The Conversation Circle Series is an opportunity for Park School faculty and staff to come together and discuss a current event related to diversity, equity and inclusion. These topics tend to be the ones that are “trending” on social media or in the news, and these conversation circles allow us some time and space to talk about these issues face to face.
My sister Grace is a writer. Her work is beautifully poetic and lyrical, creating powerful images that dance around in her reader’s mind. Grace was often lost in her books. She took them everywhere we went — to the beach, family vacations, in the car ride to an amusement park. I’m fully convinced that my sister Grace would have rather read a book on a bench than gone on Space Mountain or the Corkscrew or the Flume back when we were kids.
Grace’s interest in writing was inspired by her love of poetry. But, back when we were little, there was no forum for spoken word poetry. In our small, predominantly White, suburban town, I did not have any exposure to slam poetry or activist poetry or poetry that ignited my soul. I was far too young to go into the city and sit in a cafe and there were not any spoken word records or tapes (yes, that is how old I am) that I could buy from my local record store (yes, I am pre-Amazon.com).
While we often go back and forth about the benefits and challenges with technology, it is clear to me that technology, specifically platforms like YouTube, have given me more access to poetry, speeches, lectures, keynote addresses, and music from all around the world. So, when I see young people performing on stage with poetry that hits me right in my core, I know that it’s something important to share.
This video titled “Somewhere in America” features three teenagers, Rhiannon, Zariya and Belissa who perform their iconic poem. Fair warning before you click on it, they use some profanity.
As a mother, I feel they are talking to me. As an educator, I know they are talking to me. As a woman, I echo that they are talking about my own childhood and messages about being a girl.
In our Conversation Circle, we posed the following questions to consider:
- How has your own schooling mirrored or differed from the words shared in their poem?
- How has race, gender and class shown up in your own upbringing?
- What are they calling for us, as educators, to do?
Participants in the circle shared their reactions to the video. Most of these reactions used words like “brave” and “powerful” and “amazing.” Others could only find We must find ways to encourage vulnerability in a climate and culture that does not always model being brave and outspoken. We must find ways for people to be courageous in conversations. We must find ways for our young people to express their anger, their frustrations and their expectations for us as adults.
We must find ways to connect that “somewhere in America” may just be right here.
Peace and Park,