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The Rise of Democracy, Acrylic | Keira Zhang, 12 (Los Altos, CA), Stone Soup January 2022

A note from Laura

This week I want to draw your attention to the play featured in January’s issue, Spring Will Not Die. It was written by a group of Syrian refugees living in Turkey who are members of Karam House, one of our Refugee Project contributing organizations. The play presents a fictionalized account of young people’s pivotal role in the anti-government protests that ultimately fueled the uprisings known as the Arab Spring.

When I read this play, I think about a sense of ownership, a sense of belonging, or even entitlement to a place and to people, without which it is nearly impossible to envision change. The play begs the questions: whose world is it to change? Whose job is it to affect that change? The answer, of course, is that it is each of ours. But this notion can only be fully realized with a strong sense of belonging to a community and the social ties that make such a sense of belonging possible.

If you are looking for a creative exercise this weekend, I urge you to capture a sense of community wherever it emerges for you, and with whatever medium you choose. Find a place in or around your home or community that is busy with people—preferably a place that you visit often (maybe it’s your own kitchen, a park or café nearby, your school cafeteria) and sit in observation for about twenty minutes. Use all five senses to observe and record everything that is happening around you, either with words or with the visual art medium of your choice. Be descriptive and pay special attention to the people in the space and how they’re interacting with one another. Ask yourself: Who is present and who is absent? Are people differentiated from each other in any way? Does someone appear to be in charge of the space? Do there appear to be spoken or unspoken rules that dictate behavior in this space?

In capturing a space and the people that occupy it through your writing or artwork, see if you can capture a sense of community. As always, if you’re happy with what you’ve written or created, we would love for you to share and submit it to us via Submittable!

An Update from the Refugee Project

I had the privilege of conducting a similar activity to the one suggested here with young writers and artists at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya this past week.

As the young people shared their texts and artwork describing scenes from their daily lives, many things were unfamiliar to me—a description of a confrontation with a lion after climbing down a mango tree and running into the river to escape a snake; hundreds of people lining a dirt road amidst throbbing music and rising dust during a miles-long bridal procession; a boy, alone in the middle of the road, his clothes and shoes tattered and worn from days of walking.

But more striking than this were their vivid descriptions of the things that were familiar, the things that we can all relate to—people at the markets catching up and buying goods, “their white teeth chattering as monkeys;” students together after a long day, doing their washing, watering their trees, playing sports, relaxing, laughing, arguing, telling stories and singing together. In other words, their writing captured the universal experience of community as it emerges in daily life. I hope to share some of this writing in The Refugee Project portal of the website soon. To check out more writing and artwork by refugee youth, please visit the website.

With best wishes,

Congratulations to our most recent Flash Contest winners!

Our January Flash Contest was based on Creativity Prompt #185 (provided by Molly Torinus, Stone Soup contributor), which challenged participants to write a story in which the protagonist explained COVID-19 to people in the distant past. What a way to begin the new year! Molly's thoughtful prompt led to a surge of creativity; these stories took us on journeys to Ancient Egypt and Greece, invented time travel via carrier pigeon, and centered on ghostly interactions. We even received a play set during the end of the Black Death! While each and every story was a pleasure to read, we narrowed down our selections to the usual five winners and five honorable mentions. As always, thank you to all who submitted, and please submit again next month!

Congratulations to our Winners and Honorable Mentions, listed below. You can read the winning entries for this contest (and previous ones) at the Stone Soup website.

"What Are You Talking About?" by Audrey Billington, 10 (Hillsboro, IL)
"Dear Jane" by Finoula Breen-Ryan, 10 (Bridgeport, CT)
"The Warning: A Play" by Nova Macknik-Conde, 10 (Brooklyn, NY)
"Old Answers" by Daniel Shorten, 10 (Mallow, ROI)
"The Ghost of You" by Eliya Wee, 11 (Menlo Park, CA)

Honorable Mentions
"Covid-19 Explained to Ancient Egyptians" by Poorvi Girish, 8 (Fremont, CA)
"Royally Messed Up" by Lui Lung, 12 (Danville, CA)
"Dear People of the Past" by Zayda Parakh, 12 (Chattanooga, TN)
"COVID-19.63" by Divya Srinivasan, 12 (Sammamish, WA)
"COVID Time Travel" by Savarna Yang, 13 (Outram, NZ)

From Stone Soup
January 2022

Spring Will Not Die

By a group of Syrian refugees in Reyhanli, Turkey with the support of Karam House—Afnan, 15; Ahmad, 16; Fatima, 18; Hayam, 16; Mohammed A., 16; Mohammed, 16; Mustafa, 16; Nour Al Huda, 16; Rasha, 16; and Sedra, 15

Welcome to all our guests. Revolutions, and especially the revolutions in the Arab lands today, aren’t simple events that can be conveyed in a play of less than half an hour. The reality is the blood of the people. It’s not easy to fully portray their pain and suffering. This play may not be one-hundred percent accurate or an exact mirror of reality, but it seeks to present the way in which the demonstrations the youth brought to the streets were driven by their passion for freedom. Thank you for attending.

Scene One

A procession through the kingdom as the KING and his entourage pass through. Sitting on his throne, he exudes power. Next to him are his courtiers. The poor people in tattered clothes walk by, cursing the procession.

(quiet and afraid)
Oh, people, we need to start the movement now. Enough of silence and fear. We’re fed up. We should no longer tolerate this oppression. Don’t you see our ruler’s transgressions?

(in a very soft voice)
What are you doing, Thaer? Do you want to get us all killed? The King has forbidden us to even think about democracy. Stop it. You don’t know what will happen to us.

Continue reading here...

Stone Soup is published by Children’s Art Foundation-Stone Soup Inc., a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit organization registered
in the United States of America, EIN: 23-7317498.

Stone Soup's advisors: Abby Austin, Mike Axelrod, Annabelle Baird, Jem Burch, Evelyn Chen, Juliet Fraser, Zoe Hall, Montanna Harling, Alicia & Joe Havilland, Lara Katz, Rebecca Kilroy, Christine Leishman, Julie Minnis, Jessica Opolko, Tara Prakash, Denise Prata, Logan Roberts, Emily Tarco, Rebecca Ramos Velasquez, Susan Wilky.

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