Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Social Justice starts early!

I just finished a 13 week arts residency at Crown Community Academy. I was collaborating with my favorite poet friend, Amanda Lichtenstein and Luke Albrecht, the 8th grade math teacher. During this arts integration program, we collaborated to create curriculum that blends math and writing. The 8th graders studied the math concept of statistics, averages and graphing while writing rants and exploring the concept of social justice. I had the opportunity to present the questions, "What are you mad about? What is worth getting mad at? What is civil rights?"

The young poets wrote about violence, single parent homes, Haiti, guns, family and used a bullhorn and soapbox to perform rants. The final class was filled with a poetry performance filled with poems that included statistics and percentages to fuel the rant. Our final performance project was a poetry marathon on report card pick up day. While the school was filled with parents, students and guests, the 8th graders took over the hallway and read poetry on a bullhorn for 2 hours straight. The concept: poetry is therapy and the very act of hearing poetry read aloud can be healing to the listener. The Westside community where the school is located needs healing. Chicago youth need healing from the violence. So we will bring the words to them. We read selected poems from Ruth Forman, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Tupac Shakur, Lucille Clifton, Maya Angelou and they also read their own original rants.

The principal and two teachers also got involved and caught the poetry spirit. Dr. Jackson, the principal, read a powerful piece about black men after hearing us read. The students were so proud, fearless and amazing. They read for the whole two hours and probably would have read for 2 more hours if asked. Social justice can start very early. You don't need to wait until they are in senior year of high school to introduce the concept of community service and social justice work. We must start early.

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Artist Statement

I create art for the ones who lost their voice a long time ago. I believe that impromptu spectacles can bring awareness to social justice issues that paralyze our communities. Lady Terror examines the relationship between public space and performance space and also explores ranting as a medium to address social issues and as a tool to empower communities. My art is local and neighborhood specific in its execution but global in its ideas around poverty, injustice and violence.