Winning Essay by Taylor C. from Louisiana
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Days after the Trump inauguration: I would wake up, turn on the news, complain to my mother about whatever President Trump was saying, make a cup of green tea, and meditate through the words of James Baldwin in "Notes of a Native Son." Being an African-American poet, I believe that words are the most powerful weapon that one can use. Not only has James Baldwin inspired me as a writer, he’s taught me valuable lessons about how to use that gift of writing to promote the progress of African-Americans.
 
I first heard of James Baldwin when I was a sophomore at Lusher Charter School. At first, I wasn’t too excited to read any pieces of fiction because I was in love with all forms of poetry. But, the minute I started reading "Go Tell It On the Mountain", Baldwin’s first novel, I fell in love with the voice he created in the character John. The novel is a semi-autobiographical novel about a black boy from Harlem who struggles to find his sexual identity in his heavily religious family. I as a black woman from a similar religious family, automatically felt a connection to John. Not only did this novel feed into my heart-strings, but it also taught me that as a writer we have an obligation to the people of this society to tell our story on the page. I always like to think that I’m not the only person with a specific story or background. Like Baldwin, I know that there are other black and brown girls who suffer from similar setbacks as I do.
 Since my sophomore year in high school, Baldwin has been my main source of inspiration and guidance in this society. After "Go Tell It On the Mountain," Baldwin moved to Paris in which he continued his career in writing with novels such as Giovanni’s Room and a collection of essays entitled "Notes of a Native Son."  Among his writing success, Baldwin made his imprint in the movement of progression for African-Americans. My favorite quote from Baldwin is when he stated, “ To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in rage almost all the time.” I find it astounding that as old as this quote is it still resonates in our culture. Baldwin as an activist has taught me to always keep myself educated about my African-American culture; his accomplishments promoted the view that Blacks have a right to be unsatisfied with the way they are being treated.
 
 James Baldwin isn’t just a literary icon or civil rights activist, he’s a movement. A movement that has recently sparked a racial conversation in the community of young Black American writers, as seen in Jesmyn Ward’s "The Fire This Time" and a gut wrenching documentary entitled “ I Am Not Your Negro.” Baldwin is the reason I write, why I speak on racial injustice, and why I am so proud to be black and alive. 
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