1. The Exchange: To Our Flags
  2. The Exchange: The Negro Speaks of Dryland
  3. The Exchange: blue is darker than Black
  4. The Exchange: Sans Fleur
  5. The Exchange: Blindspot
  6. The Exchange: Her.
  7. The Exchange: Lint
  8. The Exchange: Reality Check
  9. The Exchange: Caution
  10. The Exchange: Rubik’s Cube
  11. The Exchange: The Path
  12. The Exchange: sTREEtS
  13. The Exchange: Butter
  14. The Exchange: The Bright Side
  15. The Exchange: Concrete to Shoreline
  16. This Empty Cage
  17. Paper Machete
  18. The Exchange: Marketplace
  19. The Exchange: One Year Anniversary
  20. The Exchange: Sunscreen Affective Disorder (SAD) 
  21. The Exchange: Immigration & Culture
  22. The Exchange: Love, Street Cleaning, & Other Myths
  23. The Exchange: An Accent Enters a Room and Says Good Morning
  24. The Exchange: An ode to Oceania
  25. The Exchange: Happy New Year
  26. The Exchange: NEW GROOVE/LODESTAR
  27. The Exchange: Wolves, Strides, and Landslides
  28. The Exchange: Honest Haikus
  29. The Exchange: Foreheads, Haikus and More
  30. The Exchange: Softness, Water Bottles, and Movie Theaters
  31. The Exchange: Algae and Understanding
  32. The Exchange: we like it here!
  33. The Exchange: tag & waiting
  34. The Exchange: spare
  35. The Exchange: Marketplace
  36. The Exchange: some coffee
  37. The Exchange: A Scary Story
  38. The Exchange: Consumer Report
  39. The Exchange: Affirmations and Sunflowers
  40. The Exchange: Autopay and A Fast Summer
  41. The Exchange: Squirrels and The White
  42. The Exchange: The Taj Mahal and Rutina de Sueño
  43. The Exchange: The Garden
  44. The Exchange: Jess Taught Me My Body Is Trying Its Best
  45. The Exchange: Jollof Rice and Losing it
  46. The Rotation
  47. The Exchange: Definitely late, but here, and Doubt
  48. The Exchange: KonMari and Yoga
  49. The Exchange: “Unexpected” and The Institution of Dreamin

The Exchange is the Weekly’s poetry corner, where a poem or piece of writing is presented with a prompt. Readers are welcome to respond to the prompt with original poems, and pieces may be featured in the next issue of the Weekly.

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“Unexpected” by Chima “Naira” Ikoro

Note: The story of an “unlikely” hero is often a misnomer for the intersection of Blackness and odds defying odds. Likeliness does not negate worthiness, and does not suggest ability.

The idea of a hero being “unexpected” depends on who dares to expect what.

A house painter and a laundress
once raised up a boy
from dreams and brush strokes,
to stages a man like him hadn’t ever crossed before.
I heard that he could see the history he’d soon make
from his childhood homes front porch—
said “university,”
meant “mountain top for my flag.”

Stayed on that porch even as he journeyed to class daily,
said “no one would be my roommate”
meant “I am ready, but they are not.”
Still, as the story follows our “unlikely” but more than exceptional hero,
we watch as he gathers good graces and connections
like puzzle pieces, crafting a legacy
that cannot be fathomed if you can’t see the full picture.

Look beyond the corner and the porch,
see our hero collecting more puzzle pieces
as far as France, Italy, the School of Rome.
Said “I don’t need a roommate, I will make this art my home.”
A Black man magnificent/Hercules,
the distance he knew he could go.

A house painter and a laundress
once raised up a boy
from brilliance to brilliance,
who sat in classes where students read from books
that set a blue tint over the Blackness he refused to hold shame for.

A boy who looked those books directly in their spine
and said “this is as far as you go.”
A boy who bridged the gap
that whiteness washed between the sand of our skin
and the shores of our talent.

“Unlikely” is not a qualifier used for anyone else’s legacies except for ours,
but who is daring to expect? And what exactly were they expecting?

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“Write a piece about defying the odds.”

This could be a poem, journal entry, or a stream-of-consciousness piece. Submissions could be new or formerly written pieces.

Submissions can be sent to bit.ly/ssw-exchange or via email to chima.ikoro@southsideweekly.com

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Featured below is a response to a previous prompt from a reader. The last poem and prompt can be found online.

The Institution of Dreamin by Makale Moore
Tribute to Cameron Awkward Rich

Has short walls to it,
it doesn’t hold us captive, allowing us to flow freely in-n-out,
like young ones playing with Granny’s good air.
Every wall is painted with artistic expressions
the teachers are fellow “derelicts” & “mischiefs”,
and the only form of standardized testing is based on imagination.
What will we change with our mind?
When class starts the lesson of the day is possibility,
I sleep through it, because I’m dreamin of places I’ll go.
There’s power in believing, I’m meant for places beyond walls
Normality doesn’t bully our indifferences here.
The only thing that makes us run home is when the music plays over the intercoms,
instead of bells of institution
to exhibit the magic we created.
Hoping one day, the world will value it,
as much as we value 4.0s,
because it’s more than enough.
Here, the mission statement
is to teach, our ingenuity equals merit.

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Chima Ikoro is the Weekly’s Community Builder.

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