Introducing the Grand Prize Winner of Yecheilyah’s 4th Annual Poetry Contest 2021
As soon as I read the first few lines of Love Is by Tiffany, I whispered, “Yes.” Determined not to play favoritism, I sat it aside, but every time I came back to it, I would whisper, “Yes.”
I knew from the start this was the poem we were looking for when we decided on this prompt.
When I said this year, our theme was love, I wanted to see how the poets would explore love beyond what we typically think of it. More than romantic love and even self-love. What other faces does love have?
“Love is food stamps, government cheese, grits with sugar, and collard greens. Love is the sand between my toes. Love is the prize at the bottom of crackerjack box. Love is hopscotch and Double Dutch. Love is Afro-puffs, two French braids, and your first French kiss.”
As someone who grew up in the Robert Taylor Projects on Chicago’s south side, I can relate to these words. I remember government cheese and powdered milk and how my mama used to french braid me and my sister’s hair. Sometimes we had one french braid to the back and sometimes two. While we didn’t have much, we had love.
These are the kinds of lines that set Tiffany’s poem apart. She went deeper and took us back to our roots. Her poem showed us other sides of love and it was relatable:
“Love is easy like Sunday morning. Love is Betty Wright, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Patti LaBelle, a brilliant collaboration of lyrical hands fighting for the same devotion because love is Soul Train. Love is rich soil to the soul.”
As you can see from these excerpts, Tiffany understood the assignment. Let me introduce and congratulate our grand prize winner, who will, along with the other prizes, be taking home a full publishing package toward whatever book she writes in the future.
Tiffany James is an incredible motivator, speaker, and gifted storyteller. She is married and has three beautiful daughters, who are her world. Tiffany’s mission is to inspire everyone to own their voice, walk with their heads high when they walk in a room because they belong in the room, and rock their greatness while celebrating the greatness in others.
Tiffany knows firsthand how hard it is to be the cheerleader behind your dreams, after deciding in 2007, when her corporate career came to an end due to the economy, to pursue her passion of using her voice and writings to impact change. It has been a beautiful, exciting, and sobering journey. There have been many times over the years she found herself struggling with uncertainty from the many disappointments and considered giving up and returning to Corporate America. Thankfully during that time, she had surrounded herself with a strong tribe who believed in her dreams as much as she did.
It is now her mission to be a voice of encouragement to people all over, regardless of their journey, to be bold enough to answer the call of the dream.
Tiffany passionately and consistently achieves this mission through her writings, workshops, storytelling, encouragement-coaching, speaking, and her new, inspiring book, Living in the Land of I Am- Your Life Journey Reveals Your Purpose. She teaches you success is not defined by how many figures you make but by the courage, it takes to stay true to yourself while pursuing your purpose. Her mentoring motto, “Greatness is about serving others with the gift that God has given you.”
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be spotlighting each of these poets individually here on the blog and social media. We will start with #4 and countdown from there. Be sure you are subscribed to this blog as we dig deeper into what inspired the winning poems.
Introducing the winners of Yecheilyah’s 4th Annual Poetry Contest 2021: 2-4
Before we introduce winners two through four, I want to send a BIG thank you to everyone who participated in our fourth annual poetry contest, either by submitting a poem or showing support via social media.
I judged this year’s entries based partly on how well they exemplified the entry requirements and partly on the willingness of the poets to dig deep in creative and unique ways. Each winning poet brought something different to the table while staying on topic.
I am from Savannah, Ga. I’ve written poetry since the beginning of my college career. Poetry has become a therapy for me over the years. It has been great healing for me.
Facebook: Jasmina Jammison
Dondi A. Springer
My name is Dondi A Springer, from Florida. Beyond being a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and blue-collar worker, I am a writer, poet, and modern-day jack of all trades. I love to inspire, motivate, and let people know it’s not too late to elevate in life.
Instagram: @napalmjax / Mr. Runthatback
Twitter: Mr. Dondi A. Springer
My name is ZerahYah Ysrayl. Native New Yorker and raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey. When I was younger, my best friend’s mother used to make us read the dictionary. That gave birth to my love of words, along with being raised in the hip-hop era. I learned to convey my feelings through the rhyme and rhythm of words. Whatever was going on around me or in me, I learned to put it in writing. Words and poetry help me to make sense of it all. Poetry is the most beautiful form of expression, and I’m honored to share my gift as a piece of my struggles, pains, and triumphs. Each one reaches one, bringing healing to one through poetic form.
Facebook: Zerahyah Ysrayl
We aren’t revealing our number one winner until Monday, 9/6 so be sure to stick around!
Over the next few weeks we’ll be spotlighting each of these poets individually here on the blog and social media. We’ll get to dig deeper into what inspired their poems and their writing process in general.
Welcome to the blog Buddah and congratulations!Your poem, “Claiming Victory” was so uplifting it won you the #2 spot. Please tell us, what inspired this piece?
This poem was inspired by the challenges many of us face in believing in ourselves and doing what’s necessary to fulfill our purpose and achieve our dreams. Too often we think we’re not good enough. Too often we think we don’t have what it takes to make it. Too often we allow the noise, conditioning, and all the junk we’ve been fed by external forces to negatively impact our outlook and our ability to act. When we’re able to change our mindset, own all of who we are, and shed all of which hasn’t served us, we’re unstoppable. That’s when we can embrace abundance. And claim our victory!
“People get caught up on the highs, peaks, and successes They don’t see what went down in the valleys What it took to get up, get out, and rise again It’s what we’ve been through— the periods between life’s highs and lows— that make us so resilient We can’t concede We have to keep on”
-Excerpt from “Claiming Victory.”
As one of the top winners you get a full interview so go ahead and get comfortable. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Water…wine?
Thank you. May I have water please?
Now, let’s start from the top. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us your name and where you’re from.
My name is Buddah Desmond (aka BDez). I was born in Washington, DC. Was raised in P.G. County MD (primarily in Forestville, MD and Greenbelt, MD). I currently reside in Alexandria, VA.
That’s very specific Buddah lol.
LOL, yes. I know. I can’t help it. Just call me Mr. Specificity. LOL
Soo Mr. Specificity, are you employed outside of writing?
Yes, I am a User Experience (UX) professional with over 13 years of experience crafting timely, intuitive, and forward-thinking solutions to improve the overall usability / UX of websites, apps, and services for non-profit, commercial, and government clients. My specialties include user research and analysis, user-centered design, user experience design, usability testing, content strategy, and information architecture. I’m also a health and wellness coach. Finished my masters in Nutrition and Integrative Health earlier this year. I’m in the process of completing my hours and studying to become a certified Nutritionist, and in the very early stages of starting my health and wellness coaching practice.
Wow. Congratulations on all your endeavors! With all this, what was your childhood dream?
My childhood dream (and still my dream today) was to be a Renaissance man… To be able to pull from my many talents, do work that matters, and to make a difference. I’m striving to achieve this mission still to this day.
What’s your favorite TV Show? Movie?
A number of favorites here, but one show that continues to be at the top of my list is Queen Sugar. The writing, acting, cinematography, the landscape, and the issues that are addressed with each episode—it’s phenomenal. I love everything that Ava DuVernay has done. She’s a gem. A national treasure. The epitome of Black Girl Magic! In terms of film, Black Panther has been sitting at the top of my movie list since it’s opening weekend. What an inspiring, impactful, and empowering film. A classic. Ryan Coogler did that!
He did indeed. We love music on The PBS Blog. What kind of music do you like?
Music is my first love. I come from a family that deeply loves, appreciates, and respects music. A number of us, myself included, are musically inclined. I have an eclectic taste in music. I love Jazz, R&B/Soul, Hip-Hop, Gospel, Classical, Reggae, Dancehall, Afrobeat, Latin, Country, and Rock… Music is an undeniably powerful and universal art form. Life wouldn’t be the same without it.
We agree there. Speaking of the Universe, with a name like Buddah I have to ask, religious or nah?
No, I’m not religious. I’m more of a spiritual being. I believe in the Most High… The Divine Creator of our universe that ties us all together. I’ve always been fascinated by religion though, and learning about how people worship, where they worship, their sacred texts, and the similarities / differences between the guiding principles we abide by.
Let’s talk about writing a bit. Favorite writer. Go.
These questions are always tough because it’s a rarity that I can ever narrow down to just one favorite of anything. LOL!
I knew I’d get you eventually.
Okay. I’m done. Carry on.
I have so many favorite writers. Maya Angelou. Langston Hughes. Nikki Giovanni. Sonia Sanchez. Saul Williams. James Baldwin. Toni Morrison. Alice Walker. Terry McMillan. Yrsa Daley-Ward. Nayyirah Waheed. Lucille Clifton. June Jordan. Janet Mock. Ntozake Shange. Devon Franklin. Octavia Butler. Amiri Baraka. Haki Madhubuti. Zora Neale Hurston. I could keep going, but I’ll stop there.
What genre do you write in, why?
My primary genre is poetry. I also write prose, essays, short stories, song lyrics, and blogposts. There’s a universality and musicality to the language of poetry. I couldn’t deny it when I first started reading it. And definitely couldn’t deny it when I started writing it. I think Amiri Baraka said it best, “Poetry is music, and nothing but music. Words with musical emphasis.”
I absolutely agree. It’s like poetry has this ability to bring out the depth in us in ways nothing else can.
YES! Poetry gives us the freedom to get soul-deep to tell our stories in such extraordinary ways.
Soul-deep. I like that. Yess.
The beauty is that we can each write a poem in any form about the same topic, emotion, or experience, and it can be embraced and interpreted quite differently by readers. What we as writers get out of it may be worlds away from what our readers get out of it. And that’s amazing. Truly amazing. Poetry has the power to change minds, and change lives.
When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I self-published my first volume of poetry, Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics, in June 2012 through iUniverse. The experience was exhilarating, rewarding, frustrating, so many things. When I made the decision to publish my manuscript, I had a “no turning back” attitude. I was at a point in my life where it was imperative to go all in for the things I wanted. I couldn’t be mad at anyone but myself if I didn’t put in the effort or work to make my dreams come true. And I’m grateful I did. Publishing Prevail afforded many opportunities for growth and development, reading and speaking at a number of events, and connecting with other writers, creatives, and readers alike. Not to mention, many learning lessons about building a platform, social media, and book marketing and promotion.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
That’s a great question. Hmmm… The most difficult thing would be pushing through writer’s block. Or periods when you really want to write, but the muse, inspiration, or motivation is sorely lacking. The most exciting thing is the freedom of expression. Being able to create you own world or worlds. New possibilities. And the blessings of your work opening minds, speaking for those whose voices aren’t being heard, and making deep, meaningful connections with a larger audience.
Nice. Buddah, what is humility?
Humility is quiet confidence. It’s being comfortable in who you are, your abilities, and what you bring to the table without being rude, brash, egotistical, or narcissistic. It’s also about being open to change and possibilities. And knowing that your way, whatever it may be, is not the only way.
What is love?
Love is one of the greatest emotions. It’s more than just deep feelings for something or someone. It’s in the actions. It’s all in what you do (or don’t do). Love can be life changing. Life-saving even. It’s unconditional. As I wrote in a recent piece, “I am nothing without love. I am everything with love.”
Beautiful. Thank you Buddah for spending this time with us. We certainly enjoyed you.
Be Sure to Follow Buddah Desmond below and look out for his piece, “Claiming Victory” in the 2nd Edition Lit Mag Literary Magazine, 2020.
Introducing the winners of Yecheilyah’s 3rd Annual Poetry Contest 2019!
Chanelle Barnes snatched up the #1 spot with her piece, “Straight Lines.” We had such a challenging time deciding between both the poems she submitted that we decided to include her second poem as an Honorable Mention.
But the brothers said they will not be left out this year people!
Buddah Desmond claimed second place with his uplifting poem “Claiming the Victory.”
Don’t forget our Honorable Mentions! They didn’t come to play either. Their poems were too good to leave out. We have two returning champs from last year. Jahkazia Richardson (our #1 Winner from last year!) came with “Aya,” a powerful poem about being wrongly convicted, and Kiyana Blount (who also placed last year) crushed it with “Lioness Strength.” Dondi Springer is a newbie to the contest and he brought it with “Look Within.”
Each of our winners will be featured individually over the next few weeks. We will start with our Honorable Mentions and work our way up to the Grand Prize Winner. Barnes and Desmond are preparing for their spotlight interviews where they will tell us what inspired their poems and more on their writing journey. You don’t want to miss it!
We are doing something different this year by not publishing the poems to this blog. Instead, you can read them in the 2020 Edition of the LKP Literary Magazine for poets coming February 2020. You will also get to read poems from this year’s entrants. ALL of them!
Over the next few weeks we will promote the winners of this contest on this blog. We are kicking things off next week.
Scroll over and click that beautiful Subscribe Button for notifications of new posts so you don’t miss this. Share this post and tell your poet friends things are about to get lit on The PBS Blog. Stay glued!
To help us level up next year’s contest we are seeking help early. If you would like to sponsor a book,* writing service,* or gift cards toward the 2020 contest, please comment your email address or send me one directly at yecheilyah (at) yecheilyahysrayl dot com.
*We are only accepting Poetry Books or Inspirational/Encouraging books for sponsorship.
*Writing Service is anything that will help our winners to level-up their writing or get exposure (that is what this platform is about after all, exposing new, talented writers!) This could cover editing, cover design, formatting, a guest post on your blog, promotion to your audience, or even publishing! The more we can offer the writers the better.
Welcome back to another episode of No Whining Wednesday, the only day of the week where you do not get to whine, complain, or criticize. Now, if you are new to this blog or new to this segment please visit the first post HERE for more on what this post is all about.
“I am not a victim. No matter what I have been through, I’m still here. I have a history of victory.”
– Steve Maraboli
What does it mean to be victorious to you? To me, it means to endure. We may have many trials and stumbling blocks but if we do not give up, then we reign victorious regardless of the situation. Here’s the thing about the victory I’d like you to take with you:
The victory will change from moment to moment just like our mood changes from moment to moment. Today the victory can be a job promotion, a new baby, a published book, or a family meeting. At these times we are excited and overwhelmed with joy. But, the victory doesn’t have to be so elaborate. What we count as the little things are also victories. Tomorrow, you may find it hard to get out of bed. But choosing not to give up you decide to at least take a shower. Then, you decide to at least eat something. These are victories. These are accomplishments. These are examples that you did not give up. It may not be as exciting as other things but it is still a victory. You aren’t defeated.
The victory won’t look exactly the same from day to day. It will change just as you change. Someone making you laugh when all you wanted to do was cry is a victory. With this understanding, you have (as the quote says) an entire history of victories. Every step is a victory. I’ll leave you with another quote:
“You were born a winner, a warrior…and now that you are a giant, why do you even doubt victory against smaller numbers and wider margins? The only walls that exist are those you have placed in your mind. And whatever obstacles you conceive, exist only because you have forgotten what you have already achieved.”