Planting seeds

Aya: An Anthology of Racial Justice, Healing and the Black Experience


*Editor’s note: Last month, the headline for Dr. Tyner’s column incorrectly ran with the text from October. Our apologies for the error.
Your voice can make a difference. This is the message of hope that Planting People Growing Justice™ Leadership Institute (PPGJLI) shares with our youth leaders. Our youth have faced tumultuous times with the onset of the dual pandemic of COVID-19 and racial injustice. Through our writing and art workshops, we provide youth with a safe place to share about their trauma and pain while finding peace and healing.
Our goal at PPGJLI is to inspire our youth to lead change by lifting their voices for justice. Writing is a vehicle for achieving this goal. To ignite this passion in our youth to write for justice, we are launching a new youth writing contest called “Aya: An Anthology of Racial Justice, Healing and the Black Experience.”
The word Aya is a West African Adinkra symbol represented by a stylized fern. In the Akan language Twi, it means fern and is representative of endurance, resourcefulness, and defiance against oppression. The concept is much like the hardy fern plant that perseveres, grows, and thrives in the most unlikely of places.
The PPGJLI competition is open to St. Paul residents of African American heritage that are ages 13 to 18. The Aya-themed contest seeks poems, prose, fiction, and creative nonfiction of up to 1,000 words. Submissions must be original pieces that relate to the themes of “Racial Justice and the Black Experience” or “Racial Healing and the Black Experience.”
The young writers’ anthology is a companion project to the PPGJLI’s Sankofa Teach-In series and art exhibition. The PPGJLI is utilizing art in various ways to promote change in society and inspire young artists to be the leaders of tomorrow who will tap into the transformative power of Afro-futurism by reimagining and creating our future.
This youth writing competition is made possible through a grant from the Saint Paul STAR Program. Youth authors will be selected by a panel of community judges. Winning entries will be published in the anthology, receive a $50 honorarium and a copy of the published book. Entries must be received before midnight on Dec. 31, 2021. Upon publication, the selected authors will participate in public readings and other community-building activities. Entries can be submitted online (
“Aya: An Anthology of Racial Justice, Healing and the Black Experience” is a unique opportunity for young, aspiring writers, authors, and poets to share their experiences, perspective, and potential solutions. For many, it’s a way to serve as the social architects who are committed to building a more just and inclusive society.
Through her organization, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, Dr. Artika Tyner seeks to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach.


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