1. 2020 Autumn IBelongMagazine

I BelongMagazine.com A youth-led digital and print publication of Unified Efforts, Inc., Out of School Time Program

Autumn 2020

When remote learning intersects with Baltimore’s innovative youth … the entrepreneurial spirit ignites!

O Above Kamille Simmons Unified Efforts, Inc., student and entrepreneur

I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org


I BelongMagazine.com What is it?

It is all of us “belonging” to Unified Efforts, Inc., 2020 summer writing project!

I BelongMagazine.com is a publication of Unified Efforts, Inc., a program to reduce summer learning loss among Baltimore’s youth. Now, more than ever, UE is committed to reducing “vital” learning loss during these unprecedented times. Our magazine offers our inner-city youth a forum to have their voices heard and to engage with one another through written expression without judgment from adults. The articles, poems, and essays in this issue were written by our 2020 summer program’s participating students. They “belong” to a program that recognizes and respects their viewpoints, perspectives, and outlooks. The choice is indeed theirs. We aim to offer positive alternatives. The I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020, project was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Family League of Baltimore in conjunction with the 2020 Baltimore Summer Funding Collaborative Program, and the City Council of Baltimore.

We thank the funders for their support but acknowledge that the opinions presented in this magazine are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the funders. I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020, all rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org, nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization, donations to which are tax- deductible to the fullest extent allowed by l aw.

Deborah B. Ramsey Executive Director, and Unified Efforts, Inc., Board Members

I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org

Our mission statement: reduce summer learning loss

Would you like to make a positive difference? Donate today! Online: https://unifiedefforts.org Mailing address 200 Cross Keys Road #42 Baltimore, MD 21210 A no cost to families out of school time program. Humbly serving the most vulnerable, our youth, since 2015.

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Letter from the Publisher

It Was Never About the Hoodie, Counterfeit Bill, Busted Tail Light, or Cigarettes. As an eleventh-generation Black American, I am clear about how and why people, Black like me, have been subjected to the cruelty that too often ends up as fatal acts of violence by the hands of It is so personal that it could be best described as an uncontrollable impulse from misguided police officers. Imagine a person trained to utilize deadly force, possessing the authority that can ultimately impact your freedom of movement, as well as convince a judge to co-sign a search and seizure warrant on your home or business. Now, envision that same person with deep-rooted bias and prejudices, including a belief that Blacks cannot learn and are not worthy of any empathy, sympathy, compassion, or law enforcement officers. The answer: It’s personal. humanitarian consideration, much less of being given the benefit of the doubt. Mathematically speaking: a (authority/power) + b (ignorance/prejudice) = c (an instinctive overreaction) This outcome can be repeated. Current and past events substantiate this formula, making it valid, plausible, and explainable. A misguided and misinformed police officer would be more apt to be involved in excessive force, police brutality, or in exerting deadly force without justification, especially against Blacks. Police officers, operating in the wrong with attitudes based in white superiority, would find it justifiable, even a duty, to crush what they see as undesirable. Consequently, people like me would be seen as “targets” of opportunity for, at a minimum,

mistreatment and, at best, a total disregard for our constitutional protections. So, it is paradoxical that Blacks in this land are targets of any sort. Especially when it takes an extra effort to advocate to be seen as a person worthy of humane treatment. Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” best describes it this way: “… to be invisible means to be construed by others as a collection of general stereotypes rather than an actual person.” That thing that starts with “We the People…” made it clear. The intent of the three-fifths clause of 1787 was purposeful and cruel. Black Americans would not be counted individually. It would take almost eighty years for this country to recognize all Black Americans as individuals and another hundred years to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For my white counterparts your quest to seek equal protection under the law is to find a pathway to just “let” freedom ring. Black Americans understand that we must do what courageous Fannie Lou Hamer did to be recognized as first-class citizens. We must “make” freedom ring. And what does that look like? Just ask any Black American. There are a plethora of answers. So you see, it was never about the hoodie, the cigarettes, or the paper currency: it was personal. They were all just a subterfuge! Deborah B. Ramsey Former Baltimore Police Detective Member, Law Enforcement Action Plan Open Society Institute Fellow 443-800-0566 dbramsey@comcast.net June 5, 2020

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Is our sense of urgency showing?

Deborah B. Ramsey, Executive Director and Founder

Students received two hot, healthy meals daily, take- home activity bags, and lots of love. Our 2020 hybrid programs served forty K–12 students, Monday to Friday, July 6 to August 14, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Our state’s “shelter in place” policy threatened one of our most sought after summer programs: the Creative Writing Initiative for High School Students. Collective efforts between UE and our Goucher College partner yielded a pathway, virtual workshops. The Journey Inside published by Goucher College showcases UE students' written works, which appear in this issue with permission from Goucher College. In comparison to our 2019 class, this year’s writing initiative enrollment doubled, with a 93% attendance record. The support from our youth, families, volunteers, funders, community partners (Stony Run and Homewood Friends/Quaker Meetings), as well as goodwill wishers, helps to sustain our programs. UE is “leveled–up” and poised to provide a new out of school time center, which will supplement traditional educational spaces. UE invites you to join us in this vital project. Yes, we have an unapologetic sense of urgency!

The Unified Efforts, Inc., Out of School Time Program humbly serves the youth of Baltimore. Since 2015 UE has been an academic-support anchor institution in West Baltimore’s Penn-North community. UE’s success is predicated upon our students, as well as their families’ belief in us to be that extra educational support unit when students are out of school for planned and/or unplanned periods. Our system of providing students with opportunities to be successful develops confidence. Our work is a service of love we enthusiastically and freely give. Each year UE earns the students’ confidence. They know we will be there—no matter what the challenge. Well, “the no matter what” came to us in the form of a global pandemic. Nonetheless, UE rose to the challenges. We were able to galvanize our parents, community leaders, and especially the President of the Penn-North Community Association, Annie J. Hall. Together we developed a plan that put safety first, enploying effective protocols and hiring fromwithin the community. When we realized our students were remote-learning on the only tools they had— cellphones, we were able to provide them with new computer laptops. Additionally, Ms. Hall ensured her neighborhood received adequate broadband signals.

Unified Efforts, Inc., a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization

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Meet the I BelongMagazine.com 2020 2020 Student Cohort






Alexander 10 th Grade Baltimore


Clarke, Jr. 9 th Grade Calvert Hall



1 st year

10 th Grade Cristo Rey Jesuit HS

12 th Grade

Bard College,

Centennial HS

Design School NY


Kamal Quickley Kamille Simmons

Alana Swinton

Dorien Wallace

11 th Grade

10 th Grade

10 th Grade

10 th Grade

MerVo Tech., Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical HS HS

Baltimore City

Woodlawn HS

Concordia Preparatory


College HS

We are investing in more than programs!

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CONTENTS Letters from the Publisher, Page 4, 5 Meet the 2020 Cohort Page 6 Meet UE’s Board and Summer Staff Page 8,9 Book Club “I Can Read You Like a Book” Page 10 The Berlins, Lovers of Books Page 11 MissionFit Page 12 On the Cover UE Student Kamille Simmons Page 13 Wesley Alexander Audition Page 14,15 Rayelle Cato The Window Page 16,17 Rayelle Cato Another Word for Love Page 18 Eldon Clarke, Jr. Bottom Boy Survivor Page 19 Kiara Monroe Trust Issues Page 20, 21 Kamal Quickley Life of a Gamer Page 22, 23 Kamille Simmons Untold Page 24 Financial Literacy Page 25 Alana Swinton Couldn’t Be More Cliché Page 26 Dorien Wallace Page 27 Meet the Photographers and Editors Page 28, 29 Mindfulness and Yoga for Young People Page 30

Editors Jennie Sherwin

Elizabeth DuVerlie Photographers Brough Schamp Carol Newill UE’s Students Graphics/Lay-Out Deborah B. Ramsey

I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020, provides no warranty and accepts no responsibility regarding the services and products of our advertisers either in print or online. Also, the views and/or opinions expressed in the articles/advertisements are not necessarily the views and/or opinions of Unified Efforts, Inc., and the print-digital I BelongMagazine.com publication. Original content may not be reproduced without written prior consent/permission from Unified Efforts, Inc. ©2015-2020 IBelongMagazine.com All Rights Reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc. https://unifiedefforts.org 443-800-0566 unifiedefforts@comcast.net

Nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization

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Unified Efforts, Inc. Board Members and Attorney Diversity is at our table.

Eleanor Hubbard Member Retired Baltimore City Government

Olivia B. Buckner Former President

Logan Endow, Member Graduate, Stanford University Masters, London School of Economics

Cynthia Blake Sanders Intellectual Property Lawyer Baker Donelson UE Volunteer

Richard E. Thayer, Member Managing Director of Syngineering Solutions

Clayton “Ryze” Smallwood Member, Young Adults’ Committee, Volunteer Photographer/Videographer Student, Bowie State University

Wanda Best, Member CEO, Upton Community Development Corporation

Elizabeth DuVerlie, Member Former Director of Program Development MD Hospital Education Institute

Ghadir J. Smallwood Member Young Adults’ Committee, Student, UMBC

Bo Brand, Member Young Adults’ Committee Graduate, Pitzer College

Maggie Newman, Member Retired JHU

Adrian Bishop, Secretary Retired Federal Housing Inspector

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We hire from within the community we humbly serve!

Phyllis R. Ali has been with UE since its inception (2015). A graduate of Coppin State University, a native and long-time resident of Baltimore, MD, Phyllis brings her professional expertise in the field of Social Work, Early Childhood Education, and First Connection Childcare Training. This year’s global pandemic presented tests for our summer programand staff. When asked, “Will you be there?” her reply: “No doubt!” The team put together safety protocols that were in alignment with health officials' recommendations. A “no-contact” with students approach enabled our team to provide a total of 473 hot, healthy meals, with take-home activity bags and new laptop computers. UE humbly served (M-F) 29 K-8 th grade students in West Baltimore’s Penn-North community. Phyllis, thank you. Daniell Fauntleroy is a long-time resident of West Baltimore’s Penn-North community and one of UE’s first parents who wanted their child to be part of UE’s summer out of school program. Experienced in traditional schooling for children, Daniell worked with The Baltimore Curriculum Project Charter School Program as a classroom assistant. UE benefits from Daniell’s management skills in getting things done the right way, the first time. We are fortunate to have a dedicated community-oriented member on our team. Thank you, Daniell.

Phyllis R. Ali, B.S., Social Work Youth Development Supervisor

Unified Efforts, Inc. 2020 Summer Staff Members

Daniell Fauntleroy Administrative Assistant

Shervonne Shuler and her family have been with UE since 2016. She is a resident of West Baltimore’s Penn-North community, and her son was one of UE’s first out of school time summer students. Shervonne’s proficiency in the area of neighborhood updates and classroom management enabled our summer program to excel. Shervonne was instrumental in distributing updates and new registrations forms to the residents as on-going pandemic protocols were being made by officials. Thank you, Shervonne, we could not have had such a successful summer program without your help! Special thanks to Gethsemane Baptist Church Community Center, Donald Wright, Pastor, and the entire congregation for the use of its space and its Culinary Operations staff, Annie Louden and Darren Fauntleroy.

Shervonne Shuler Assistant Youth Development

Supervisor K-8 Grades

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“I Can Read You Like A Book”

Book Club


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, was selected by the Unified Efforts, Inc., Out of School Time 2020 Creative Writing Cohort for their summer project. Special thanks to student Kamal Quickley for the naming of our first book club, and Ed and Ann Berlin, for providing each student with a personal copy.

Kamal Quickley said: “I loved the way Starr stood up for what she believed, even though she was told not to, because others would have thought of her being a snitch.”

Alana Swinton said: “ … a bit too much for me.”

Wesley Alexander said: “ I really enjoyed the book … showed what it is like being a Black man in America.”

Kiara Monroe said: “… sad, but interesting.”

Kamille Simmons said: “ … I enjoyed the book and suggested it for my classmates. I thought they, too, would like it as much as I did.”

Rayelle Cato said: “It is an easy read.”

Eldon Clarke, Jr., said: “ I liked it and shared it with my family.”

New! Unified Efforts, Inc., Student-led Reading Initiative Book Club

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Our friends, Ann and Ed Berlin, launched UE’s first student-led book club.

Ann and Ed Berlin are strong supporters of the Unified Efforts, Inc., Out of School Time Program

Throughout the years the Berlins have provided our students with “Meet the Author” events, books, in-store paid internships, and lots of love. While Ann grew up in Salt Lake City, Ed grew up on the west side of Baltimore and is a graduate of City College and UMBC. Both, however, are products of public schools. They developed their love of books while studying in school. The Berlins believe that books and learning are the keys to the kingdom. They open up a world of opportunity. The Berlins worked in New York before moving back to Baltimore. They operated an independent bookstore in Baltimore and have supported literary groups across the city.

We see clearly that books are for lovers, too!

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MISSIONFIT is a nonprofit gym located in Baltimore, MD, strengthening the minds, bodies, and neighborhoods of Baltimore’s youth through a safe, intentional, community-based program. Offering free fitness programs to Baltimore's youth, ages 11-24

Check us out here: http://missionfit.org/

Unified Efforts, Inc., and MISSIONFIT are collaborating on a 2021 new career paths initiative for young adults .

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When the pandemic made school attendance impossible, what did some of our students do? Students with an entrepreneurial spirit began to look at how they could maximize their newly found free time with productive outcomes. Kamille wanted to create an online business. First, she put together a list of items that as a consumer she herself would want to purchase. Next, she developed a business plan, and a way to advertise her items. Despite the abrupt closing of schools, Kamille set out to reduce her learning gap by investing in herself. With advice fromher mother, Kamille began her home-based business. When Kamille shared her ideas with her summer out of school time classmates, UE suggested an “elevator pitch.” It was a huge success. Today, Kamille continues to promote her

On the cover Kamille Simmons Entrepreneur AMILLE SIMMONS

enterprise, and we do, too! Kamille can be contacted at k.milly2005@icloud.com


Kamille is one of Baltimore’s youngest entrepreneurs. When Kamille shared her ambitious business accomplishments, we wanted to help. Showcasing her is just one of the ways UE is delighted to help her succeed.


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Audition By Wesley Alexander

It was my last year of middle school, and I had to make a decision on what high school I wanted to attend. It was a really hard decision because I wasn't ready to leave middle school and I felt unprepared for what was to come. I was mainly focused on my art career and maintaining my grades, which was no problem because I loved to do work. Even though it was tough, I always managed to make good grades. During my eighth-grade year, I had a lot of help looking for high schools from my mother and my favorite art teacher, Mrs. Emberson. She would spend her whole lunch period helping me with my art skills and perfecting my work. The real reason why I love art so much is when I was in elementary school I had a lot of behavior problems, and the only way to get out my frustration was to draw. Going back in time, as I entered the third grade I was diagnosed with ADHD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. According to the CDC website, it is very common. 1 In most children and some adults some of the symptoms are careless mistakes and lack of attention to details. People with ADHD are described on the website of the National Institute of Mental Health as having these symptoms: “difficulty paying attention (inattention), being overactive (hyperactivity), and acting without thinking (impulsivity).” 2 After learning this, I thought there was something wrong with me, and that made me question a lot of things in life. I wondered why I would get pulled out of class and have lots of meetings about my behavior, but that improved over the years. As I entered fifth grade, I was happy and excited about going to middle school. But then my happiness ended. Because on March 17, 2016, my Grandma

died. That was the hardest experience of my life. I was so close to her. The night before she died, she had promised that my sister and I could come over and spend the whole day with her. After her death, I was depressed and sad all the time, but then I realized she was gone but never forgotten. Before she died she had said, “Wesley, you will be something one day. Don't let nobody tell you otherwise. You are an amazing artist, and me and your Mother believe in you. I love you.” As I entered my last year, eighth grade, I had hope that I would get into the school of my dreams—the Baltimore School for the Arts. It is one of the top five public art high schools in the country. I was trying out for theater and visual arts. My audition was on January 23, 2019. For the audition for visual arts I had to draw a realistic shoe, my bedroom, and a hand holding something. For the theater audition I had to write a play, creating the characters and designing the clothing and props. Then I had to put everything together in my portfolio. It was mid-December. I worked very hard to finish my drawings even though I restarted about eight times. I didn't let that stop me from what I love to do. My art teachers, Mrs. Emberson and Mrs. Roberson, helped by writing recommendation letters and helping me with drawing my art portfolio. My other teachers helped me with my school work so I would be sure to pass. Finally, it was time for me to audition. It was a long process, but it was worth it. As I entered the room, I prayed to God that I would be accepted by this school.

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After my auditions I felt happy because I could feel them say, “Wesley, you made it into Baltimore School for the Arts. '' After a few weeks went by, I kind of forgot about waiting for the acceptance letter because we were about to graduate and go to Six Flags. On my way home, as I was walking down the street, my mother called me to ask where I was. I said, “I'm close to the house, and I had an amazing day at school.'' As my mother and I were on the phone, she said, ' “Wesley, I got the letter.” I could feel that I had made it into Baltimore School for the Arts. Unfortunately, I did not get accepted. When I heard this, I broke down and cried because I felt like I had disappointed my mother, grandmother, and my teachers. Then it got even worse. The reason I didn't get accepted was because my grades were low, and right then and there I got angry. I was thinking to myself: What was wrong with my grades? I was a B plus student, I had perfect attendance, I was close to being on the Honor roll, I was a likable person, I get along with my classmates, and my teachers love me. After learning that I didn't get accepted, I went to school the next day and asked my friends if they got accepted, and they did. I was happy for them but also angry and upset that I didn't get picked. As school went on, Mrs. Emberson and Mrs. Fonda helped me look for a new high school out of my area. Although I was sad that I didn't get into the school of my dreams, and that I was going to a new school with people I had never met, I made the best of it, and honestly, it turned out great. I am going to a beautiful school, meeting new people, having fun in class, learning new things each day, making bonds with my teachers and classmates that will last a lifetime.

Wesley Alexander is a fifteen-year-old student who lives in Baltimore City with his mother and sister. He attends Baltimore Design School, where he is majoring in architecture. In 2019 he was awarded a certificate in art from Roland Park Elementary Middle School. He enjoys art and exploring new things; he is also a very outgoing person. Wesley was assigned by Baltimore City’s Youth Works Program to Unified Efforts, Inc., Out of School Time Program. UE is the better for having such an outstanding young person, who is now part of UE’s family of friends. Welcome, Wesley!

Creativity is for the young.

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The Window

By Rayelle Cato Katherine took her seat by the window. It was either 8 o’clock in the morning or 5:30 in the evening. Time blurred into one continuous minute. She was convinced it had been Sunday for at least five days now. The rest of the days did not exist. Nothing really happens at the window. The streets are bare. Sometimes cars drive past her house or people walk down the street. There are also kids who ride their bikes, but she doesn’t pay attention to them. If she did, she would start to feel envious. Why couldn’t she be outside? How come they are outside enjoying the sun and their friends? She shouldn’t be complaining; she could go outside if she wanted to. All she had to do was put clothes on, get a mask, go to the door, open it, and step outside. It’s simple, but she can’t do it. She’s scared. The virus is airborne, meaning it could be everywhere the air is. And the air is everywhere, except space. She could go to space and not get the virus, but that’s too expensive. Plus, she doesn’t know where she could get a rocket. So she’s stuck behind the window. Katherine knows that she is not in the danger zone. She’s not old and she’s healthy. But there’s always a what if. What if she was unlucky and got the virus? She was already unlucky; she didn’t want to make it worse. What if she calls someone and they cough on the phone and pass the virus to her? It could happen. Anything is possible. She doesn’t want to risk it, so she sits by the window. It does get boring sometimes, but there’s nothing else to do. She does have hobbies, but

she can’t enjoy them. If she does, the hobby will become a job, and she won’t enjoy it anymore. If she wants to preserve the hobby, she has to wait until the quarantine is over. Which seems like never. Every time quarantine comes close to ending, more days get tacked on, and she has to stay in the house. She has to continue to look out of the window. She hates that window. She wants to go outside and see her friends. She’s tired of being excited when a car rolls by. She wants to leave. Speaking of seeing people, there’s her neighbor Ms. Travis, who just left her house. She coughs. The mailman looks at her, frozen to the spot. He starts backing up when she says that she was just clearing her throat. He nods his head, but Katherine is sure he doesn’t believeMs. Travis. He starts speed walking and throwing people’s mail. Katherine sighs. It’s frightening to see people afraid of a cough. Will it be like this after the quarantine? How long after the quarantine will people be afraid of coughing? Will everyone be in quarantine mode even though the stores open back up? Will she still be in quarantine mode? Katherine already knows she’s staying in the house after stores open. Everyone will be going everywhere possible. Her family is already planning visits. Too dangerous. Too much potential exposure to the virus. Katherine freezes. She doesn’t want to think about family. If she did, she would start thinking about how

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do that. What if one of them has the virus? What if they get sick and their air travels under Katherine’s door and infects her? What if? --- No. No more thoughts. They are just hugging because they want to. Maybe they miss each other. She doesn’t need to be scared of other people hugging. Physical contact is natural. Her phone starts going off, and it’s her mom. She’s on her way to the house. Katherine stills herself. Her mom is going to have to come into the house. Her air will be mixed with the outside air, which may or may not have the virus in it. This means her outside air will mingle with the house air. That means Katherine could be at risk of getting the virus. Katherine’s eyes widen. Does that mean her mom can’t come into the house? Her mom has to come into the house. She sees the car park in front of the house. What does she do when her mom opens the door? Does she hug her and pretend that there isn’t a virus floating around? Or does she force her mom to shower before she gives her a hug? Can she even be near her mother anymore? Her thoughts are interrupted as the door opens. Her mother looks tired. She gives a small wave before excusing herself to the bathroom. Katherine hears the water turn on. She keeps listening until she hears the water go off. She gets up and puts her phone on the charger. Then she goes into the kitchen to drink a cup of water. She doesn’t want to think about her mom having a virus in her air space. She starts to fill her cup again when her mom yells her name. When Katherine makes it to her mother’s room, her mother holds open her arms. Katherine takes a step back before smiling and hugging her mom. It's okay to hug her mom.

almost all of her family is at risk. Then she would start thinking about if/whether her family will survive during quarantine, which seems impossible. Some of her family have already had the virus, and a few of them have died. Her immediate family is also at risk. What would happen if they get it? What if she gets it and gives it to her family? What is the reason her family doesn’t survive the quarantine? What if she gives the virus to them? She can’t handle these thoughts, so she doesn’t think about her family. Those thoughts are illegal. She sees a car pass by and it reminds her of her mother’s car. Maybe she should call her mother and see how she's doing. Her mother just started her new job. She now has to leave the house a few times a week. She has to leave the house and hand out food to people in need. Which is nice, but her mom is also outside, which means she could get--- Nope. Katherine cannot think about that. Her mom is okay. She will be fine. Katherine looks at her phone. She’s been getting a lot of calls recently, most of them her fault. When her aunt told her that her uncle had the virus, Katherine called everyone she knew. She had to make sure everyone was okay, which she can thank the quarantine for. She didn’t keep in touch with people as much as she wanted to. Now she has all the time in the world, so she talks to as many people as she can. Which isn’t the same as talking to them face to face, but it will do for now. It has to be enough. Katherine misses her friends. She wants to see their faces and give them a lot of hugs. It has only been, like, two months, but it feels as if it has been years since she has seen them. She used to make fun of people who said things like that. All those movies and shows about long-distance relationships are making a lot of sense now. Katherine smiles. Those people aren’t idiots. It is amazing to see people you care about and hug them. Not being able to see them sucks. Maybe she should watch a movie later today. Or binge-watch a TV show. Maybe call her friends and tell them about the mailman being scared of the cough. Anything that will get her away from the window. Two people walk up to each other and hug. It isn’t even an emotional hug, but they are touching. People can’t

Rayelle is a member of the National Honor Society and plans to be a playwright. Attends Bard College, NY

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Another Word for Love By Rayelle Cato This senior year, walking down the familiar street, I fell in love with my best friend. No, not like that. It was not a romantic thing. I love her already, she's one of my favorite people. But I felt something stronger than that. I scoured the internet, trying to find a word that matched my feelings, and came up empty. So I decided I was in love with her. Platonically. Let me set the scene. We were walking down the street, her laughing and shouting, talking about Twenty-One Pilots. More specifically, their album Trench . It was a concept album and she was telling me the theories she had. She was speaking in a new language. I knew some of the words but I could not really follow. But the way she was talking and laughing made me want to listen. She laughed and talked, and smiled, and was dramatic. But I couldn’t take my eyes away. Cars zoomed by and there might have been people around us walking but I did not notice. It was just her. Her with her named bookbag, her with my phone in her hands, her voice, and her expressions. She probably listened to that album 40 times, going back and listening for clues and hidden messages. She probably changed her theories 30 times after listening to their previous albums and finding new messages. I have listened to the album 23 times making my theories so I can talk to her about them. She hugged me approximately 60 times. Most of the hugs were given because either she or I was sad or angry. We walked together after school approximately 95 times. She lives close to our school and it was on the same path as the bus stop. She probably made me go to the lunch line with her 523 times, breakfast, and lunch. I would try to hide or sneak away and she would hold my hand or purse so I could not leave. I usually walked with her when she had to ask a teacher something or wanted to get some water. I do not have the best memory, but she is one of the people I will never forget. I fell in love with my best friend. She is one of my favorite people in the world. I learned that I am platonically in love with her. That love does not always have to be a romantic attraction. I love her, my other friends, my family, etc. And it feels great. I am glad that I learned this. That I can love someone, maybe even fall in love with them and it is not romantic. Maybe my next assignment will be to create that word.

Congrats to Rayelle as a first-year Bard College student.

Reprinted with permission from Goucher College

Page 18 I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org

Bottom Boy Survivor

they were using language to hide what they were talking about while they were doing their street job. Many people who grow up in a bad environment have relied on selling drugs to make a living. These people are called “trappers.” A trapper is a person who puts his life on the line by selling illegal substances to make money. Bottom Boy Survivor is a boy who wants to make it out of the struggle and accomplish his dreams, not by making his name in the streets but by making it in the rap game. Many people don’t want to be in the mix of the streets. Being in the mix may end up with something happening to you because nowadays many things can happen to you as a person. Rod Wave is my inspiration for writing this because he made nothing into something. Without his songs I don’t know how I would feel. What Rod Wave speaks about in his songs is about how he grew up. He had trust issues and was trying to move on up through the difficult stages of life. He grew up with his grandmother. He was also a trapper, but then he found out about the rap life, and it changed his whole mindset. He grew up listening to rappers, such as E-40, with whom he later made a song called “Calabasas,” and Kevin Gates with whom he later made a song called “Cuban Links.” Rod Wave’s songs have inspired me. One of the best ones in my opinion is “Rags2Riches,” which shows that he came from nothing. He is a hero for many people because his life proves that anyone can make it out of their situation. No matter what problems are occurring, you just have to believe. Eldon is a first-year student at Calvert Hall High School, Baltimore, MD, and a second-year student with Unified Efforts, Inc., Out of School Time Program.

By Eldon Clarke, Jr.

A bottom boy survivor is a boy who came from nothing and has to make his stages through deep parts of the projects. He wants to make it out and be something in life other than adding on to the negative. Growing up in the projects is hard. The system wants you to be one of the statistics and be like everyone else—either dead, locked up, or injured. That’s harsh to hear, but it’s true. Some people don’t want Black people to be successful. They will harm your soul. They see you and judge you by the color of your skin and your looks. That’s why it is sometimes hard to get a job. That’s why people end up in the street. Going home from school I used to see this type of stuff: people had nicknames, and

Page 19 I BelongMagazine.com, Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org

Trust Issues by Kiara Monroe

It was dark outside when I got the news about him. My friend, my sister, and I were outside when her mom called her inside. “Kiara, Kiya! Y'all cousin in the hospital! They said he got stabbed up” was what she said when she came back out. When she said that, my sister and I looked at her and laughed. We didn’t believe her. I didn’t believe her because she didn’t seem hurt or upset about it like we would’ve been. The rest of the night I felt off like something was wrong. Later on that night I was thinking about what I was told. Why would anyone want to hurt him? Nahh, she was lying, I thought. The next morning, on my way to camp, in the car with my sister and my mom. My sister and I didn’t ask any questions about it if it was true or not. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to know. He was like an older brother to me and it would hurt to know that he would be gone forever. When we were younger we would always play-fight with my other cousins and siblings. He would always be outside and bring something back to us whenever he came back. He treated me like a little sister. I have only sisters, no brothers, so why would I want to hear that the only brother figure I had was gone?

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I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org

“I have to tell y’all something,” my mom said. We replied with confused looks on our faces. “Clerow is gone” was what my mother said with tears in her eyes. I and my sister were both asking what happened. She replied, “Somebody stabbed him to death at the gas station.” We didn’t say anything else. The look she had on her face was the look I expected to see from the close friend that had told me about it the night before. But that was when I knew. My brother was dead. His death was that off feeling I felt the night before. Walking into the camp, I had no expression on my face, no tears, nothing. I was in shock. I sat down at a table and it hit me. I cried all day. I’d always seen or heard of a death in movies. I never experienced it in real life and it hurt more than I thought it would. Later that week, we found out who did it and why. They said it was one of his close friends that did it. That it was over a fight that happened a while ago, the friend was mad that he had lost a fight to my cousin and decided to take my brother's life because of it. I’ve never hated a person so much in my life. I wanted him dead. He’s dead over a fight? His friend did it? W as all I kept asking myself and others because it just didn’t make sense to me. I never thought someone you called a friend and someone that was considered family by your actual family would do anything like that. I started to think of my cousin’s siblings and how they felt, but mainly his little brother. They were the only two boys, he was the youngest, and they were close, so everyone knew it hit him the hardest. The family worried about him because he knew the friend, where he lived, his family, basically everything. He was capable of killing someone with the right drive. I think we all are if I’m being honest. But he stayed in the house and focused on being the big little brother, the only brother. I’ve always had trust issues, ever since I was a baby. I was picky about who I talked around and who I wanted to go with. That was already me. But it got worse after his death. I became the definition of an introvert. I didn’t talk unless spoken to, I never opened up to anyone, I kept everything to myself. I didn’t trust anyone to know anything about me, how I think, my loved ones, nothing. It was hard for me to make friends. I started wearing hoodies and dark clothes all the time when I got old enough to choose what I wanted to wear. I became depressed. His death opened my eyes to people in the “grown-up” world. Everybody in your life has intentions, good or bad. I haven’t looked at people the same ever since.

Reprinted with permission from Goucher College

Kiara is a twelfth-grade student at Centennial HS and a first-year student with Unified Efforts, Inc., Out of School Time Program. Welcome!

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I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org

Life of a Gamer By Kamal Quickley

Number of controllers just sitting around: 8 Number of waffles I’ll eat in a day: 7 Number of gaming hours on a good day: 12+ Number of water bottles I see: 3 Music playlist: 250 Unread messages: 172 Average number of hours spent on phone: 8+ Schools I’ve attended: 3 Birthmarks I know about: 3 Number of electronics: 6 Percentage of candy I eat in a week: 30% Number of times I’ve watched Home Alone : 1000

Kamal is a sixteen-year-old gamer boy who lives in Baltimore, MD. He is in the 11th grade at MerVo-Tech HS. He loves playing basketball and cooking. He also loves to eat waffles. His gaming experience has changed over time, increasing since the outbreak of COVID-19. Kamal has been with UE for 5 years.

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I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org

The day I started to play video games instead of watching them, the streamer played wisely and silently while waiting around the corner for the enemy team. As it was just him vs everybody, 1 vs 3, wondering how this would play out??? Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to become a gamer, the loud vibrations playing, the loud vibrations playing every time you make a small movement. The loud explosions, the bouncing of a basketball, the building of your character, the exciting dances, aka emotes. The excitement of your teammates and the toxicity of your opponents. But it’s cool ’cause it is a community of different types of gamers and some would be upset if they lost. We all understand and go through it. The amount of time I usually spend on the game on a good day is about 12 or more, while I enjoy my favorite snack, Skittles. On average I eat about 30 percent of candy in a week. Yeah, that’s a lot of sugar. But it’s cool ’cause I don't gain much weight and plus I’m chill when eating

candy. I’ll listen to music: I have about 250 songs on my playlist. While playing the game I drink about two bottles of water while keeping focused on what I’m playing. After all that fun I usually get hungry and find something to eat, which is probably going to be waffles. I eat about 7 waffles a day. You can't go wrong with waffles. I gotta watch a video while I’m eating because it’s just simpler that way. Instead of just watching my food I spend about 16 hours chillin’ on YouTube a day. Overall there has been a lot that I have learned about the gaming world, such as the way some people play and how some people react when it comes to different situations. The amount of play time is also an important factor in the effects of gaming. Although excessive playtime can have negative consequences, gaming in moderation can be healthy, fun, and educational.

Reprinted with permission from Goucher College

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I BelongMagazine.com , Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org

The Untold Virus Untold?

By Kamille Simmons

On December 31, 2019, the first coronavirus case was reported from Wuhan, China. Doctors started to realize that the first symptoms were somewhat related to pneumonia. The WHO website reports symptoms as “fever, cough, sore throat and headaches. In severe cases difficulty in breathing and deaths can occur.” 1 Some symptoms aren’t so severe as to cause death but could still keep you in critical condition. Seven months into the pandemic, we now all know that symptoms may appear in someone two to fourteen days after being exposed to the virus. Corona viruses can be transmitted through respiratory droplets that spread from one surface to another. There are several ways to stay clean and not cross contaminate surfaces. It is imperative that you put on gloves before you start cleaning and use soap and water before you use any other disinfectant chemicals. It is very important to wipe off “high touch” surfaces, such

as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc. 2 Above all, wearing a mask will decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19. COVID-19 is a very serious illness that you must pay attention to. It's important that you practice social distance, staying six feet away from each other, and wear a face cover. If you think that you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should call the COVID hotline in Baltimore or your doctor. If you experience shortness of breath or pain in your chest, go immediately to a hospital emergency room. For information on how COVID affects different races, check out the COVID Tracking Project’s COVID Racial Data Tracker.

Kamille Simmons is a current 10th grader, attending Concordia Prep School in Baltimore, MD.

1 https://www.who.int/maldives/news/detail/31-01-2020-updates-on-novel-corona-virus-(COVID-19) 2https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html

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I BelongMagazine.com, Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org

Financial Literacy Education for Teens

For five consecutive years, UE has offered financial literacy education information to our teens and their families. For two years, James David, Vice President and Branch Manager

with PNC, has provided his time and expertise to help our students better understand how to navigate through traditional banking institutions. Budgeting, savings, and confidence in dealing with financial institutions ensure long-term economic success.

Thank you, James. Our students are better informed because of your efforts.

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I BelongMagazine.com, Autumn 2020. All rights reserved. Published by Unified Efforts, Inc., Baltimore, MD, https://unifiedefforts.org

Couldn’t Be More Cliché By Alana Swinton

Alana Swinton is an aspiring dancer and writer who lives in Baltimore, MD. She goes to one of the top ten high schools in Baltimore City. Her poetry has appeared in an anthology and I BelongMagazine.com

I'm not going to start my story with "this day was like any other," like every other story, because that would be a lie. This day was very special because, unlike any other day, I was getting an acceptance letter in the mail. I was going to high school and the high school I wanted to go to was Baltimore School for the Arts, also known as BSA. I was waiting patiently by the door for the mail lady to come. I was anxious but excited; I get to go to my favorite school. Finally, the mail lady arrived and my heart dropped. I was so scared I forgot to tell her "Hasta luego." Shuffling through all of the mail I finally found mine. But before I opened it I closed my eyes and said to myself, "I won't cry if I don't get in, I won't cry if I don't get in, I won't cry if I don't get in.” Fast forward to now. As I'm writing this I have four piercings in total. I have one on my face and three on my ears. Because of the number of piercings I have, my father is very disappointed in me and thinks that one day I’ll become a stripper, but that's not my future. I have been to the eye doctor 4 times and each time they give me glasses I seem to break. During the day and the night I spend my hours watching YouTube on my TV and in doing that I have 1,315 hours of it. On Youtube I listen to music and seem to break twenty pairs of headphones. Around the house, we have five-game systems in total but two are mine and I plan to put SpongeBob stickers on them. In total, I have over thirty SpongeBob things and plan to get more. But only in the future, I will continue my process, starting today, July 10, 2020. Reliving the past, I slowly opened the mail praying that I got in. I pulled the mail out and quickly put it to my chest and took a deep breath. I finally unfolded the mail and looked. I read the first word: "Unfortunately." I dropped the paper and walked away from it and began to cry. I was so mad I started reflecting on what I possibly did wrong. Then I just went to sleep. Right now in life, I go to Baltimore City College and I am enjoying it. The students are really fun and the school tries to push me. I'm actually glad I didn't get into BSA. I realized they have no social life. Sometimes they stay in school until 6 p.m. working on dances and have no time to talk to anyone. I am just really proud of where I am now and wouldn't change a thing.

Reprinted with permission from Goucher College

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