed, inspired into this beautiful book influenced by the ever-intriguing Humans of New York series.
May 26, 2016 marks the release of this very powerful collection. For me, Humans of Ballou is about talking back to a society that believes it can tell you who you are without your consent. It is reclaiming ground and telling others exactly who you are on your own terms and with your own breath. These writers speak that which is coming from deep within themselves, making way for their desires. They use their voices and igniting energy to make all of our worlds bigger.
It has been an honor and so much fun getting to know these young writers through the power of story. They are promising writers, and this is just the beginning for them! Proceeds from book sales go to a Ballou High School scholarship fund and to empower new and future authors.
The students of Ballou High School know a different Washington, DC than do the more than 18 million tourists who visit our nation’s capital each year. They live in Southeast DC, across the Anacostia River, and the tour buses don’t go through their neighborhoods. Some travel guides explicitly call the communities East of the River “areas to avoid.” Even some residents of the District don’t often visit Wards 7 and 8, as the river acts as not only a literal boundary, but a metaphorical one. The bridge that should connect these two Washingtons is all too rarely crossed.