Know Your Power

Know Your Power

A civic engagement arts contest for teens

About the Contest | Writing | Illustration | Photography | Music

Art is a powerful tool to share social messages and inspire change. Visual artists like Shepard Fairey, musicians like Beyonce and authors like Mira Jacob have used their creative voices to speak truth to power and raise awareness of the important issues facing us today. Pepco, the DC Public Library Foundation and DC Public Library invited D.C. teens to find their power and use it to creatively address a topic that is important to them. 

We were overwhelmed by the amazing pieces that were submitted. They were not only well-crafted but had a strong voice and perspective on a wide variety of subjects pertaining to civic engagement. The winners in the four categories Illustration, Writing, Music and Photography will receive prizes that help them continue to explore their creativity, including a laptop for writing, a Canon EOS 4000D for photography, a Wacom CTL4100 Intuos Graphics Drawing Tablet for illustration and a Fender Electric Guitar for music. Want to see last year's winners? View our 2020 Know Your Power Teen Art Contest Page


First Place Winner

黄 by Shirley Liu

黄, by Shirley Liu. 

Shirley is 19 Years Old. She attends Lafayette College and is a customer of the Francis A. Gregory Library.

" This is a piece about loss (of understanding, of language, of love). Ever since the Atlanta spa shooting, I have felt my relationship with my Asian features grow more tenuous. Reading through this poem helps me work through that uneasiness and fear. I believe in the importance of celebratory pieces right now because I don't think the Asian American experience should be marked by tragedy and inner turmoil -- but at the same time, I hope that writing about my own experiences will resonate with others and let them know that they are not alone in their pain or confusion."

First Runner Up

Even though they get it done by Zahkura Eastman
Even Though They Get It Done, Zahkura Eastman

Zahkura is 20 years old. She attends the North Carolina Central University and is a customer of the Anacostia Library. 

" My piece is about the ending of a cycle of hate. It is about the pain of being a man and woman growing up where we may live. It's more of a spoken word kind of piece but still is a poem nonetheless."


First Place Winner

Untitled by Jessica Delgado
Untitled, Jessica Delgado.

Jessica is 18. She attends Georgetown University and is a customer of the Petworth Library.

"[The theme of this piece is] societal expectations for genders or unhealthy gender norms that have been perpetuated. The idea that a man shouldn’t cry because they cannot be seen as weak or that a woman is overly emotional and exaggerating so their emotions could be seen as them being hysterical. The idea is to subvert the idea that a male can’t show their more delicate side and that women can be just as serious about the indignation they feel about a situation. This idea originated from a TED video I remember seeing about a woman being taken as too intense when they showed their anger. The male side came from experiences with friends that have explained that their parents have created this image that tears show weakness."

First Runner Up

Hidden ADHD by Sareone Terefe
Hidden ADHD,  Sarone Terefe

Sarone is 14 years old. She attends the District of Columbia International School and is a customer of the Shepherd Park (Juanita E. Thornton) Library.

"This piece is called "Hidden ADHD" which focuses on the issue of mental health. ADHD is a chronic condition including attention difficulty, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. To represent ADHD, in an art form I chose to draw a woman that looks peaceful with bright colors and curly hair with her eyes closed. But in her mind, she's hiding all the different thoughts that she is trying to hide. On the top left, I wrote a quote from Einstein that says "The question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy ?" with people that don't know that they have ADHD sometimes think that they're crazy or different from everybody else which makes sense with the quote."


Detroit,  Sylva Murtinova

Sylva is 18 years old. She attends William and Mary College She is a customer of the Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Library.

"This series of photos depicts the decline of the once-great city of Detroit, Michigan. It provides awareness for the lack of care the government has for the city and its people. With 89% of the city’s population being composed of black and brown communities, these marginalized groups are being left to suffer in the city with a lack of opportunity or care for those that inhabit it. I would like to see this city change for the better and for the marginalized groups living there to have their lives improved for the better by being provided with government aid and greater opportunities than those they are currently being offered. "

First Runner Up

National Harbor,  Sarone Terefe

Sarone is 14 years old. She attends District of Columbia International School and is a customer of the Shepherd Park (Juanita E. Thornton) Library.

" This piece is about water pollution. These photos were taken at the national harbor in the Potomac River. Near the docks, there are lots of ducks that swim there and with them, there are piles of water bottles lying around. While riding in the boat I've seen random pieces of plastic floating around. In one of the pictures saw a duck looking at plastic they were curious about what the plastic was, so one started to chew on it and I have managed to get a photo. There are also lots of seagulls that fly around looking for fish that could potentially pick up plastic instead. With a simple Google search of stats, it states that "Some 80 percent of the world's wastewater is dumped, largely untreated back into the environment, polluting rivers, lakes and oceans."


First Place Winner

Alone Together, Kashvi Ramani

Kashvi is 15 years old. She attends Rock Ridge High School and The Academies of Loudoun and is a customer of the Palisades Library.

" Alone Together is a song I recently wrote but has been circulating my mind for years. I grew up with a love for performing but my passion was repressed by a call for “stability” rather than “flights of fancy.” I turned to the media for role models I could follow in the footsteps of but found none I could resonate with. There were few characters in the media who looked like me as is, and those who existed were stereotypical and objects of comic relief. Other friends of mine who were Indian American and even South Asian had similar struggles, though in different forms. The song introduces two characters, specifically a girl who has fallen victim to internalized racism and has a desire to be lighter skinned and a boy who tries to replicate the looks of puff, pale male models and has a difficult time coping when he fails. These are just a few of the many related stories across America. Alone Together calls for better representation of South Asians in the media and asks for the chance to show the beauty in being brown."

First Runner Up

Community Change, A Rap by Gregory Robinson
Community Change, Gregory Robinson

Gregory is 14 years old. He attends  Friendship Collegiate Academy High School and is a customer of the Benning (Dorothy I. Height) Library.

" This is my song I made about my community when I was 11 years old ."

Some comments have been edited for clarity. 

Be sure to follow @dclibraryteens and #knowyourpower on Instagram for interviews with the winners and spotlights on all of the amazing pieces submitted to the inaugural Know Your Power contest. 

Know Your Power is sponsored by
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