2020 Know Your Power Winners

2020 Know Your Power Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Know Your Power Teen Arts Contest. A joint partnership of DC Public Library, the DC Public Library Foundation and Pepco.

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. In 2020 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. The Library connected with more than 2,700 teens online throughout the summer to learn and share in their creative voice. 

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. Four winners were announced at the Know Your Power Awards Ceremony broadcast LIVE from the reimagined Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library on Saturday, Sept. 26.  


First Place Winner


Lullaby, Siobhán O'Brien. (Read by Allison Keyes, Washington Correspondent, CBS News Radio.)

Siobhán 18 Years Old. She attends the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and is a customer of the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library.

"My piece is about lynching and the complexities in a relationship between a Mother and Son due to moral, ethical, and generational differences. The Mother would always mourn the deaths of those who were lynched, but would never have a discussion or warn her son about the treatment that he could face as a black man. As he grew older, he began to resent her and wanted to be honest with his children about the discrimination and abuse that they could face as black people in America. The piece touches on silence within the black community and calls for an open discussion."

First Runner Up

Look Both Ways by Marisa Bello

Look Both Ways, Marisa Bello

Marisa is 14 years old. She attends the School Without Walls and is a customer of the Takoma Park Library. 

"My poem is about my struggle with identity. My father’s side is Mexican, while my mother’s side is white American. I lived my live in two different worlds and thought it was normal when my best friend questioned me when I answered “Latina” on a third grade demographics survey. All my life I have found so many different examples of people who can’t see anything other than race and color of skin- from a woman claiming that my sister and I were not my dad’s children to my teammate asking me why someone who isn’t my dad picks me up. Its frustrating because my dad is one of the people I have the closest bond to in this world, so its hard to see how society yearns to separate us. I think the closer we get to embracing our brothers and sisters no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc, and understand each other and our situations we will elevate ourselves in the mind and the soul. The title speaks to this, because once we look both ways and understand the world in more ways than through color and race, we become more aware of how beautiful humanity is."


First Place Winner

A painting of a black woman with silver glasses, multi-colored earrings, a red blouse and golden triangles of differing sizes decorating her afro.
Untitled, India Wilson.

India is 16 years old. She attends Capital City Public Charter School. She is a customer of the Lamond-Riggs Library.

"I made this piece as a representation of black excellence, more specifically black WOMEN excellence. It seems like black women are constantly persecuted because of our skin tone, hairstyles and mannerisms. When women of other races do things that could be considered “ratcheted” or “dirty” etc. when applied to a black woman, they are praised for it. Society stereotypes black women. Yet, despite being the “most hated” we are also the most copied. I wanted to use my piece as a reminder to young or old black women that we are beautiful. Our beauty is like no other. We should never view our skin or hair or culture as a burden and I feel like my piece is a good reminder of that."

First Runner Up

Bubbles of Life, Amni Amin

Amni is 13 years old. She attends the School Without Walls and is a customer of the West End Library.

"My illustration focuses on the issue of gun violence. I believe that too many attacks and shootings have occurred all across the nation, threatening many schools and streets everywhere. In my illustration, it shows that a bubble wand is creating little bubbles of life and beautiful memories in a child's lifetime. However, on the other side of the page, there is a gun shooting a bullet and popping one of the bubbles of life. Shootings and gun attacks destroy innocent lives and cut short experiences of living a full life and creating memorable moments. Stop the shootings. Increase gun control. The bubbles of life should not be burst."


A photograph of a black woman posing in colorful kente cloth in front of a kente cloth background
This Ain't It, Daesha McKorley

Daesha is 17 years old. She attends Clarksburg High School. She is a customer of the Takoma Park Library.

"This picture was taken and edited to showcase the love I have for my culture. Kente cloth is a traditional fabric worn by my Ashanti tribe, it's really beautiful to me."

First Runner Up (Tie)

Deforestation, Sylva Murtinova 
Sylva is 17 years old. She attends James Madison High School and is a customer of the Watha T. Danie/Shaw Library.

"Deforestation forces ecosystems to go through secondary succession which takes fifty years to complete and reestablish an ecosystem’s climax communities. Approximately 7 billion trees are cut down each year worldwide which is estimated to release more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Deforestation has become a major social issue and activists advocate for a stop to deforestation in order to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and preserve ecosystems and habitats."

First Runner Up (Tie)

Essential Workers, Charis Michalopolous 

Charis is 13 years old. She attends The Field School and is a patron of the Cleveland Park Library. 

"I went around town and photographed essential employees in D.C. I put together a composition of collages and of photographs that I took to show that black lives do not just matter, they are essential."


First Place Winner

What Did We Do Wrong, Ryan Nicole Jackson

Ryan is 14 years old. She attends Georgetown Visitation. She is a customer of the Rosedale Library.

"What Did We Do Wrong was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement to end police brutality and social injustice. Let’s listen to the piece now."

First Runner Up

Puppet Show, Amni Amin

Amni is 13 years old. She attends School Without Walls and is a customer of the West End Library. 

"My song is called "Puppet Show", and it is about how bullying, cyber-bullying, and the pressure of fitting in can negatively affect a person. No matter how someone looks, if they are teased and ridiculed, they can see themselves as ugly, not good enough for anything. They can push their boundaries to try to "fix" themselves, even though nothing is wrong with them. Bullies can break them down, tear them apart, but the victims would hide their feelings by pretending that they are doing fine, that they are comfortable with the bullying and forced personality changes, and would even insult and bully others if it means being popular, being part of the "show" their world is playing. Bullying should be stopped. Everyone is special the way they are, and people should accept everyone, whether or not they are similar to everyone else."

Some comments have been edited for clarity. 

Know Your Power is sponsored by

Pepco: An Exelon Company        DC Public Library Foundation