In the ongoing dialogue regarding education reform and the quality of New York City's public schools, one voice is almost completely silent: the voice of the students.
Community-Word Project, an organization that provides art education in public schools in some of our city's most under-resourced communities, empowers every child to stand up and say, "I have a Voice! My Voice is Powerful! My Voice can Change the World!"
Our programs combine creative writing with other art forms and infuse art into the classroom curriculum to help students feel excited and engaged by their learning as they develop creative and critical thinking skills. Our Teaching Artists are trained to guide these young people, many of whom live in poverty and struggle with multiple life challenges, to clearly and constructively describe their lives and express their aspirations with both an individual and collective voice. The intersection of various art forms encourages students to develop and project their voices through multiple avenues and to express their ideas and experiences in a way that a broad audience can hear and understand.
The core of every residency is the creation of a Community Poem, weaving together lines of poetry that capture details of the reality of the students' lives and communities. Students learn that when they speak as one, their voices are stronger. This experience of telling their stories gives them the confidence and ability to be powerful advocates for themselves and their communities.
On Monday, March 31st we will be gathering at Bonhams New York to celebrate the voices of New York City's young people at our 14th Annual Benefit, Writing Our Future. We welcome New Yorkers to join the celebration in honor of their work.
Community-Word Project student writers collaborated recently on these lines of poetry:
I Am The Bronx
I am from the aroma of fresh baked
Pastellitos making my mouth water
like a starved dog
I am Soundview, Gunhill, East Tremont,
all the street signs as dirty
as caged animals
The Bronx is my neighbors, the ones who always
yell at their kids
like they are circus animals
I am the Bronx, where even the Hudson River tells you
to watch out
The Bronx is limbo, the scum on my shoes, the people are skyscrapers
I am the Boogie Down Bronx
24/7 my stomach hurts
My breath is on fire
My blood is different temperatures
The siren is my music
The Bronx is a tiger hiding from fate and destiny
I am the Bronx, the dirty roads, the long nights that ask questions
I am the music
I am the Bronx when the flag isn't raised
My voice is like a new spring blossomed flower,
the petals screaming out for attention.
My voice is lovely, but I talk loudly
because everyone likes it.
My voice is a ray of sunshine
on a cloudy day bringing happiness to everyone.
My voice is an outspoken leader who wants change
and peace for the USA at a press conference.
My voice is like a bright morning sun,
and it flows like living water.
My voice and I come together
like peanut butter and jelly.
My voice is soft and squishy.
It's also like a teddy bear. Just so sensitive!
My voice is like ice-cream.
Everyone loves it.
My voice is like a car horn.
I talk loud enough for everyone to hear.
My voice is like a Panda Bear.