Jamesha Caldwell, 18

Baltimore-bred poet and storyteller Jamesha Caldwell strives to highlight the plight of her environment, Black womanhood, science, and all things hip hop. Caldwell’s advocacy is focused in changing the academic system to allocate educational and recreational resources for inner-city and criminalized youth. Growing up in the city of Baltimore, resources such as these were either non-existent or were extremely expensive and out of reach for her family. Through her work in networks that provide youth with information and access to various organizations that promote literacy, STEM outreach, mentorship, mental health resources, nutritional and agricultural education, Caldwell hopes to help her peers in ways she was never afforded.

In her writing, whether it's journalism, poetry, or playwriting, Caldwell combines narrative and exposition to convey nuanced elements of her culture, dialect, and ideals of social reform. Calwell loves mixing mediums because it grants her the ability to curate her own narrative and depict humanity, a power that she has not found in any other form of expression. While writing her final assignment in her college writing course, Caldwell was uncertain about defining her journey for a classroom full of undeniably privileged students. During her process, she had a major self-realization that her story deserved to be told and should be shared without fear of consequence or judgement. By writing, Caldwell is not only bringing importance to her voice but helping to destroy negative perceptions of Black womanhood, poverty, and addiction.

Caldwell is currently a double major in Behavioral Neuroscience and Criminology at Notre Dame of Maryland University. She plans to utilize her degrees and activist passion to reform mental health and other issues within inner city juvenile criminal systems. Her writing has been published in Affinity Magazine and Baltimore City Paper, and she has performed at numerous spoken-word events including CityLit Festival, Baltimore Book Festival, and Writers Resist: Voices United.


Smokestack Lightin'

By Jamesha Caldwell


You ain't lived until you had a father that got knocked.

Knocked down by their oppressors, laughed and ridiculed by laughing jackals, with smiles so bright you could only think that the sun was sinking.


You ain't lived until you got shot.

Shot in front of a stadium where everyone witnessed the fireworks your body exploded into, into millions of ashes of the millions of men slain by him, him being them, and them being us.

You ain't lived until you've been raped.

Raped by a system that loves the way our lips move but hate the sounds that come out of them.

Raped by a system that steals the virginity, (excuse me the identity) of those who worked to make this country work.

The same country that craves off the identity of any minority that is 22 seconds away from being something.

This country is looking more like graveyards than green lands and shining seas.

You ain't lived until you've noticed that the melanin in 10% of you makes you a split second, 1/2 of an atom, matter constructed of a thought.

Which makes you God like Romans. Godlike Greeks, God-like Haitians, waiting for their destiny, to see, to breath, to be free.

You ain't lived until you've died for nothing, but came from something.

You ain't lived until you lived.

You ain't lived until you lived with open insomniatic eyes. Wide with biographical memory.