The Diatribe’s Michaelyn

Sunflowers surround the words, "This is Michaelyn Mankel"
Michaelyn stands under a spotlight with a determined look. Reflected beside her is young Michaelyn, hunched and fearfully looking up. Her parents argue, fingers pointed, while young Michaelyn reaches for them.
Growing up I encountered a lot of trauma. I was brought up in the decades where my parent’s hatred of one another superseded everything, my brother and I included. At age 6 I was sexually abused by friends of our family. The same year, my mother filed for divorce and my grandma was diagnosed with dementia. In the period that followed, violence, death and addiction would become a familiar feature in the places I called home. 
Michaelyn looks away, remembering her past. Flash to middleschool Michaelyn, she sits on steps leading up to her school. She sits alone while kids talk and play nearby. Next she stands by herself, watching cows roam across the road. Lastly, she rests her head on a table in the back of the library. There are kids around getting books and talking, she sits alone once more.
I couldn’t trust any of my peers or instructors enough to talk about what was going on at home, so I spent a lot of years in silence. Silence to me looks like all the places I hid to be left alone in middle school when I was being bullied. When it was warm I would sit on the concrete in front of the gymnasium doors. I would face free range cattle roaming next to small suburban homes on the side of the building opposite from the sports fields and basketball courts where we were supposed to go after eating lunch. When it was cold I sat at a table in the back of the library.
Highschool Michaelyn now is learning to speak and be heard, she stands ready to defend her case at a pedestal. She seems confident, and excited to finally be speaking her mind. We see a flash of her facing away with her backpack, she is now in college and then at a rally. Sunflowers surround Michaelyn now looking overjoyed, she faces her partner Jocelyn.

My junior year of high school I moved to Derby, Kansas. I fell in love with policy debate and qualified to represent our district at nationals two years in a row. The day I graduated, I felt like an entirely different person. I soon realized it was more than just public speaking. In Derby, my debate coach, my teammates, and my numerous mentors had all offered me the support and encouragement I needed to learn to love myself. 

In 2014, I moved back to Grand Rapids where I fell in love again. Jocelyn and I had been friends when we attended City High, but it wasn’t until years later, at a rally following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, that we reconnected. We’ve been living together 3 years now. Someday we hope to get married; buy a house; raise and foster children as loving parents and partners. But until then, I don’t need a legal contract to prove we are family. Jocelyn is everything I know about home. 

In a journal the words 'resistance, reclamation, liberation' are scribbled on the page. Michaelyn looks off to the right, where she floats among constellations outlined with the words 'reclamation, patriarchy, ableism, resistance'. Then she sits at a table in the back of a library, but she is surrounded by children who are excitedly showing her writings that they've done. She looks happy, and content that she has made her way to this point.
I found spoken word in 2016. Poetry has given me the ability to speak truth to power while sharing my own story. I write to bring the world as I see it into existence. I use my voice to reflect on our shared history and collective struggles of humanity, and to demand justice and movement towards a better future. These values have only become clearer since I began working with students. As a teaching artist, I’ve seen first hand what the next generation has to offer. Helping youth learn to think and speak for themselves, and giving them the tools to share their voices with the world is what Diatribe programming is all about. And as a poet, I’m confident being a part of their work is more important than any legacy I could write for myself.
Art by Hailey Mramor

instagram.com/haileyraedraws

Growing up I encountered a lot of trauma.
I was brought up in the decades where my parent’s hatred of one another superseded everything, my brother and I included. At age 6 I was sexually abused by friends of our family. The same year, my mother filed for divorce and my grandma was diagnosed with dementia. In the period that followed, violence, death and addiction would become a familiar feature in the places I called home. 
I couldn’t trust any of my peers or instructors enough to talk about what was going on at home, so I spent a lot of years in silence.
Silence to me looks like all the places I hid to be left alone in middle school when I was being bullied. When it was warm I would sit on the concrete in front of the gymnasium doors.
I would face free range cattle roaming next to small suburban homes on the side of the building opposite from the sports fields and basketball courts where we were supposed to go after eating lunch.
When it was cold I sat at a table in the back of the library.

My junior year of high school I moved to Derby, Kansas. I fell in love with policy debate and qualified to represent our district at nationals two years in a row. The day I graduated, I felt like an entirely different person.

I soon realized it was more than just public speaking. In Derby, my debate coach, my teammates, and my numerous mentors had all offered me the support and encouragement I needed to learn to love myself. 

In 2014, I moved back to Grand Rapids where I fell in love again.

Jocelyn and I had been friends when we attended City High, but it wasn’t until years later, at a rally following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, that we reconnected.

We’ve been living together 3 years now. Someday we hope to get married; buy a house; raise and foster children as loving parents and partners. But until then, I don’t need a legal contract to prove we are family. Jocelyn is everything I know about home. 

I found spoken word in 2016. Poetry has given me the ability to speak truth to power while sharing my own story. I write to bring the world as I see it into existence.
I use my voice to reflect on our shared history and collective struggles of humanity, and to demand justice and movement towards a better future. These values have only become clearer since I began working with students. As a teaching artist, I’ve seen first hand what the next generation has to offer.

As a teaching artist, I’ve seen first hand what the next generation has to offer. Helping youth learn to think and speak for themselves, and giving them the tools to share their voices with the world is what Diatribe programming is all about.

And as a poet, I’m confident being a part of their work is more important than any legacy I could write for myself. 

Art by Hailey Mramor

instagram.com/haileyraedraws

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