Congratulations to All 2020 Ocean Awareness Contest Winners and ParticipantsNovember 17, 2020
Message from Founder and President Linda Cabot
What a year. Perhaps nothing will ever compare to all the turmoil and uncertainty of 2020.
With the onset and spread of COVID-19 throughout the world, people’s lives changed dramatically and tragically. The Black Lives Matter movement ignited worldwide demands for justice and a reckoning with centuries-old systemic racism in the U.S.
With a world that has been shaken, everything lands a bit differently—cracks are discovered, revealing new pathways forward. The sense that young people want to explore new ways to change our world and demand progress was also reflected in student responses for our 2020 Ocean Awareness Contest.
We received more entries than ever before, totaling over 5,300 submissions. Students are forcefully speaking up, sharing their creative voices, and demanding to be a part of the conversation. No longer on the sidelines or waiting for the “grown-ups” to do the right thing, teens from all over the world are joining youth movements fighting for both climate revolution and equity. Inspired by the likes of Greta Thunberg, Parkland student activists, and the Sunrise Movement, teens are organizing coalitions, platforms, and communities to activate others. Youth-led strikes, protests, and occupations of lawmakers’ offices are making real impacts around the globe.
Protest, a powerful change agent, emerged as a significant theme this year in our student entries. We see this represented in the students’ artworks and films—with imagery of people holding signs, fists in the air, and marching depicted with all shades of color and mark-making. We read it in their stories and heard it in their music, with powerful lyrics of dissent and challenge. Young people are not only demonstrating; they are also voting in record numbers and engaging in the political process.
In unison we will MAKE ourselves heard.
In every country they will hear our words.
We will march on the capitols and town halls,
A constant, forceful wave of youth,
propelled by the need to speak the truth
And TAKE BACK our future.
Protest and objection were also woven throughout the Poetry category, where students talk about being “online warriors” and how a “poem is a war.” In his “Preamble for a New Generation,” Kevin Kong (Jupiter, FL) wrote, “we look straight into the eyes of our world leaders, unflinching / and on the streets we scream.” Benjamin Tchang (Yardley, PA) writes, “In the streets, / I join the gentle stomp of centuries / Recalling the spirit of the tides, / rioting gracefully on the shore”; and Katherine Vandermel (Closter, NJ): “We protest / for the planet, protest once, / then twice. We dig / our feet into the silt, quiet rage / rising in our throats.” They describe their poems as wars or battle cries and ask: “Do you hear the cries of this unending battle?”
…you sang ours in the storm. and we rise as a single tide fists raised
not in fight but in fervency…
this is but a new moon, a cycle of rebirth. we will be the
fortress, the victory, the echo that ripples. listen to the hymn of the breeze –
we are your children, we say. we remember.
Excerpt from “battle cry” by Jeffrey Xu (Livingston, NJ)
Finally, Nuan Ning Teioh (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia) speaks directly to her generation: “I believe in you, and in your winged eyeliner, and in you.”
This year’s theme centered hope in transforming the climate crisis. I imagined that students would talk about and create submissions around green energy, such as solar and wind power, and many did so beautifully. Others found hope in people commanding and making change. It was impossible not to notice the strong tone of challenge across all our categories. This power, passion, and resolve coming from our young leaders gives me a profound sense of hope like nothing else has. In a year filled with tragedy and unrelenting bad news, I am forever grateful to have witnessed students’ creative and fervent voice for change, and for giving us all hope for a better future.
Featured Artwork (above): “The Dying Truth” by Renee Isabelle Bundoc (Antipolo City, Philippines)