Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Eyes on the Prize: Mackie Mallison & Osarugue Otebele

Brittany Sullivan  //  May 25, 2018

Eyes on the Prize: Mackie Mallison & Osarugue Otebele

This is the final installation of our Eyes on the Prize series! Every year, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in grades 7–12, recognizes 16 high school seniors who receive the program’s highest national honor, the Gold Medal Portfolio, which includes a $10,000 scholarship. This week, they’re celebrating Mackie Mallison, an artist from Portland OR, and Osarugue Otebele, a writer from Memphis, TN.

Scroll down to learn more about Mackie and Osarugue’s nationally recognized portfolios!

Mackie Mallison

Mackie is a talented filmmaker who uses his films to bring people’s emotions and experiences to the forefront on tough topics including coping with grief. He explains, “Sharing stories sparks conversation, and conversation creates change. By shedding light on topics that need to be talked about with all people, I feel that the stories shared through films can lead to that change.”

“There is so much hatred and misunderstanding in this world, but if there is a way to project the perspectives of others, understandings can be made. Seeing, hearing and feeling emotions has a unique effect that filmmaking harnesses. This past year, I have been able to learn about so many different people’s lives that, I think if shared, will create that change.”


Osarugue Otebele

In her writing portfolio, Osarugue combines poetry and personal essays to explore the world through the lens of people’s stories and their connections to others.“My portfolio is about the life that I see around me and the experiences I’ve had or heard about throughout my time,” she says. “I wanted to give a voice to all of the stories and people that felt voiceless about the situations they could have found themselves in. I hope that readers walk away feeling inspired to speak up about their truth or a truth that they feel connected to. I hope people connect or even begin to see certain worldly issues as serious and deserving of their time and conversations.”


Poetry. By Osarugue Otebele, Grade 12, Age 17.

In my father’s land
Women are bartered
Men come. Talk in silence and toss our freedom around
We are currency
Our value drops daily
In his land
They sit sons around fires and tell them tales of warriors
Tell them real men know that there is only one head in the family
Women serve yam and oil
We are quickly rushed out of their circle
In my father’s land
An old woman comes and tells me that I am no longer a child
That my body now produces a scent that men will stick too
A liquid sweeter than honey
That If not careful I will become goat meat
Something to be ripped apart by sharp fangs
She says these cuts will protect me
Bring me honor
Cover me
Bring my family glory in the end
Glory is a blanket
Used to cover the sins done in an African hut
To cover scarifications until they heal
To cover the faces of old men
To cover the cost of a bride price
To cover a child. When she begins to bloom
To cover the change in seasons
Family is an African hut
Protected by a child
Soon to be sold
A child who will serve palm wine in bliss
Her Husband in happiness
A child who will look at herself in disgust
Look at the beads around her waist in confusion
Speak to her parents with bitter leaves on her tongue
In my village
When a child has a child
Her husband dies of old age
Her heart races in joy
The village snares in disgust
In my village men reach for their wives in bed and are shocked to see they look like daughters
Look like they still need fingers to suck on
look like periods are only at the end of their sentences
Like this is always going to hurt them
Hunt them
In an African hut
Women pray demons away
And sigh when they see their husband
Their bondage
They dare you to tell them about freedom
Freedom is an African painting
Red with mutilation
Cracked like calabash
Tainted like peace
Auctioned like me
I am a cow
And the mala leads the herd
He carries us to the king
Because before he picks his wife all of the women must dance
We must be able to follow the rhythm of his whip
Dare us call this Slavery
We try hard to become runaways
Iyo ni mo wa
(I am salt)
Iyo la ba wa
Iyo ni mo wa o
Iyo la ba lo
Iyo ni mo wa
( I know how much he has paid)
I am tired of my village
They do not know the value of what they didn’t pay for
When my cries were first heard, they said “a thief has come”
Whenever that time comes
They make me go stay in a hut
Tell me I’m not clean
Not worthy for male touch
For consumption
Come back when your body is ready for inspection
We are only needed to produce
In my village. When a woman is pregnant
The villagers will touch her belly and ask
What should we name our son

To see more Gold Medal Portfolio recipients, past and present, visit the Eyes on the Prize series on the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers blog.

© Alliance for Young Artists & Writers/Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Used with permission.