Malachi Jones may only be seventeen years old, but the teenager joined an exclusive club of legendary writers after winning the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards after writing a piece on race and identity.
Jones, who is senior at Charleston County School of the Arts, Jones went up against a record-breaking 346,000 entrants this year to become one of 16 high school seniors chosen by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers to receive the award program’s highest honor, the Gold Medal Portfolio per Deanna Pan. Vicky Brown of Greenville is the only other student from South Carolina to receive the prestigious award.
Jones’ award includes a $10,000 scholarship and a trip to Carnegie Hall this summer for the ceremony. Legendary writers such as Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King were all childhood Scholastic Art & Writing Award winners before embarking on their illustrious literary careers.
Jones’ piece revolves around his experience as a black teenager struggling with and finally coming to terms with his identity. A poem titled “Pantoum for my Mother,” Jones writes, “Stripped of my blackness, / uprooted by judgement. / I was never dark enough for you / or for the ones who called me whitewashed.”
Jones says he’s finally come to terms with who he really is and isn’t insecure about it anymore and also credited his creative writing teachers and classmates for inspiring him everyday.
“I’m unapologetically who I am and black. I’m happy about it. I love it,” Jones said.
School of the Arts assistant principal Robert Grant said:
“Knowing him since middle school and seeing him grow up in the manner in which he’s grown up, I think he spoke very passionately about a topic in U.S. history that we don’t spend a lot of attention (on),” “Black males and assimilation into the realm of academia, it’s challenging at times.”
Jones lives rural Hollywood, South Carolina with his brothers and grandparents but spent his early childhood in Queens, New York, where his mother, an anesthesiology student, still lives. However, he will move closer to his mother this fall when he heads to Columbia University. Jones wants to study creative writing, English or history.