Trace DePass, 2015 National Gold Medal Portfolio Recipient


Trace DePass, a Senior at Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical High School in Jamaica, Queens, has been awarded a National Gold Medal entitled Black Boyhood.

Only 16 Seniors across the country are awarded the Gold Medal Portfolio Award, 8 artists and 8 writers.  The award comes with a $10,000 cash scholarship, publication opportunities and notable appearances at the Scholastic Awards’ National Events in June.

I am thrilled to share with you Trace DePass’ Gold Medal Writing Portfolio, Black Boyhood.

To Mayor Bill De Blasio

Dear Bill De Blasio,

You tell us to stop “resisting arrest.” Now, are you referring to the way we do 24/7, or do you just mean living when you say “resisting arrest”? I wonder if this is what you would tell Dante. A son, no matter if he owned a gun or had a reason for “suspicion” besides his pigment, a color we know all too well… too bad. Make sure to let your children know that this is the way it is, next time. Rear fear, if you’re morally sound with the idea that lives can end unfinished as ellipses, or like those “stolen” cigars… or that Arizona… or the last breath still pleading the fifth & for his life at the same time in a chokehold, somewhere… In America, a black boy is going unfinished. But, you say stop resisting arrest as if your compelled to say so, as if your hands were tied behind your back, like you were being held at gunpoint and had no choice, as if you were the one under arrest and weren’t even told why, as if you had the right to remain silent rather than accountable for a department for the city you govern, like politicians properly represent those that got them where they are, or something…

Like you were dying here with us,
the black community.

Brutality In Three PartsIMG_5481

Twelve white men get around a table
Da Vinci paints them
We call it the last supper
Twelve black men get together
They sit & eat
Police tell them to keep it moving
Is nothing holy when we feast?
I guess our grace ain’t cutting it

This White Jesus
ain’t but nothing but a trigger finger on a crucifix.
But, they say “Nahh man… you loosin’ it”

Their god must not look like them
I wonder whose image they’re made in


Some of you pretend you care,
But you don’t
Activist on the outside
Indifferent on the inside

‘Cause you got God, right?
The lord is your shepherd
So, you shall not want,
For anything, right?

You don’t even mourn the death no more
Just try to fit in at the funeral
You’ll just mourn the poet
Mourn the messenger

Conceptualize your outcry
’til there’s no reason to cry at all
Look… there it is
Then, you’re over it

Like dead bodies
Don’t move you no more
It takes art
Don’t embrace reality no more?

What you thinking about, then?
You just thankful for life,
When you pray, right?
‘Cause you ain’t mothered death

Palms together
Looking like shaking mortality
You not thinking about nothing
But gratification and making it back home

Scared of inevitability
Yall just as scared
Just as scared as the killers

Killers that aren’t Black
Killers who see me and see an animal
So, killers just kill us

But, ain’t human just another animal?
Born with no venom
So, we turn to weapons
Quick as cobras

But, yall just ammunition
Working with the machine,
Without even knowing
Like no empathy

Only civilized
When it comes to letting go
Like them guns
That took our sons…


When you kill a black boy,
You are freeing another spirit
To interrupt the racism in a bullet.

Make this black all the more dense
Like an impenetrable cloak of ancestors.

So, don’t fear lightly.
Its best you fear with precaution
And know this Africanity be the greatest privilege.

To know that they aren’t looking down,
But, are walking with you
Is to know we may lose this battle,
But, hate will never win the war.

Because no weapon formed
Against us shall prosper.

So, don’t shoot.
“My hands are up”

As if rope ladders fell from the heavens.
Like “No… At least send my ashes to Africa,
so I can die in my mother’s arms
when my eyes roll over the concrete”.

Like “c’mon” I got up off my knees
And started praying with my feet
When the cop told me “up…”
Like the mighty race I am.

Like the trigger still squeezed.
But, the gun jammed
And it was a mysterious way
Like my walk home nearly every day

Like can I get a witness
on this block tonight?
Like I was still a son

Because I am
Like Mike Brown still walks, with us,
Because he does

Like Life and miracles
Weren’t mutually exclusive
And neither had to be considered miracle
Like God is a Good God

Like we’re still overcoming
Like an unending Negro spiritual
And I know there is a heaven
I’ve gotten a glimpse of those pearly gates

Residing in the mouths
Of those that speak justice
And my story
And their own lives

For then, we live eternally
Like the weapon never prospered

Like emancipated souls
Black souls
Impenetrable black
Fear with precaution

WhatchumacallitI fear fatherhood
as much as husbandry.
Who died and crowned me good enough
to be prince of piecing families together?
Who catapulted me
into a life I never asked for?
He be a violent caricature that God Guy.
Don’t He know violence begets violence?
Don’t He cry at night?
Has He ever loathed
himself to sleep?
Did He forget to stencil
those tears in his self-portrait
all the churchgoers and onlookers
and bystanders say I look like?
How much of Him,
& His image, am I, really?
How much of my body
is plagiarized by whodunit?
Has anyone ever called
Watchumacallit out on his bullshit?
Either, He’s been copy-n-pasting
since the beginning of time
and isn’t all that good at it,
becoming a man just comes with a chromosome
and to be good at it is a recessive trait
that not even His bloodline has.

Silence Contrapuntal

There you are, trying to take a nap
and not napping
with all the countless things:
a college application; a poem; a homie on dialysis

You wish there were another person in this place,
Besides all these voices in your head

and spirits being squished together, /                        in this train cart of a bedroom,
readying for an eternal drum circulation, /                  with the volume down,
reeking of unanswered prayers, /                               never to reach up again,
that sound like the blood of a fed-up black boy /        …

It sounds like something burning. /                             Is some shit burning?

Although, you wouldn’t know /                Even if it were coming from your kitchen,
the hole in your pocket /                     due to all them late fees stacked by the oven
from last months’ /                 or coming from your own spit because you’re just the

realest rawest rapper /                hands down, realest, rawest, rapper [burning] alive,
still gassed up off these singles. /       Still, no one hears this smoke rising.

It still sounds like someone is hallucinating /             Those delusions of grandeur,
and them butterflies /                                                  magnetized into your fridge,
that got a chance to fly up outta here, /            sound like hunger and tears forming,

the sound of one hand, clapping, /                             or waving to some God,
but, it is God in some way /                                        just watching,
being indifferent /                                     over the death of that [fed-up] black boy /

And it sounded like everything, all at once,
from the heavens, yet /                                               from space.
It was as if nothing was vibrating loud enough.

Nothing, in all this silence, /                                        Not a thing,
knew what /                                                                 actually kept you up on this night.
You know, /                                                                 It might have just been you,

Truthfully. We just know
that whatever it was, was black


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