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San Diego Student Poet Honored By White House Performs

From left, Gopal Raman takes a selfie with Maya Eashwaran, Stella Binion, Joey Reisberg, and Maya Salameh on the grounds of the White House following a poetry reading with the First Lady Michelle Obama on Sept. 8, 2016 in Washington.
Alliance for Young Artists & Writers
From left, Gopal Raman takes a selfie with Maya Eashwaran, Stella Binion, Joey Reisberg, and Maya Salameh on the grounds of the White House following a poetry reading with the First Lady Michelle Obama on Sept. 8, 2016 in Washington.

San Diego Student Poet Honored By White House Performs
San Diego Student Poet Honored By White House Performs GUEST: Maya Salameh, 2016 National Student Poet

A San Diego teenager got the ear of the nation last week, reading her poetry on her Arab-American identity at a White House ceremony.

Maya Salameh, 16, is one of five National Student Poets announced this year. They are selected from different geographic regions; Salameh represents the Western U.S. She is a junior at the San Diego High School of International Studies.

"i speak to you / for if you love god / you would not lie / in his name / you would not kill / in his name / you would not explode / in his name," she said, reading from "sacrilege incorporated."

Salameh said she was inspired by domestic terrorist attacks in recent years and wanted to express how terrorism should not be equated with having an Arab background. Her parents are Lebanese American.

"There are a lot of terrorist attacks on the news and a lot of stereotypes perpetuated in the media and by certain people," she said. "My writing serves as my way of refuting all of these stereotypes and assumptions, about not just being Arab, but also a young girl or any other kind of facet of identity that you identify with. You shouldn’t be told how to live or how to go about your life with certain identifiers."

She will spend the next year working on a community service project encouraging others to write.

"Creative expression is such an important outlet," Salameh said. "It diverts energy from violence and hate speech to a more conducive form of expression."

Salameh joined KPBS Midday Edition Thursday with a reading from another of her winning poems, "if trees could walk."

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