Category Archives: celebrations

Celebrating Earth Day!

Celebrating Earth Day!

Hugging an Evergreen Tree on a hike in Central Oregon. Photo: Mel Bankoff, Oregon.

Earth Day Greetings!

As I bicycled to work this cool, breezy spring morning in the Pacific Northwest, I admired the many new shoots reaching for the sun, and spring flowers seeking bees and other insects along the bike trail and sidewalks. I vividly recalled my childhood in central India. We lived in an apartment building right in the middle of downtown in the city of Indore. There was no room for any backyard gardens. But we had a very small windowsill garden space for a couple of pots. I remember the excitement I felt as the garbanzo bean plants grew new leaves or when those beautiful red flowers appeared on another potted plant.

Almost Everything in the Garden is Growing Vibrantly.  Photo: Arun N. Toké

We have been enjoying spring flowers in our garden, and harvesting arugula, fennel shoots, green onions, etc. Apple trees and various berries are doing their usual spring growth with a promise of bountiful fruit harvest! And, various nature hikes in the area fill our hearts with a sense of appreciation and gratitude to Mother Nature.

While many of us might be looking forward to visiting some special wonders of nature during school break this year—Denali, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Titon, Redwoods or another beautiful place—like the Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, let us not forget that natural beauty can be found all around us, even in our backyard!

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona. Photo: Arianna Shaprow, age 13, Nevada.

Yet, I must share my deep sadness with you. Everyday, I am feeling the pain of countless children, mothers and fathers in places like the Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine, where wars, climate change and droughts make living conditions dire for tens of millions. The military operations and environmental destruction responsible for human suffering go on unabated. Governments, including ours, are unresponsive to the needs of innocent, civilian victims. The human rights of millions of children, women and men are being violated. They are forced to live in subhuman conditions. Even in our own cities all across this so-called rich nation, countless homeless men and women live in less than desirable conditions. We are told there is no money for social programs, as the government spends close to a trillion dollars on feeding the war machines.

Skipping Stones, like any other socially responsible media outlet, has often shed light on the plight of suffering humanity around the world. While we don’t want to forget this pain and suffering, we also don’t want our readers to get depressed by the doom and gloom that’s all around us.

The list of issues we can and must face is long. It includes our ever-increasing use of plastics and forever-chemicals, the decimation of insect and bird populations, the climate change, disappearing glaciers, deforestation and destruction of natural habitats, over-fishing and overgrazing, mindless mining of fossil fuels, environmental pollution, groundwater contamination, land-use issues, nuclear weapons, environmental and social justice, and homelessness, poverty and hunger. You can add many more items to this list—both of local concern and global importance!

Our future survival and flourishing depends on how we respond to these problems we have created with our ever-increasing consumption of resources, economic systems, greed, privatization and exploitation of resources, for example.

You might like to ask yourself a few deep questions (see some examples below) and try to answer them honestly and at length:

What do we love about where we live?
How can we make a difference right where we are planted, in our communities?
How can we let Mother Earth know how much we love her?
What might we cultivate in our own backyard?
How can we help out our neighbors?
What small thing might we do today to heal the world and ourselves?
What is happiness?
What makes us really happy—happiness that might last for a really long while?
How much of material consumption is sufficient or plenty for our happiness?
What is the law of diminishing returns?
What is the difference between needs and wants?

And as a group of friends or community, we might ask:

Can an economy based on ever-increasing growth be sustained? 
Can we continue to use natural resources in an uncontrolled manner?
What can we as a community or society do to minimize our negative impact on nature?
As conscientious citizen and human beings, how can we respond constructively?

A Roadside Plant on the Big Island, Hawaii. Photo: Arun N. Toké.

Let us not abuse the gifts we have been granted by Mother Nature. Let us not knowingly degrade or destroy the very web of life of which we are an integral part. Human life cannot continue without this web of life—our biosphere. As “intelligent” species, we must address these issues that we have created collectively since industrialization.

Let us make an effort to appreciate the beauty around us, as we work to address these adversities. Let’s respect the many miracles of nature that surround us. Let us learn to enjoy even the smallest gifts that we receive everyday, be it listening to a bird song, fluttering of a butterfly or hummingbird, observing a cluster of green leaves or the multitude of seeds and fruits that plants produce.

Let us be grateful for the many blessings we have been granted. Let us live fully and let nature live—in all its glory! Let us commit ourselves to doing what we can to sustain these blessings, this beauty, for all future generations.

A Banyan Tree on the Big Island, Hawaii. Photo: Arun N. Toké

Dear fellow earthlings, let’s remember that Earth Day is not just April 22nd; we can observe it each and every day.

—Arun Narayan Toké, Skipping Stones editor.

A Call for Action: Muslims and Jews Find Community in Nature

A Call for Action: Muslims and Jews Find Community in Nature

A Convergence of Islamic and Jewish Perspectives on the Environment

By Emily Maremont, age 17, California.

In my fifth grade gardening class, I shared a shovel with a girl who had recently immigrated to the United States from Yemen. Here we were—me a Jew, her a Muslim—passing that rusty shovel back and forth across a row of red clay pots. Little did I know at the time, the act of cultivating that rooftop garden followed what our ancestors had done for thousands of years. Ancient teachings from both Islam and Judaism stress the importance of caring for the natural world. In America, the birthplace of the modern interfaith and environmentalist movements, the fight to combat climate change has the potential to foster deeper cultural understanding between Muslims and Jews.

Environmentalist narratives are prominent throughout the Quran. According to Islamic teachings, the essential elements of nature—earth, water, fire, forests, light—belong to all living organisms, not just to the human race. Humans, the guardians of nature, are discouraged from abusing or destroying natural resources: “He is the One Who produces gardens…Eat of the fruit they bear and pay the dues at harvest, but do not waste. Surely, He does not like the wasteful.” Planting trees, purifying rivers, and digging wells are also considered charitable deeds. Preventing water pollution is particularly significant given the role of water in daily worship. In the performance of ablution before prayer, Muslims are expected to exercise moderation as they wash themselves. In Mecca and Medina, The Prophet established the first protected areas in history, known in Arabic as hima. Within the bounds of protected areas, natural resources considered sacred were off limits during certain periods, and logging and grazing were prohibited.

Similarly, the Hebrew principles of bal tashchit (“do not destroy” or “do not waste”) and tikkun olam (“repair the world”) connect to the values of moderation and the sacredness of natural resources found in Islam. Themes of guardianship over nature are also woven into Jewish holidays. During Sukkot, Jews dwell in temporary structures called sukkot (it is a plural of the word Sukkah). Jewish law commands that a sukkah must have a thatched roof made of organic material while allowing a view of the sky and for rain to penetrate. This practice allows Jews to appreciate their relationship to nature more directly. Tu BiShvat, another holiday nicknamed “the new year of the trees,” coincides with the blooming of almond trees after dormancy during winter. Sixteenth century Kabbalists began the tradition of a seder (ritual meal) for Tu BiShvat, in which symbolic nuts, fruits, juices, and wines are featured. In the Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah, G-d says: “Do not corrupt or desolate my world; for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.’” This line resembles the foreboding of many contemporary environmental activists and scientists.

Historically, the natural world has played a major role in the relationships between Muslims and Jews. The Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula resulted in the introduction of new agricultural practices from the Middle East and ushered in an era of general religious tolerance. New crops such as sugarcane and rice became parts of the culture of all who lived there: Arabs, Jews, other Europeans, etc. Sustainable irrigation practices involving the noria (waterwheel) and qanat (underground water channel) increased water supply. Historians call this agricultural transformation the “Islamic Green Revolution.” Córdoba, the capital of the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate (c. 711-1031), became the center of Sephardic Jewish life. Jews from all over Europe migrated to Spain, where the land supported their growing population. There was widespread transculturation of Jewish and Arab cultures in the sciences, philology, and literature. Against the backdrop of a shared, flourishing natural environment, Muslims and Jews coexisted peacefully.

In recent years, many Muslim and Jewish grassroots organizations and individuals have moved to the forefront of environmental activism. Green Muslims uses solar water heaters to heat water for ablution that thousands of worshipers perform in Washington, DC. Other organizations, including Eco-Halal, Green Ramadan, and Green Haj, are working to make Muslim traditions more sustainable. In 2022, twenty major Jewish organizations formed the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition, which is committed to taking action against the urgent threat of climate change.

Youth are also prominent voices in this movement. Muslim American climate activists like Saad Amer and Zahra Biabani are spreading their message through social media, leading protests at the White House, and speaking at the United Nations. The Jewish Youth Climate Movement has chapters across the United States. Young Jews for a Green New Deal incorporates Jewish music, poetry, and celebration into their activism to engage more people. In a variety of ways, American Muslims and Jews of every age are taking up their traditional mantles as stewards of the earth.

Meanwhile, when I am walking through my neighborhood, I never see Muslims and Jews interacting with each other. While there are annual interfaith events between Jews and Christians at my synagogue, I never see similar events between Muslims and Jews. As someone who from a young age has strived to learn and appreciate other faiths, I cannot sit with the prospect that tensions always have to exist between our communities—no more than I can fathom the idea that our efforts to stop climate change are futile. I believe that multicultural understanding springs from having hard conversations about the complex world we live in. What better way to have hard conversations than out in nature, which we all value and enjoy? Yet as the Earth continues to suffer from carbon emissions, pollution, and other issues created by humans, such opportunities for connection are lost before we even realize they exist.

Through climate-focused interfaith partnerships, Muslims and Jews can find common ground. By developing community projects, organizing protests, and lobbying the government, Muslims and Jews can learn about each other’s values and traditions. In the process, they can become more comfortable with being in the same place—passing shovels back and forth underneath the leaves we all pray will change color come autumn, as centipedes march past on the ground and eagles circle overhead.

By Emily Maremont, age 17, California. Emily adds: “I enjoy writing and learning about history in order to gain new perspectives on the world. In my essay, I use a memory from my childhood as a starting place to look at climate activism through an interfaith and multicultural lens.”








1. Bsoul, Labeeb, Amani Omer, Lejla Kucukalic, and Ricardo H. Archbold. “Islam’s Perspective on Environmental Sustainability: A Conceptual Analysis.” Social Sciences 11, no. 6 (May 24, 2022): 228.

2. Fitzwilliam-Hall, A.H. “An Introductory Survey of the Arabic Books of Filāḥa and Farming Almanacs.” The Filāha Texts. Last modified October 2010.

3. Islam, Md Saidul. “Old Philosophy, New Movement: The Rise of the Islamic Ecological Paradigm in the Discourse of Environmentalism.” Nature and Culture 7, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 72-94.

4. Jackson, Joelle. “Repairing Our World: Jewish Environmentalism through Text, Tradition, and Activism.” Folklife Magazine, January 12, 2022.

5. O’Brien, Becky. “Major Jewish Organizations Form Coalition to Act on Climate Crisis; Issue Open Call for Jewish Organizations Everywhere to Join.” Boulder Jewish News (Boulder, CO), September 15, 2022.

6. “Spain Virtual History Tour.” Jewish Virtual Library.

7. Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. “Nature in the Sources of Judaism.” Daedalus 130, no. 4 (Fall 2001): 99-124.

8. Venkatraman, Sakshi. “As Eid and Earth Day coincide, young Muslims are driving the modern climate movement.” NBC News. Last modified April 23, 2023.

Ramadan For All

Ramadan for All

By Zanjabila Khadija, age 8, Indonesia.

Asif was going to fast in Ramadan month for the first time tomorrow. He was still five years old. Eating was usually fun for him, so the first fast was a tough challenge for him. That night, he was restless. He wondered what would happen if he didn’t eat his favorite food. Too tired to think about it, he fell asleep at 8 p.m., even though he usually went to bed at 9 p.m. He was too flustered, so he fell asleep early.

In his dream, he found himself in the land of giants. On that land, a lot of giant-sized foods can be enjoyed, such as candy, ice cream, vegetables, fish, fruit, chocolate, and so on. He was full after eating many different food dishes. He laid down when someone’s voice startled him. It turned out that it was not a human voice, but a giant talking candy!

When Asif fell asleep, his mom and dad discussed Asif’s fasting. They tried to find a way so that Asif could fast comfortably without feeling too hungry or bored. His dad said, “What if we bring him a new toy that he can play with and thus get distracted?”

However, his mom said, “No! Asif was bored with toys. What about a pet? Chickens, cats, or fish. Let him choose it by himself!”

Asif’s dad agreed. The next day, Asif woke up very early to eat his pre-fast meal because he was so excited about his first Ramadan. After finishing his meal, his mom and dad asked Asif to pray at dawn. Later in the morning, Asif and his dad went to Nana’s house, a short walk from their house. Nana was his aunt. Nana had eight cats. Some of them were Persian cats, and the others were domestic short-haired cats. Asif was amazed to see those cats. He wanted three cats. He asked Nana, “Aunty, can I keep these three cats?”

“Oh, sure,” said Nana without hesitation.

Asif was allowed to bring one Persian cat and two domestic cats. He forgot his hunger during the month of fasting. He loved them when they jumped around and chased his toys. Also, they did not find any mice at home anymore. Asif named his first domestic cat “Mimi the Nimble” because he was the most agile at catching mice. The second domestic cat was called “Mike the Great Climber.” He loved to climb all the trees in their backyard and bask for hours on the rooftop. The Persian cat was named “Lulu the Groomer.” Almost all day long, she combed her fur with her tongue.

One evening, Asif went to the mosque. The mosque committee would hold an iftar. All people who wanted to break the fast were invited to come. Arriving at the mosque, he saw many people gathered there. He sat in the mosque next to an old man he had never met. The old man told Asif that he was a traveler and was going to the next town by bike. Asif felt very happy every time he broke the fast together with other people at the mosque. He felt warmth even though he didn’t know those people. He saw that rich people would sit on the same floor as the poor. He also saw that all people got the same food. No matter what their ethnicity. He then remembered what his dad had once told him: “All people are equal before God, except for the good deeds they have done.”

When he ate his Iftar meal, he remembered his cats. He thought they should feel the joy of breaking the fast as well. He set aside his empal, a traditional meat dish, for his three cats. After breaking the fast and doing maghrib prayer—an evening prayer, Asif ran home carrying that large piece of empal. As he opened the door, all his cats ran toward him. Lulu and Mimi rubbed their bodies against his legs, while Mike climbed onto Asif’s shoulders. The three cats then partied happily with that meat!

Zanjabila Khadija, age 8, Indonesia. She writes: “I love writing poetry and short stories.” She has won several literary competitions for young writers in Indonesia. In 2024, the Ramadan will begin on Sunday evening, March 10th and end on Tuesday, April 9, 2024 with the festival of Eid al-Fitr. The festival lasts for three days.
Editor’s Note: Islam follows a lunar calendar and hence the Ramadan dates fall on different dates each year. Did you know that in 2030, there will be two Ramadans? The first Ramadan will be in January 2030, and the second one will be observed in the month of December. Also, on Dec. 25, as the Christians celebrate Christmas, the Muslims will be celebrating the festival of Eid!

The Abscission of Perennial Petals

The Abscission of Perennial Petals

By Aniket Dewangen, grade 10, India.


The bougainvillea flowers whistled with the wind. Each of them withered away as two stayed by the coarse and flaky mahogany tree.

My childhood

The image of the god was pleasant and heartwarming. He held a brass flute adorned with a flower and a bead. The arched legs crossed against the drapery of the Dhoti1 and his lips touched the edge of the flute. His gaze was drawn downward to the majestic instrument. Its amygdaloid-like face and beaten-blue complexion were elegant and defined by a sharp jaw. A majestic peacock flower hung above the satiny hair at the crown of his head. The ace-shaped, indigo-colored splotch in the middle was covered by a flurry of green strands that flowed in a rhythm. The Lord Krishna stood there elegantly, displaying a natural aura of benevolence. Next to the defined blue edges was the goddess of devotion and tenderness, Radha. The two gods stood serenely in the centre of the ashram.2 The terracotta figures seemed to be emphasized in the minds of the people standing before me. Two Pandits3 walked towards the idols. They were wearing angharkas (a short coat-like scarf around the stomach). They marched around and began to proceed with the pooja.4 I looked back and scanned the long queue. The line’s shape curled almost like a racetrack. We all soon congregated, pushing forward to get a greater view of the two idols in the spotlight. I couldn’t see much. I just saw the shoulders of men who were agitated. My father, who limped through the crowd was in front. He had polio, and an orthotic device was attached to his legs. He began to walk in discomfort without any space left.

“Are you okay?” My father looked at me. He looked in agony, yet he powered through the line, which was like a Dandi march.5 Paa (father) was a kindhearted man, or at least I thought so, for the majority of my life. Soon the line began to compress, and I could sense the aroma of Rabri and Malpua.6 The glistening white substance dazzled with a pinch of cardamom on top. It was my favorite. My mother standing behind me kept her soft hands on my shoulders as we moved slowly through the long queue. The brass-plated bell rang at a fast tempo and the procession began. The chimes cut the air and rang through my ears. Soon I started to sense that we had come to the beginning of the line. My mother took me in her arms, and I could finally have a better view of the luminescent and vibrant colors. Both the terracotta figures were covered in tinsel. The pandits approached the idols and began to swerve a copper plate that contained an incandescent flame in one of the lamps. The intricate and mesmerizing designs on the bell and the plate were astonishing. The Pandits began to pour a white substance over lord Krishna. The idols were soaked in the thin badam milk.8 The low-pitched sound began to omit and amplify in the chamber. The Chappan Bhog9 had begun. The Chappan Bhog was a tradition during the festival of Janmashtami10 where the graceful gods were lavishly fed. The Pandits sang a harmonious tune and began to pour different things over the idols. I never understood why this happened. My mother told me that the gods were never fed, and this festival would fulfill them. The myriad of assorted foods made my mouth water.

“Now beta,11 ask for what you want most and fold your hands looking up at the terracotta idol,” my mother said in a haste. My hands joined together and pressed against the warm surface of my palms. I closed my eyes. The one wish and the one thing that I sought the most was barely even related to me. “Dear god, since you have had a wonderful meal, it wouldn’t be rude to ask you this small request. Please keep my parents happy, they seem to fight a lot. I want them to be happy and complement each other.” My eyes slowly opened and a hue of blue covered my vision. The voices that were once muffled began to ring in my ears. The same flame came close to me by the copper plate. The Pandit approached me. I leaned forward and raised my hands underneath the fire that rippled diagonally in the presence of oxygen. The Pandit then smiled and took a red-colored pigment mixed with water. He dipped his thumb in the color and put the tilak12 on the center of my forehead as I pulled my hair back. The Pandit took a few rice grains and stuck it at the same red line. Soon after, my focus quickly shifted from the pooja to the prasad.13 The prasad was a small token that was a blessing from the gods. Taking it from one hand was disrespectful, so I layered them both underneath. A green powder-like brittle was poured into my hand. It looked like earthy soil in my hand with other assorted colors sprouting. I dumped it all in my mouth, and the sweet powder dissolved.

We exited the ashram and my father smiled at me. I hugged them both, yet they had some repulsion against each other, like two magnetic poles. I noticed it instantly, but I didn’t understand what caused this tension.

Vexed – pandora’s box

I climbed up the staircase; drops of sweat poured down my body and made my hair oily. I removed my socks and speckles of grass rained down on the entrance mat. I realized a deafening noise was coming from the inside. The voice was stentorian, like the roar of a lion. I looked down at the marbled tiles aligned next to each other like a tessellation. I stepped inside, and the voice was even louder. In the kitchen, there were the sounds of a pressure cooker that emitted a blaze of steam and gas. In the other room was the sound of my mother, whose voice quickly changed from loud to timid. She began to pule and cry querulously. I quietly put my heavy bag in the room and decided not to make her aware of my arrival. I sat by the curb of my bed and silently listened to the conversation. They began to spit out insults in Hindi and the very blunt manner made me cover my ears. The walls became thin like paper, almost turning into the translucent matter. I pulled my kambal,14 over my head. I couldn’t bear to hear my mother sob and weep over the phone. Instantly I began to connect the pieces and realized who she was talking to.

I spent the entire day sitting on the bed. The call had stopped, and she had begun to snivel. I imagined her facial expression and the tone of his voice. “What could have made her cry so much?” I thought in my head as I concentrated on a single point on my cupboard. The scenarios flooded my brain. I began to become more and more anxious about finding out the mere truth. The teary-eyed face emerged from the aperture in the wall. She was perplexed and baffled by my sudden appearance and sat beside me.

“It will all be okay.” The vague statement did not assure me that she was doing fine. Instead, I began to get even more worried. As Maa left my room, I pulled out my drawer and began to nibble on a childhood snack. The packet of sweets besides my belongings would usually be saved after dinner. But at that moment I needed something to relieve the inexpressible pain. I put the hard candy, shaped like a mango in my mouth. The explosion of flavour tingled my mouth with a stiff numbness. The sour hard candy shifted its position from left to right in my mouth, coating it with the orange dye. I leaned on the headboard of the bed and didn’t do anything for the next few minutes.

Paa opened the door. I heard the creak and began to peek from the edge to see his face with a rictus. It emitted a smoldering look that was bold and quite masculine. He put his belongings by the sofa in the hall and called out my name. A sudden sense of anxiety penetrated my skull. I came out, put my hands behind my hips, and sat down on the greyish-white sofa. The conversation started normally and then was weighed down by emotions. I had not anticipated this moment, and I had begun to link the fact that money was a problem at home. Yet this was not even close to my prediction. Instead, I had learned of the disunion of the two pillars in my life. My world collapsed into a black void, and I sat there still in a vegetative manner for the next few minutes. The Pandora’s box had been opened, and I became enraged at this classified information which was unraveled.

The second petal beside the pinker one, began to hold on to the stem with a thread. Almost beginning to detach.

The contrasting white chair

It was PTM (Parent-Teacher Meeting) day. I walked by the person who made me ripe for the harvest. We both stepped inside the room where Mr. Girinath, my math teacher, welcomed us. He wore a checkered T-shirt and had a Vandyke beard with sleek metallic glasses. The three seats were next to each other. I wasn’t nervous about meeting my teachers, but I was bothered by one thing. It lingered in the back of my mind. My sore eyes were filled with gunk. While walking to the meeting, I was tired and pretended to be elated. The teacher began to lecture me about my poor attention span and my slipping grades in class. It didn’t matter to me. At that point, I just looked at the corresponding chair. The virgin white appalled me with its emptiness. I began to stare at it. My skin flaked like the scales of a viper. Soon my focus was disrupted by a concerned look on my mother’s face. She was quite upset with my academic performance. I was then continually lectured about my grades. I didn’t seem to care. I stepped out of the room. My attention was diverted to the other children. Their faces were lit up with ecstatic expressions. I noticed that both their pillars helped in upholding the integrity of their life. That one other pillar that was supposed to be upholding me had vanished. My mother’s sari15 revealed my face, and its fabric emitted a powerful aura. I was beholden to her and grateful because she raised me even when everything seemed to collapse. I hugged her tightly, grasping her back as a tear rolled down my cheeks.

            “I love you Maa,16” I murmured softly.

The mahogany tree stood there alone. The singular petal tarried in like an anchor.

By Aniket Dewangen, grade 10, India. He adds: “My roots have stemmed from the streets of Haryana, and I speak Hindi at home despite being born in the United states. Yet apart from this, I actively enjoy photography and art. I like capturing numerous moments, people and cultures through my Camera, and explore my artistic capabilities with the help of a brush and canvas. A large part of my childhood was seemingly rough and I went through many hardships, but my hobbies and passions made up and brought me relaxation even in distress. This all taught me one thing to stay stronger and push through anything that was to come my way.”

Foot Notes:

1 Dhoti: A white cloth garment with a border, worn in an Indian traditional manner

2 Ashram: A hermitage

3 Pandit: A Hindu scholar

4 pooja: A Hindu ritual of worshipping god

5 Dandi march: Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Salt March—nonviolent civil disobedience in 1930 during the British Colonial Indian rule

6 Rabri and Malpua: Traditional Indian sweet dish made with milk, sugar and condiments

7 Aarthi: A ritual ceremony of waving a lighted lamp during prayers

8 Badam : Almond

9 Chappan Bhog: Offering of 56 food items to Lord Krishna on his birthday (Janmashtami)

10 Janmashtami: Lord Krishna’s birthday festival, usually in August or September

11 Beta: Endearing term for son in the Hindi language

12 Tilak: A mark worn by Hindus on their forehead, especially during festivals

13 prasad: Food that is offered to gods

14 Kambal: A blanket or comforter

15 Sari: A traditional garment worn by women in India; it’s a long, colorful cloth decorated with various designs.

16. Maa: Mother.


Remembering Kwanzza

Remembering Kwanzza

I announced,  “Happy Kwanzza!”

Out of a genuine gesture

Of brotherhood

Without doubting whether I should

To a fellow stranger

Who was not in my brown


He was filled with wonder when

The words spilled out of my mouth

And asked, “Are you talking to me?”

Of course I am, I replied

It IS about unity and building


“Oh!” he said with a startled look

Passing along the surprise in his

Eyes to the multi-heritage child

Whose hand he held

“Happy Kwanzza!” she erupted

Breaking the quiet stillness in 

The check-out line

Barely old enough to speak or


—maggie d., African American poet, Washington.

The Sweetest Treat

The Sweetest Treat

By Jacob Lockett, emerging author, Pennsylvania.

Roshni finished making her costume at five o’clock on Halloween night. Happy with her work, she ran downstairs.

“What do you think, Mama?” she asked. “I’m a khargosh.”

Mama turned from the stove, where she was cooking. “Wow!” she said. “You’re such a cute little bunny!”

Roshni giggled. “A cute little bunny that can jump really high!” she said, hopping around the room on spring shoes she had made herself.

Mama handed Roshni a pumpkin-shaped bucket. “Ready to trick-or-treat at school tonight?”

“Yep,” Roshni said. “I love getting candy!”

“Remember, you have time to go trick-or-treating at just one or two houses before going to school,” Mama said. “And I want you back by dinner.”

Roshni nodded excitedly.

Mama hugged her. “Get hopping. Halloween comes only once a year!”

With a spring in her step, Roshni bounced out the door and into the cool night air, her large bunny ears flopping this way and that. Kids ran around the street, dressed in fun costumes.

As Roshni hopped to school, she looked around her neighborhood, deciding which house to go trick-or-treating. A house with a ramp and a brightly lit pumpkin by the door caught her eyes. She remembered Mama telling her that a new family had moved in recently.

Curious to see what her new neighbors were like, she went over to the house and rang the bell.

The door opened.

“Trick or treat!” Roshni shouted.

A boy in a wheelchair appeared, a candy bowl sitting in his lap.

Roshni recognized him. He was DeAndre Lewis, the new kid at her school. He was in a different grade than Roshni, but she sometimes saw him in the hallway. He always seemed… lonely.

She waved. “Do you remember me from school? I’m Roshni.”

“Sure. I do remember,” DeAndre said, smiling. He rummaged around in the bowl, giving Roshni a Nougat Rocket Bar. “Super costume!”

Roshni blushed. “Thanks! I’m a khargosh—that’s the Hindi word for bunny.”

“That’s really cool,” he said.

“So, are you trick-or-treating?” Roshni asked.

DeAndre shook his head sadly. “My mom’s too sick with a cold to take me out tonight.”

Roshni gasped. She couldn’t imagine not going trick-or-treating. She looked at DeAndre’s sad face, and Mama’s words came back to her: Halloween comes only once a year…

“I can take you trick-or-treating,” she offered.

DeAndre’s eyes shone with hope. “Really? That would be wonderful! I’ll go ask Mom.”

DeAndre returned to the door with Mrs. Lewis. “You must be Roshni,” she said, sniffling. “Your mother told me so much about you at the store last week. DeAndre said you want to take him trick-or-treating with you.”

Roshni explained about their school’s Trick-or-Treat Fair and how there would be lots of treats, games, and contests for DeAndre to enjoy.

“Sounds like a good time!” Mrs. Lewis said. She turned to DeAndre. “Get your costume, honey. You can go have some Halloween fun with Roshni tonight.”

DeAndre’s face lit up just like the jack-o’-lantern that sat outside his door. He turned around and disappeared. He soon came outside wearing a superhero’s mask and a long cape.

“DeAndre, I want you back by seven,” Mrs. Lewis said. “Now, go have fun.”

The kharagosh and the superhero went off into the moonlit night. In no time at all, they arrived outside the school, which was covered with Halloween decorations. After DeAndre wheeled himself up the long entrance ramp, he and Roshni entered the cafeteria to the sound of spooky music and laughter.

They went around to different booths, collecting delicious treats from their teachers.

As Mrs. Garcia handed the kids each a pack of Licorice Lassos, DeAndre asked Roshni, “What are your favorite sweets?”

“I have so many!” she replied. “But I think my favorite would have to be galub jamuns. I make them with Mama for special occasions. They’re kinda like spongy—”

“Donut holes!” DeAndre finished.

“How did you know?” Roshni asked, surprised.

“I had one during Multicultural Day at my old school,” DeAndre explained. “It was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I make them with my mom now, too!”

They laughed, high-fiving.

After they were done trick-or-treating, Roshni entered the costume contest. After Roshni and the other contestants had displayed their outfits for the judges, Principal Jackson cleared his throat near the microphone. “And, the first prize goes to Roshni Kaur with her homemade bunny costume! Come on up!”

“Way to go!” DeAndre cheered loudly from the audience as Roshni hopped on stage to receive her blue ribbon.

DeAndre pointed at the haunted house in the corner of the cafeteria. “Let’s go in there.”

Roshni shivered. “I don’t know…”

“Have no fear!” DeAndre shouted, striking a pose. “I’ll protect you!”

“Ok,” Roshni said. “As long as you protect me, I won’t get scared.”

They went into the haunted house. Kids dressed as monsters jumped out from the shadows to try to frighten them. But every time they did, DeAndre would boom, “Back, you villains!” in his superhero voice. Roshni couldn’t stop smiling. Because of DeAndre, she didn’t get scared, not even once.

After they bobbed for apples, they sat at the snack table and drank pumpkin punch and talked about their favorite scary movies. All of Roshni’s favorites were DeAndre’s favorites, too!

Soon, Roshni checked her watch. She felt her heart drop. “It’s almost seven,” she said glumly. “Time for us to go home.”

“Aw,” DeAndre moaned, shaking his head sadly. “Do we have to?”

DeAndre guided his wheelchair down the school’s ramp and onto the sidewalk. He looked up at Roshni. “Thanks for taking me. I had a blast!”

“Sure,” she replied, swinging her bucket of candy as she hopped. “Halloween comes only once a year!”

“Do you… want to trade candy tomorrow?” he asked.

“Yes, we can do it at my house,” Roshni replied. “You can help me make gulab jamuns when we’re done at my home. Mama would love it.”

DeAndre giggled. “Great. But… don’t you only make gulab jamuns for special occasions?”

Roshni blushed. “I do,” she replied. “But you’re the special occasion.”

Now DeAndre was blushing, too!

On that Halloween night, Roshni had collected many sweet treats. But the sweetest one she had received was a new friend, DeAndre.

By Jacob Lockett, emerging author, Pennsylvania.