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This past April, and for the fourth year since its inception, AHCC served as host to the Hartford Creative Composition Contest. Originated in 2015 by Tiana Hercules, an Asylum Hill resident, lawyer, mother of three and member of SUSO (Step Up, Step Out to end the culture of violence), the contest offers Hartford children (grades 4-12) and those from surrounding towns attending Hartford schools, the opportunity to share their opinions on issues that affect them. Co-sponsored by SUSO, Mothers United Against Violence, Beckett Law and The Mark Twain House & Museum, this year’s contestants submitted essays, poems, and visual art based on the theme “Hartford Through Our Eyes.”

With over 100 people in attendance, contestants, their families, and teachers came together to celebrate the students and their winning entries. Hartford’s first poet laureate and associate professor at Three Rivers Community College, Frederick Douglass Knowles II, attended the event and offered words of encouragement and praise for the young artists’ talents. 

Grand prize winner Kelvin Lozano’s “Neighborhood Reflection” was met with a standing ovation and a reminder of the reality of poverty and violence facing far too many of the city’s children and the work yet to be done by the faith, community, and volunteer sectors to create a community where our young people can thrive.

Neighborhood Reflection


My Hartford Neighborhood ...
is submerged with tribulations.
Struggling to endure
plus, irrelevant expectations.
Our meaning is obscure
without any relations.
Feels like we are worth nothing,
heading to no destination.

My Hartford Neighborhood ...
is teased with temptations.
Contemplating whether we should hustle,
or keep patiences.
Dreams are held by a string
while reality replaces.
A vacant seat in our hearts
fills with desperation.

My Hartford Neighborhood ...
is cold in the summer,|
and warm in the winter.
Springs are forgotten,
and Fall barely lingers.
Loving is difficult,
and hating is easy.
We are all misguided,
but no one believes me.

My Hartford Neighborhood ...
is filled with corruption.
We fall through the gaps
of the government’s traps.
We are stricken with addiction,
and threats of evictions.
Struggling to resist
our own affliction.

My Hartford Neighborhood ...
isn’t salvation.
Bullets fly and kids die,
it’s so outrageous.
People’s innocence is taken
without hesitation.
Purity doesn’t exist anymore
in our manifestation.

My Hartford Neighborhood ...
is so hard to process.

It’s like we are always being tested,
but we can’t finish the projects.
Any man or woman
can be treated like objects.
The truth is in plain sight,
but is hard to accept.
It’s like we are in a movie
with special effects.

My Hartford Neighborhood ...

is a constant reminder
of being impoverished.
Knowledge is easy to obtain,
but college is hard to accomplish.
Money is the reason
why dreaming is so impossible.
Even with all the brain power,
money will always be an obstacle.
So when we have drop-outs,
and drug dealers,
money is the one responsible.

We die trying ...
trying to succeed.
We live fighting ...
fighting to believe.
We hope one day ...
we’ll be relieved.
We strive harder ...
to reach equality.