Srivani Agnihotram discusses “America”

Who gets to define what “America” means? Politicians get a lot of air time. We wanted to hear what “the people” think. So in Fall 2021, we launched a contest asking UConn students to tell us what “America” means to them. We received a diverse array of responses in the form of short essays, creative writing, poetry, photography, and other forms of original artwork, from students across UConn’s schools and campuses. Of these, eight winners rose to the top based on their originality, creativity, and quality.

View the video below to hear Honorable Mention winner Srivani Agnihotram read her poem “America,” and discuss her inspiration for this work.  

by Srivani Agnihotram
CLAS, Physiology and Neurobiology
Class of 2023

The Land of the Free,
The Home of the Brave,
The Melting Pot of diversity,
Where there’s Liberty and Justice for All. 

Opportunities at your doorstep,
Anyone can thrive,
You just have to try…HARDER,
Why are you so stressed? 

It’s an achievable goal.
If you’re not at the top,
Then you’re lazy as hell.
Is this what “your people” taught you to be?
Go back to your country – you’re not welcome here. 

Access to education,
Kids hopping on school buses while parents peep through windows.
The white mother says “go have some fun!”
The black mother says “if you see a gun, run.” 

Equality and peace at our foundation,
Are these really what govern our country?
White privilege muffles the cries of minorities.
What’s the point of a protest if you can’t HEAR me? 

Monopoly, monopoly, monopoly.
Oh, you found something good? Let me do you a favor.
I’ll take
these off your hands,
And you can just buy from me, okay? 

“If you go out like that, you’re asking for it.”
“Honestly, it’s your fault for being unconscious.”
“Why couldn’t you say no? It’s not that hard.”
Another death. Suicide. Rape. Murder.

When does this end?
I thought I could thrive here, but I’M DYING
Of laughter
Because you couldn’t uphold what my ancestors thought you were all along.
You’re a con, a fake, I can’t trust you at all.
I depended on you for my family’s success,
But you just give me a downfall.
I’m too far down to pick myself up. You’ve crushed me past my limits.
I’ve had it. I’m done.
But I can’t let go.
You’re toxic, I’m toxic. I have what I need here.
You need me for diversity – I need you for opportunity.
Even though you’ve made me cry and bleed,
I come back to this land grateful for what I’ve seen
And explored.
You’ve given me strength to fight for my rights.
To embrace who I am, and show the world my might.
America, instead of burning me down to blacken,
Try lifting me up and see what happens.