November 29, 2017
“Why would you want to eat books for breakfast?” asked Iman, age 8. We know it’s a strange craving, but sometimes we can’t help ourselves. And adding in the chance to hear The New York Times #1 best-selling author Walter Isaacson speak about his newest book Leonardo Da Vinci really sweetened the deal.
826 Boston’s annual fall fundraiser Books for Breakfast, held on November 16, brought together more than 250 hungry participants and raised more than $150,000 to expand 826 Boston’s free writing and tutoring programs.
It was certainly an inspiring morning, thanks to our individual donors, corporate sponsors, and media sponsors who made this event possible. We were so moved by the speech given by student speaker Kamari, age 17, that we had to share it with you here. Read on below for the full text:
I learned to stand up for what I believe in from my mom and my aunt. When they were younger, other people always picked on them because of their beauty, knowledge, and the fact they stood up for what they believed in. As the bullying got worse, my mom and aunt started channeling their anger into violence. They started fighting. Eventually, they learned how to speak up for themselves and voice their opinions without getting physical. Now, they are 43 years old, both working as supervisors and respected by their co-workers.
My mom and aunt inspired me to always stand up for myself and for what I believe in. In junior high, there was a group of popular kids who picked on two of my friends, because my friends just liked to read and go to movies rather than party. The popular kids would push my friends’ heads, sit at their table and pick on them, and try to make them snap while they were doing work. One day, I saw the popular kids pushing my friends. I couldn’t stand it anymore so I stood up to them.
My definition of courage is being able to see things differently, stand up for others and voice my opinions when I feel something is wrong. I have always wanted to make people understand how it feels to be marginalized and dehumanized, sometimes by your own peers. When I came to the Jeremiah E. Burke, I discovered that my voice could be more effective than my fists, through the support of my family, the faculty members, and the 826 Boston Writers’ Room, a room in our school where caring adults help students with our writing.
Last year, in my eleventh grade honors English class, my teacher told us that we were going to write a book with 826 Boston. When I heard that the book was about transportation, I was NOT excited. What did transportation have to do with me and what I cared about? Then I started researching the MBTA and discovered that I wanted to change a ton of things for students in Boston. For example, bus FARE … isn’t FAIR for students. A lot of students can’t afford an M7 pass.
As part of the book project, my classmates and I hosted a focus group for the Department of Transportation, where we asked freshmen at our school how public transportation could be improved. I also spoke on a panel at a Harvard conference. I talked about how public transportation was a social justice issue. One audience member asked me how the MBTA impacted my life. I told him that the cost made it really hard for me to both go to school and go to work. It felt good that people were interested in what I had to say and that they would read the book when it was published.
It was surreal when we finished the book. In the book, I wrote a letter to the MBTA’s Transit Police Department expressing my concern about the safety of people in my community while they commute to school or work. I discovered that through writing, my voice was projected and I could explain everything I needed to without using my fists. I learned a new way to stand up for what I believe. I learned how to fight with words. I now put my energy into using my brain and words to create change, through activities like the student editorial board and student council.
This past spring, I wrote about my experiences writing the book and was accepted to a Profiles in Courage event at the JFK Museum, where I met President Obama and Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Robert Kraft, the head of the Patriots.
I’m a senior now, preparing to go on to college. My dream colleges are Boston University, Clark University, or Spelman College. I want to major in International Business Management. I want to start my own business so I can be my own boss.
I know that I’ll have to do a lot of writing as someone in business so that I can communicate my ideas to people. I’m glad that working with 826 Boston has made me a stronger writer.
Kamari is senior at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester. She served on the student editorial board for the book 85 Cents Might Not Sound Like a Lot, which was published by 826 Boston in 2017.