Our first night in Baltimore got off to an amazing start as we went to the bookstore / restaurant Red Emma's. This venue is usually closed on Mondays but opened just for us. Students perused books, ate delicious vegetarian fare before our presentations and workshop.
First up we were treated to spoken word poetry by the Baltimore Citywide Youth Poetry Team. They introduced for format of spoken word, shared powerful poems, and showed us how poets can be activists through their words.
We then heard from one of the founders and the Executive Director of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a fairly young organization that has done very interesting work in Baltimore. They were part of a movement to stop a youth prison from being built, they helped pass Christopher's law that mandates that Baltimore police receive training in cultural sensitivity and CPR. The law was named after a young black man who died after he was strangled by a police officer who tried to revive him and was unable. They have also made an app called New Timbuktu which aggregates academic and intellectual material relating to African American issues and perspectives.
Next we heard from Reverend Heber Brown who has also been a very strong part of the activism against the youth prison among other issues. He speaks directly to issues facing Baltimore youth and communities as a pastor. His presentation spoke directly to themes we have discussed in history class and challenged students to listen to people different from them, to challenge what they are being taught and reminded us of Cornell West's notion that, "Justice is what love looks like in public."
Finally Brion from Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle led a short poetry workshop. She shared a poem of hers that uses personification and gave the students a prompt to write their own poetry. Students were to personify handcuffs or a jail cell. They wrote for ten minutes and some students shared beautiful poems that were either complete or still in process. Brion has asked that we share them when they are done and the people at the bookstore suggested we put them together into a book that they would be happy to display!
|Poets share their words with a rapt audience|
|MCS students write their own poetry personifying handcuffs and prison cells|