Ashburn writer wins poetry contest with her moving words

Many Americans were inspired by Amanda Gorman, the 23-year-old poet who read one of her works at January’s inauguration of President Joe Biden. Now, Ashburn has a budding poet as well, one who has drawn comparisons to Gorman with her latest work, “Colors.”

15-year-old Zahria Ford is a 10th-grader at Rock Ridge High School. She recently was the Northern Virginia winner in the Strong Men & Women in Virginia History writing contest — one of only four students so honored in the state. The contest was sponsored by Dominion Energy and the Library of Virginia. 

Ford attended middle school in a different county, and she wrote about her experience as an African-American student in a predominantly white school — the unkind comments, the being ignored.

“My experience was of being alienated in middle school because I looked different from everybody else,” Zahria said. “I’m certain it didn’t just happen to me. It happens to people everywhere. The issue is universal.”

“I also want people who read my poem to know that it’s OK for them to be themselves,” she added. “At the end of the day, changing yourselves to fit in with the norm is totally not worth it.”


By Zahria Ford

Blue sky, white clouds,

green grass, pink shoes.

Brown feet on concrete,

yellow sun brings heat


Tag or hide n’ seek?

So many games to choose!

How about soccer?

I sure hope we don’t lose.


Run, kick, sweat and play,

soggy shirts and dirty knees.

Time to go home already?

Ten more minutes, please!


Tucked in and a kiss goodnight,

warm milk puts me at ease.

When I grow up, I’ll play forever,

and nobody can stop me!


I grew up.


With age comes wisdom,

with wisdom comes power,

with power comes responsibility,

a sad reality visited me.


Outdoors turn to cold floors,

smart boards and numbered doors.

Fun and play turn to dreary hallways,

child prodigies and bums array.


Welcome to my 8th grade.


Same bullies, new words,

darkened is my rainbow.

Underground lies my halo,

REST IN PEACE says the tombstone.


I’m the blackest in my class,

the Jim Crow amongst doves.

Does my white paint my black,

or does my black paint my white?

Maybe I should change to make things right.


Straight hair, skinny bones,

blue eyes, and new clothes.

I do my best to fit in, but,

sometimes I forget my skin tone.


“Class, today we’re learning about slavery.”

I feel curious eyes turn to me.

Up and down they look, every nook and cranny.

Thinking about where I would be in that history.


Questions fall like raindrops in a hurricane.


Are those extensions?

Can I say the n-word?

Your braids make you look like an alien,

like the one from The Predator!


Your hair looks so soft… can I touch it?

Wow! It feels like a cloud!

If I had hair like yours, I would be proud.


Shot dead everyday,

a zombie trying to crawl out its grave.

Every bullet takes a bit of black with it.

Lacking knowledge in my culture, it’s a deficit.


Dark is bad. Lighten up!

You’re too young to be thinking about this stuff.


Think about,

lipstick and makeup,

iPhone and toys,

manicures, pedicures,

and joy!


Well… what about

the darkness and light?

Death and life?

Dread and love?



Police on the streets

could kill my family and me

and I can’t remember my skin color.


With age comes wisdom,

with wisdom comes power,

with power comes responsibility,

a new reality visited me.


Reflection, connection, meditation.

Writing is my therapy,

my thoughts begin to speak.

I hear and understand

how depressed I used to be.


Red, purple, green, blue,

yellow, cyan and orange.

Once a rainy day with dismay

is engulfed in a color explosion!


Living in different worlds

makes me wiser now.

With this new power,

I hereby vow:


To remember who I am,

don’t worry what others think.

black isn’t bad, the opposite, really.

It’s bold, beautiful, and unique.


Blue sky, white clouds,

color is back in stock.

Brown feet taking steps

to meet a dream down the sidewalk.