By Vera Boateng
Many parents try to shield their children from the harsh realities of the world that appear on the news. But in today’s age, with the prevalence of social media, there’s no way hide from the headlines, videos, and images of negativity in the world.
And for some, those incidents happen right in their communities. As a young African-American, Alexandra Lewis has witnessed and experienced the impact of inequality and racial issues. Instead of just watching or sitting idle, Alexandra uses her pen and her voice to address the negativity.
She has been writing thought-provoking poems about inequality, feminism, race, and gender since she was 11, displaying a wisdom and maturity beyond her age. And with tensions high in the African-American community in recent years after a string of racial profiling incidents that led to the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police, Alexandra knew she had to address the issue through her art.
“Peace, Love and Equality is a poem I wrote after seeing the Philandro Castile shooting on the news,” said Alexandra, a 14-year-old from Tinton Falls and student at Rumson Country Day School. “The poem had been building up inside of me for months. I wrote it during a time when hate and fear were instilled in many people, and I believe it still is. This poem is about some of my hardest struggles throughout my life and describes many of the struggles that minorities face in America every day.”
Lewis performed the poem at TEDxNavesink’s Open Mic contest in January, impressing organizers and the audience. She earned a speaking spot at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY this May at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.
“After the second or third time I recited the poem, I knew I wanted to audition for a spot at the TEDxNavesink conference,” she said. “I thought this was a good topic to get out there and if I were to speak at this event, it would be easier to get the word out and show others what I’m really passionate about.”
While she’s been writing poetry since she was 11, Alexandra has been a public speaker for longer. She joined the New Jersey Orators, a public speaking organization, at age 7 and has won numerous awards at the organization’s competitions. She’s also active in her church and is the fundraising chair for the Jersey Shore chapter of Jack and Jill of America, a children’s leadership organization.
“My inspiration to write came from my parents,” she said. “They always taught me right from wrong. I used those lessons to decide what was wrong in my own eyes and figured I had to write about it.”
Alexandra believes that it will take teamwork to erase the bigotry and other inequities in the world and it begins by consciously observing others’ viewpoints and showing empathy.
“Walking a mile in the shoes of others helped me understand that I am not the only person in the world, and that other people also live lives with different realities,” she said.
Alexandra continues to write and share her work with others and hopes that the audience at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY will ponder ways that they can join her in the fight against injustices.
"The Rumson Country Day School is proud to support Alexandra Lewis and her undeniable display of talent and bravery," said Whitney Slade, Head of School at Rumson County Day School.
Want to hear the poem that wowed the open mic crowd? Come hear Alexandra and other inspiring speakers at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY. Get your tickets today.