'How Many People Does It Take To Change (The World)?' – Maya Stokes

Maya Stokes was an Orwell Youth Prize Senior Winner in 2020.

'How Many People Does It Take To Change (The World)?' – Maya Stokes

Did you hear?

London is burning, and

not for the first time.

It appears that, despite this city’s strange obsession

with umbrellas, its foundations are as flammable

as the first little pig’s house, its people

are an exothermic reaction raging in an unchecked,

(underfunded) school laboratory.

Rumour has it that

flames were first sighted in Minneapolis,

through the irrevocable lens of an iPhone,

where a man’s dying words became

a generation’s catharsis

but some witnesses claim that

their smoke alarms have been sounding

since 1619, when the tides first brought ships

full of stolen lives onto our horizon.

For the past fifteen days,

children of the first apocalypse

have spilled onto the streets, from households

struggling to domesticate their

multi-faceted, thinly-medicated anguish.

You see, I’ve heard that

21st century grievances have outgrown

the wafer-thin walls of polite, terraced houses,

they take more than 280 characters to narrate

under a trending hashtag.

So you should be careful

of these creatures, their skin is particularly sensitive

to slurs, their ossicles have evolved

to filter out politicians.

They read Noughts and Crosses instead of Middlemarch

and practised survival skills on playgrounds more segregated

than dystopian landscapes.

They learnt that justice is only balanced on the scales

with blood.

Statues of costumed oppression

fall at their feet

and days later, are dredged from river beds

to repent for a history of unspoken sins.

The future of our beautiful, broken planet

is already dust beneath their heels

and maybe that’s a good thing.

Maya also took the time to answer some questions, and you can find that interview here


The Orwell Youth Prize

The Orwell Youth Prize

The Orwell Youth Prize is an annual programme for 12-18-year olds culminating in a writing prize. Rooted in Orwell’s values of integrity and fairness, the prize and the activities around it introduce young people to the power of language and provoke them to think critically and creatively about the world in which they are living.

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