Shady Side Academy student Eliyah Roberts pens award-winning poem

by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer

“I look down at my hands…

And all I see is dirt colored flesh…”

Those are the first two lines of the poem that had judges at Carnegie Mellon University glued to their seats, wondering what came next.

The poem is titled, “An Ode to the Dark Skin Black Girl,” written by 17-year-old Eliyah Roberts, an African American student at Shady Side Academy. Each year, CMU holds its Martin Luther King Jr. Day Writing Awards, and numerous high school and college students submit entries in both the poetry and prose categories.

Roberts won second place in the high school poetry competition for her poem. Elle Engberg of Pittsburgh CAPA won first place for her poem, “Hey Beautiful,” while fellow CAPA students Bryanna Luster and Greyson Scurco tied for third place with their poems, “Twisted Face” and “I hope I can be heard now.”

In the high school prose category, first place went to Diana Putri Lozinger of Vincentian Academy for “Confessions of a Biracial Disabled Woman,” second place went to Feride Radzhapova of Baldwin High School for “The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon,” and third place went to CAPA’s Lily Weatherford-Brown for “What Distance Does.”

On Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 20, at CMU’s Cohon University Center Rangos Ballroom, students read their winning entries.

“I think for anyone who has never come to the awards before, that’s one of the things you get is the diversity of voices and the strength of those voices, and the passion behind them,” said CMU professor Jim Daniels on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today Live in January. Daniels is the founder of the CMU Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Awards.

“Usually I feel as though dark-skinned Black girls aren’t represented in a positive light,” Roberts said on KDKA-TV’s lifestyle show. “They aren’t praised, they aren’t celebrated, they’re often looked down upon. So I wanted to reassure the Black girls like me that they are beautiful, they are smart, they are talented, they can do anything.”

ELIYAH ROBERTS

“An Ode to the Dark Skin Black Girl”

I look down at my hands

And all I see is dirt colored flesh

I mean my skin is the color of soil

So of course I would know how deep underground I was created

The oils that run through my veins and the copper under my nail beds

Never seem to expire

Because my body is my greatness

And it’s as tough as the indestructible souls that came before me

The golden hues that are painted on my thighs

And the curly cues that were put upon my head for purpose

Have more body than the ocean’s strongest waves and are hotter than the world’s volcanic lava

Underground I am one with nature

With the ruins all around my figure

We got diamonds embedded in our minds and golden mines implanted in our eyes

You can even say we are the golden children

Because us black girls were one of nature’s greatest creations

And I’m talking to the girls with the deep dark skin who hide under the trees

I’m talking about the girls whose words sound like luscious, sweet honey straight from honey bees

I’m talking about the girls whose skin twinkles in the moonlight, it just glitters and gleams

I’m talking about the girls whose skin is smooth as butter, and smells of rich cocoa

I’m talking to the girls whose strides overflow with rhythm, like you can hear a beat in each step

I’m talking to the girls who think like philosophers and speak like engineers, write like artists,

and whose singing kisses our ears

I’m talking to the beautiful dark chocolate girls

Because you girls

You black girls

You dark skin black girls

Y’all are beautiful

You are smart

You can do anything

(ABOUT THE TOP PHOTO: ELIYAH ROBERTS, on KDKA-TV.)

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