Creative Writing Awards 2023 Winner: “Just a Little Hope,” by Anita Onuoha

The 20th Annual Creative Writing Awards (CWA) were held at the New Haven Lawn Club on April 20, a celebration of the liberal arts deeply embedded in the science and clinical practice of the Yale School of Nursing (YSN) community. After a keynote speech by Tanzanian businessman, author, and philanthropist Michael Shirima, each of the three student winners read their piece aloud.

Anita Onuoha reading her poem "Just a Little Hope"Just a Little Hope

Hey Black Woman, you stand at an intersection
Hey Black Woman, your life is a dangerous one
Hey Black Woman, you are three times more likely to die when you when are giving birth
This is a silent epidemic
It comes in the night to steal, kill, and destroy lives
At a time where there is supposed to be the start of new life, it is the end of another
Oh, the chocolate tears of the widowers and the children with a mother
Oh, the deep-rooted scars on the uterus of Anachara, Lucy, and Betsey
Oh, this tragedy is as old as time in America
Her body was a tool to be used
To be practiced
To be abused
Her Womb is just a vessel that bears slaves
And slaves
And slaves
But that was in the past
She is no longer a slave, but she lives under Jim Crow
She is no longer a bed wench, but she is no longer a Midwife
She is now Free, but with more invisible chains
Oh, the lies that were taken for truths, that she can not feel pain because she is a Black
Oh, the tall tales that were spun, that her hysteria is clouding her judgment because she is a
Oh, the implicit bias that she faces when she cries for help because she is a Black woman
As my Grandmother used to say, “When a Woman has a baby, that’s the closest she’s ever
going to get to death.”
It is time to give birth to this child
The prayer of an expectant mother is heard
“Oh God, let it be a safe delivery. Let me and my husband bring this baby home. Amen.”
And God hears her prayer
The dangerous hospital becomes a safe haven
When she complains of change in vision, She is Heard
When her labs come back, and her platelets levels are low, She is Seen
When she describes a pain radiating from the upper right part of her belly, She is believed
She becomes a priority, and Magnesium is prescribed to address her symptoms
She does not become that 43% that die in America
The land where Black children are born Free from mothers
But what about the times she does not get to go home with her new baby and her husband
Where a family is left in the aftershock of a death
When everything has changed, no, not the Taylor Swift song
No, when everything has changed
What do we do in that aftermath?
Do they blame the incompetent doctors?
Do we write a strong email to the hospital CEO?
What do we do in this aftermath?
What do I do in this aftermath?
I am a Black woman
I live in America
I will be pregnant in the future
First, I cry for those that have been lost to this silent killer
I cry for Amber, Shaisada, Yolanda, Kira, Cassaurnda, and countless others whose names I do
not know
And when the tears dry, I equip myself with the knowledge of how to save these mothers
How to save myself
I lose myself in the literature of preventive medicine, the benefits of having a doula, and how to
properly advocate for myself in a healthcare system
I do the work because no one else will
I stay Woke so that I can stay alive
I Waken a system that has stayed silent while Sisters have died on operating tables and in
hospitals beds
Their only sin was being Black women giving birth
I build upon the framework of the past
I change policies that allow birthing centers to be available to the underserved
I reveal the implicit biases that poison our doctors, midwives and nurses
These are a lot of “I”
And I know I am only one
But when I look up from where I am located
I see others doing the work and fighting the good fight
And I march forward until every mother goes home with their child
Oh sweet victory
You might be wondering why I haven’t talked more about progress here
It’s because you have to earn it

We aren’t there yet   

Read More CWA 2023 Winners 

Read the award-winning entries of the other 2023 honorees:  the poem “Sandstone,” by Michelle D. ’24 MSN and the short story “EDD:12/25” by Kailu Shannon-Frolich ’25 MSN

For a complete list of previous CWA winners, please visit Past Creative Writing Awards.