I Have Risen - Essays By African American Youth
10 Year Anniversary Book

“My own yesterdays were, for a long time, unfortunate things I deemed better forgotten, left behind in the tired old dust of old apartments along with blackened pennies and worn crumbled photographs. I would shut the dark away . . . And yet I could not deny the existence of those dark times,” writes Caprice Gray, a youth from New York City, in her essay about the role writing played in her life. “Writing was a way to escape, to free myself from that familiar choke-hold so endemic to the crumbling inner city tenement building. . . . I could forget the hunger that seemed to fold the two sides of my stomach together sometimes when the welfare check ran out and the kitchen shelves sat smooth and empty. . . . It was my pen that turned my mourning into song when my sweet-faced cousin was murdered and left to leak his life out on the ice-laced streets of the Baltimore inner city, staining the frozen gutters that deep color of roses we never saw bloom.”

So opens this inspiring and moving collection of essays written by a group of African-American youth. When they wrote the essays, they were in the process of applying to the Ron Brown Scholar Program, a selective college scholarship fund that rewards black youth for excellence in academia, commitment to community service, and leadership potential. Smart, thoughtful, and determined, they went on to win the scholarships and become Ron Brown Scholars. Most of them are now studying at prestigious universities throughout the country. This volume is a commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Ron Brown Scholar Program, and a celebration of the spirit and achievements of the Scholars.

Most of the youth featured in this book have overcome great challenges – racial, economic, and familial. In that vein, many of their essays are reflections on the state of the world as they lived it, suffered it, and, in fact, conquered and embraced it. Most importantly, I Have Risen is a collection of stories about transcending the cards dealt to us by fate and turning them on their heads. It is, in great African-American tradition, about standing up and overcoming.

“Hovering over my shoulders like a dark rain-laden cloud, this was the history that I once wanted to fold away and forget,” concludes the essay by Caprice, a 2004 Ron Brown Scholar who is studying at Yale. “But I now know that it is that very history that has made me stronger, that has molded me into what I am today.”

As Jessica Larché, a 2003 Scholar, writes in her compelling piece from which the title is derived, “Each of the adversities I have encountered, whether due to race, financial trouble, or lack of a conventional family, is an ingredient of the conglomeration that makes me who I am. Despite these setbacks . . . I consider myself to be the anti-stereotype, for I have risen above low expectations and exceeded my wildest dreams.”

Each of these essays has its own voice and its own tale, and each is as unique as the remarkable Ron Brown Scholar who wrote it.

Follow them as they share a glimpse of their world, and be inspired.