Akilah Toney, 16

Akilah Toney is a published writer, activist, dancer, actress, and photographer, living in New Orleans, Louisiana. She uses the arts as a means to express her personal experiences as a young Black Girl living in the South. Toney explores different mediums such as African dance and the meter/ rhyme in poems to convey her voice. She uses her writing as a method of activism to bring awareness to topics that are not widely discussed. Through poetry, Toney tells stories about race relations in America, marginalized communities, and internalized racism in Black girls. She attributes her courage and inspiration to Audre Lorde and Mwende Katwiwa, whose unapologetic discussion of their Black womanhood and utilization of their writing as a catalyst for important social issues have encouraged Toney to use and amplify her own voice.

Toney is also using her writing to raise awareness of the rapid gentrification of New Orleans, especially the displacement of many of locals who cultivated the culture of the city. She sees changes happening to New Orleans every day, and is appalled at the prioritization of affluence in her city. Toney says that gentrification is so rapid that many locals do not feel welcomed in their own city and that the movement is targeted towards low income families and families of color, two prominent demographics in New Orleans. She often asks herself, where will these families go?

Toney plans to attend college outside of Louisiana and will major in psychology and African studies. She is also excited to study many other things after graduating from high school, like wetland preservation and writing. Toney has been honored as the 2016 Pizza Poetry Laureate of New Orleans, the 2018 Grand Slam Poetry Champion of New Orleans, and is a recipient of the 2017 and 2018 National Scholastic Gold Key Award, and the 2018 Umbra Award.


13 years and Still Recovering

by Akilah Toney


A torn American blows violently away in the wind,

Doors of family generation homes unhinge,
Family photos melt away in the water,

That little baby don’t even remember the looks of her,

great grandfather,

Waters barge and burst through low leeves,
Rain pour from the sky guess the clouds got too heavy,
Is this the day God washin all sin from Earth?

An exile of the origin peoples causin a rebirth,

Another storm is coming we needa re-re-re birth,

Brass bands thunder sounds like brass bands,
Rain tappin’ on the window sound feet dancing to a,

second line band,

They Super Sundays turn into Food Drive Mondays,
Cause Million Dollar FEMA money can’t cover the,

thousands of lives lost,

OH NO FEMA can’t cover this cost,

Mildew creeps in the walls and the stench swells noses,
X marks the house 09/1/05, rats, 2 dead spray painted in red,
Cause the big easy ain’t so easy if you live below sea level,

Water got access easily,

Them leeves ain’t broke they was never meant to fixed,

Got our hoods hoodwinked and bewitched,
In your OWN country called refugee,
We only want your beads, oil and food ya see,
The water is all the way up from your neck to your feet,
Expel the undesirable and make a profit,


It took 5 days for them to make a change,

5 days for them to make a change,
Condoleezza was out shopping.
While hearts in charity hospital were stopping.
Bush was out on vacation,
While people were in starvation,
Searching for food in gas stations,
So don’t tell me we have moved on,
When family homes are gone and blighted,
We have to recognize our darkness,
In order to be enlightened,
It’s been it’s been,
13 years and still recovering,
13 years and still recovering,
13 years and still recovering,
13 years and families still suffering.