Every year, after working closely with professional poets as part of Harlem Academy’s Visiting Poets Program, our sixth and eighth graders look forward to taking the stage and reciting their original pieces in front of a cheering audience. While they couldn’t step onto a physical stage this year because of the pandemic, they were still able to step up to the mic – virtually.
With insight beyond their years, our students rose to the challenge and delivered powerful original poems during a live virtual performance watched by more than 100 families and supporters. They tackled an array of issues from identity, mental health, and race to the small moments of everyday life.
“The strength, tenacity, and determination these students have shown has been nothing short of astounding,” says middle school English teacher Kia Turner. “During such a difficult time, they have not shied away from difficult topics. They have instead dug deep. Their poems are evidence that these young scholars, activists, and changemakers will make us think differently about the world.”
Adds poet Daniella Toosie-Watson: “I’ve been so moved by the students’ vulnerability, brilliance, and the care that they put into their pieces. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them and to share in their creative process.”
Ms. Toosie-Watson and fellow poet Jive Poetic spent four weeks working with our middle schoolers virtually as part of our Visiting Poets Program – a longstanding partnership between Harlem Academy and the Poetry Society of America. The program brings professional poets of color into our middle school classrooms to explore the craft of poetry and guide students through the writing and revision process, culminating in a live reading of original poems.