The coronavirus pandemic catapulted into the spotlight countless health care workers including physicians, nurses, technicians, and hospital support staff, as well as first responders and others who provide essential services and products. Rightfully so. They risk their own lives to save the lives of others each day with their commitment, dedication, and professionalism.

Community leaders, teachers and parents have also captured headlines as the world continues to battle COVID-19 and contain its spread. Absent from the daily news coverage is the youth. Social distancing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus can be especially hard for tweens and teens, who may feel cut off from their friends. Many also face big letdowns as graduations, proms, sports seasons, college visits and other long-planned events are cancelled or postponed.

To address the hidden toll shouldered by our youth, UMOJA Magazine teamed up with the Office of Equity, Partnerships and Engagement, in collaboration with Madison Metropolitan School District’s Black Excellence Think Tank, to highlight youth voices during the coronavirus pandemic. 

During the final weeks of the school year, students in grades 6-12 participated in the UMOJA Magazine Youth Voices Project. The two-week virtual program included workshops in

Visual Arts, Poetry/Spoken Word, Storytelling and News Reporting. Youth Voices workshop presenters included contemporary realism artist Jerry Jordan; creative writing instructor Felicia Clark;  poet Natasha Ria El-Scari; and UMOJA publisher and editor, Yvette L. Craig.

A week before the workshops concluded, the public killing of George Floyd, while in Minneapolis police custody, shook young adults to the core. Some of that pain is also reflected here.

“In a time when the focus of the community and news stories are focused on the adult experience, we wanted to take the time to uplift the stories and experiences of our youth. Some of the world’s greatest art and literature were created out of a time of civil rights movements. Today is no different,” said Prenicia Clifton, a Youth Voices Project organizer who is a member of the Higher Education Prevention Network.

 Overwhelmingly, today’s youth miss the simple things in life, from drinking strawberry soda at the lake with friends to wrapping their arms around grandparents. Here is some of the remarkable work youth from around Madison produced for this special UMOJA issue.

Black girl with flags, Jasmine Winston, 11th grader at Lafollette High School

When I am out of the coronavirus lockdown, I will do many things that are colorful and fun. I want to create the most happy and fun moments of my life. In the following paragraphs, I will show you how I plan to fill my day with amazing things. 

In lockdown, everything seems gray. Even the most colorful things have lost their color. There are many bad things happening in a sad world. No social interactions have made kids sad. People do bad things. People ignore others with a voice, calling out for justice. Everyone is angry. When the lockdown is lifted, I will do my best to make this sad, introverted world, happy. When the lockdown is lifted, I will record myself having fun. I will show everyone that there are more good things in life than bad things by uploading it on social media. 

I will convince people to help and make this world beautiful. Together we would paint happy, sunny murals and stay safe with social distancing. I would plant flowers and trees. I’d convince others to help. I will do good things to three people and tell them to pay it forward. I will donate money  to groups dedicated to stopping violence and the spread of the coronavirus. I would convince my friends to do the same. These are the amazing moments that drive people forward to thinking that there would be a better day. People would have hope and believe in the world once again. People would stop and thank us. They would thank us because we did all we could for the betterment of the community. 

Afterwards, I would go and play with friends (social distancing, of course). We would be happy to be together. We would feel great and safe because we did Amazing Things. 

Tlaloc Rosado
Skinner West
6th Grade

Raised Fist, Daisy Berrera, 11th grader at Lafollette High School

Car Trip

I wake up every morning to stare up at the ceiling. Not sure what to do, or where to go. All I do is imagine me playing with my friends and eating at restaurants being able to touch stuff without having to worry about getting a disease or virus. I imagine why I can’t be with my friends anymore because of the rule 6 feet apart. I let all the energy soak up inside me like a sponge and speak out all my thoughts on a piece of paper. My wrist swings back and forth as the pencil writes what I feel. Then it hits me like a rock. I imagine watching the news and seeing the newsman around a group of people. I imagine him saying.

“ All people of the USA I am proud to say that parks will be opening, spas will be opening, restaurants, amusement parks, and all that jazz, is opening.” 

I wouldn’t stay for the rest. I would jolt off the couch, sprint for the door, and scream with everything I have. “HALLELUJAH!!” Just like I dreamed. I hear the words that click on the lights in my mind.

“Well, that calls for a celebration. We’re heading to Pasqual’s!” I eat a lot. It’s just something I do when I hear something like, we’re going to a restaurant that is one box checked off on my checklist. I would sprint to my room, grab a checklist, and make a list of everything I want to do. Not like I would be needing the list but, just in case. When we get to that restaurant, I would order the original B.T.L quesadilla with only cheese and bacon, fries on the side. Wolf it down, like my grandmother tells me I do, wolf the food down.

 When I go to sleep, I would lay in bed and watch the clock. Until my eyelids drape over my eyes. I will think of the time until something else pops in my mind. Like my favorite movie of all time, “Puss in Boots”. This movie plays in my head so much. And at this rate, I would never forget anything that happened. I will always remember it. -Waking up would be simple. My dad came in and said get up. I walked out to get some tasty Honey Nut Cheerios. 

The thing I would want to do the most is go to my grandma’s house and enjoy the time there. That’s the only thing that I wanted to do. Once the quarantine is over I would see her more often. I would bear hug my grandmother and trot upstairs to say hi to my grandpa. 

The second I walk in the house I imagine my brother talking to me about playing Smash brothers. Walking downstairs I would mostly grab a controller and command myself number one. 

Then my brother will talk to me about how trash I am but at the moment I’m thinking about how bad his trash breath smells. My grandma will call us up with some delicious pepperoni and cheese pizza, and wash it down with some sprite. Most Likely sitting and watching a movie chomping down some appetizing fruity pebbles. Slurping down the fruity, flavorful milk afterwards. But sadly I imagine me in the back of the car driving back home. Staring at the birds roaming freely in the sky landing on power lines. I wonder what it is like to fly away. The airbrushing against my face. Not worrying about the COVID. Even if it is a big problem. When I get home I can’t wait to play outside with my friends. 

The drive home was smooth and calm. All I could hear was the tires scraping the pavement. When we arrived home I ran to my room and plopped down on my bed staring up at the ceiling.  I turn to my baby blue colored wall. I rest my head upon the velvet colored pillow that is facing my way. Can’t wait to do all this tomorrow.

Tierra M Flowers
James C. Wright Middle
7th Grade

Fun day in the sun 

If I have to stay another minute in this house I will go crazy! All I want to do is ride in a purple hot air balloon. Maybe with four balloons connected to it; one red, one blue, one purple, one orange. Maybe I would add extra balloons onto it to complete the rainbow. I will go sky high. So high that I would be able to reach up and touch the sky. 

After I come down I would get ice cream from my favorite ice cream shop that I used to go to all the time with my best friends Nadia and Hydie. We will lick the ice cream until we get brain freezes. We would lick the chocolate delicious ice cream as it drips down our hands and down our arms. It would soon drip onto the luscious green grass, which we would later roll around in. 

I will find the steepest hill and roll down it, grass stains on my red shorts, along with the ice cream stains. There would be grass and dirt in my big curly afro that I just picked out today.

 Afterwards, I’d roam around the big field watching the big kids play soccer. There would be kids on the basketball court. I could hear the net go swoosh, as they made the shot. Wow, nothing but net! Time for a victory dance! I will ask to join in on the game once one of the girls leaves the game. I would have fun dribbling the ball, making a rhythm, “ratatat tat, ratatat tat”. Nadia will chant my name. While Hydie does the cheerlead like she does for her middle school football games. And once the girl comes back to play, I give her back her spot. I would skip along the sidewalk, elbows interlocked with Nadia’s and Hydie’s. We will stop, play with chalk, and bounce around like Rabbits (hop, hop). 

The rays of the sun will shine on us, making us hungry and want lunch. We would go to the gas station nearby, get three Lunchables. We would wave goodbye to the sales clerk who thanked us for stopping by. 

We will eat at a picnic table. Laugh and have fun before the day is done. After riding bikes around the block, it will be time to say goodbye. Waving back and forth, saying goodbye like time is infinite. When I get home, I’d go straight to my room and think, “What should I do tomorrow?” That’s what I would do. What about you?

Destiny Flowers
James C. Wright Middle School
8th Grade

Dear Diary: It’s Over


Dear diary
It’s ya girl Tee 

We have been in quarantine for six months. SIX MONTHS!. But today is the last day of quarantine and tomorrow it is over. I cannot wait, I love my family. I really do. But being stuck in the house with them for six months is very difficult. I cannot wait to go outside and be able to see my friends. 

And I cannot wait to embrace my boyfriend. To feel his strong arms wrapped around me, smell his cologne, and feel his warm lips against my forehead. As soon as we found out that quarantine was ending, I texted my group chat with all of my closest friends. Inviting them to my family beach house. I’m so anxious to see them.

 It’s like 11 pm so imma go to bed but I’ll talk to you later. 


Dear diary
it’s ya girl Tee

I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you in two days but I was having so much fun here at the beach house. I arrived early yesterday morning to set up a big buffet. I made chicken macaroni greens cornbread brownies cake. I bought some ice cream and some chips, cookies and juice. 

I also set up a little theater in the basement so we can watch some movies tonight. The group got here around noon. We were so excited that we spent about thirty minutes hugging one another. Six months is a long time to not hang out with your friends. After we finished hugging, we sat down to eat. After eating and talking for a while, Nakia was like “Are we gonna go swimming or not?”

We were all down to go swimming. So, everybody put on their bathing suits and went for a swim. It was so nice to feel the sun glistening on my beautiful ebony skin, To feel the sand between my toes and the cool water on my body. This was the first time in months that I was truly happy. 

I was not stuck in my house. I could be myself and smile. Laugh, goof-off, and joke around with my friends. Without being judged. But diary I just wanted to thank you for being here for me for the past few months. I really appreciate it. You have been my confidant and therapist during this unprecedented time.

But imma go to bed I will talk to you soon. 

TaMaya L. Travis
Madison East High
11th Grade

Kayla Burgin, 6th grader at Cherokee Heights Middle School

Lake day

Paddle board?” 




My mom and I go back and forth getting ready to go to the lake. Finally, my mom says, “Alright, I guess we are ready to go!” The car ride to the lake was smooth and fast. 

At the lake, there was barely anyone there. So, we basically had the whole lake and park to ourselves. I ran straight to the water. Excited to finally feel the water on my skin. It felt good on a hot summer day like this.

 We decided to go paddle boarding. Which is kinda like surfing. You climb onto the board, sit on your knees and stand. My mom and I raced between the docks. After a while of paddle boarding we had a picnic by the lake. We sat at the picnic table eating sandwiched, strawberry soda and blueberries. 

We invited my sister to come. And when she got there, we got back in the water to paddle board. After a while, it started to get windy. The wind was so strong, it tested our arm strength. 

My sister complained, “My arms are getting weaker, weaker, and weaker!”

 “Same. I sure hope the wind calms down,” My Mom says.

 “The wind will calm down,” I reassured them. About ten minutes later the wind pretty much stopped.

After paddle boarding, we decided to walk along the shore of  Lake Mills. Then we went hiking. Which was more like walking up a trail on gravel and dirt ground. Quarter of the way up the trails my sister screams, “Is that a snake!” “Um…Yep.” I responded in a bored voice. “There are always snakes up and out here. My mom and I look at the snake and try to figure out what kind it is. 

“A Milk Snake?” 

“Corn Snake?”

“I don’t know.” 

We slowly start to walk around the snake, as if it’s gonna come around and bite us.

 We encounter people after another five minutes of walking. We stand about eight feet away and nicely wave. Fifteen minutes later, we made it to the top of the trail. I breathe in and breathe out the amazing fresh air out. 

“Finally! It’s so beautiful. I love it!” My sister says. After staying for a little while longer, we head back down the trail. We grabbed our gear from the stands and placed them in the car. We then drove to J. Laugbers ice cream parlor. I got an Oreo milkshake. My mom got butter pecan on a cone. And my sister got mint chocolate chips in a bowl.

I’d say we had a pretty good Saturday!

Charlee Ralyn

Bleach Bottles, Alex Ralyn, 8th grader at Milestone Democratic School

Opening Back Up

As I’m sitting at my desk thinking of what to draw, my pencil in my right hand, my dark brown straight hair is getting in the way of the view of my piece of white paper on the desk. The white paper underneath my light burnt cookie skin as I call it. My eyes are so dark they almost look black, but are just a very very dark brown.

 My face is round but I do have a jawline which is weird if you ask me because my cheeks are very chubby. I have eyebags that are not too bad. As for my eyelashes they’re pretty long although I can’t put on mascara because they smudge on my glasses. Afterall I don’t wear makeup because I don’t know how to apply it or do it. 

As for my eyebrows, I like them. They have a nice shape to them and are very full. My nose is kind of big, but I don’t mind it and my lips are big, too.  At least that’s what my family says. My body is skinny fat that’s how I would describe it. My arms are skinny, my legs are not too skinny but I wouldn’t consider them thick, I do have a tummy that you can see the fat in tight clothes but not when I’m wearing bagging clothes. If I workout I would have a nice body but I’m not the ideal gym person so I guess that’s on hold for now. 

I forgot to mention my name is Perla. I’m 16 and a girl. When I draw I often get distracted at the beginning. This time I get distracted about all the exciting things I’m going to do when stores, restaurants and other activities start to open up.

I’ve been home since March 16. I only go out for groceries and to go on walks with my parents. I don’t think it is as bad as everyone says, I mean after all, we have to keep ourselves and everyone else safe.  But, honestly, I don’t mind staying indoors.

 In spite of staying indoors, I want options like, going to malls, restaurants, schools, and everything else to open up. I know things might not be the same as they were before COVID-19 but, I can’t wait for the day everything starts opening up. I want to wake up early in the cold morning with friends and drive to the lake right before the sunrise. We’ll have blankets with us and just admire the view. It’ll be so quiet we’ll be able to hear the birds chirping, and cars passing by. 

A cookout with my family is something I miss. The cookout would be from dusk till dawn. The parents would be preparing the food while the little kids run around and play and the older kids on their phone. You would hear the grill sizzling, kids laughing, and don’t forget the loud music in the background. 

I want to go to a park with my little cousins and play hide and seek with them. I’ll pretend I can’t find them and hear their giggle as I pass by them just to sneak up on them to scare them. After they’ll chase me around the park and then they’ll catch me as I slow down my running so I have no other choice but to tickle them. Then we’ll go home and eat ice cream, while we watch a Disney movie. 

I think I will go to a party and dance until my feet hurt. My friends and I will be smiling from ear to ear. The music is so loud you can feel the floor vibrate as the beat drops. Everyone would be all sweaty, little kids giggle and run through the crowd of people dancing.

My family relatives always tell me that high school will be the best years of your life. They’re not wrong, but you have to make them the best years. As of now my best times with family and friends are on hold, but once everything is safe, I know exactly what I want to do with them and I will never take those memories we will make for granted. 

Daisy Barrera
La Follette High School 

City View, Jaeda Walthers, 7th grader at Akira Toki Middle School


Sunday Is, Family

My family Praised God
all different ways.

Celebration of Him
was songs and dance!

Ancestors talked about having Faith through circumstances.

Church was taught
the Word is God!

“Mommy,  need money Sunday School”, candy’s better!

Greens, Baked macaroni, Cornbread, chicken, Kool-aid, Sunday dinner.

My grandma’s Apple pie,
said Prayers and bed.

By Blessing Jean Genenia Norris


COVID-19 made me miss
these soccer times

Grassy soccer fields with
bright white lines

Our feet hitting the ball at once

My team passes the ball, we score!

Our rivals parents are
yelling with anger

My coach yells because
we didn’t defend

We cheer because
we won the game!

By Kayla Burgin


Sitting shocked, hearing muffles, my parents talking.

Then rage as every word
begins clear.

Raged about keeping away
from all.

Raged because online schooling
is arduous, foreign.

Raged about not having
as much freedom.

Raged about not joking
around with friends.

But now, I’m happier,
closer to family.

By Raamiah Davis


Life of Reason

I’ve been told there is a purpose,
reason as to why I am living.
A reason for pain, reason for sorrow
a reason to get sad and cry, to
weep, want to die. I try to
lift the weight I have set on 
to let go of all reason, overall.
By Hanna Eyobed

Color My Pain

Hue run so deep, ‘neath my skin
I wish I was white, not afraid
to be or not afraid to love.
Love means staying, I don’t know how
much time I have, weapons my color.
I try to reach the sky but
my feet are chained to the ground.
By Hanna Eyobed

The Exploration of You

Love ain’t a word, don’t need no
diction, no fiction, here we are real,
so we may run, we will fall,
die a million times, look at you,
see your stars turn to human form.
Take me home, to the space so
I may attempt to know your world.
By Hanna Eyobed