Monday, May 22, 2006

Poetry Slam

I am concluding a week-long unit on poetry with my freshmen and sophomores. Among the more thought-provoking prompts I gave them came on the heels of a lesson which looked at the works of several prominent African-American poets. I asked them to praise or criticize one aspect of African-American culture. Here is what a few of them came up with.

Actin’ Black
What is actin’ black?
Is it chicks wearing too tight clothes?
Or dudes wearing pants with too much slack?
What do you call actin’ black?

Is it a certain way of the walk,
Or maybe the way black folks talk?
How are are we so diverse from other races,
Is it just the look of our dark-skinned faces?

Hip white folks love to imitate,
Our unique sense of style.
But they say we’re not prestigious enough,
To live a white lifestyle.

They characterize us
As ignorant, illiterate, and emotionally held back,
They want us to envy them
But they’re the ones actin’ black! -Kelsey Haggard, 10th

Haters, Haters, Everywhere
Haters, haters, everywhere
On the land and in the air.
Haters, haters, everywhere
Some are here and some are there.
Haters, haters, everywhereBe a hater if you dare. -Curissa Prince, 10th

Rough Times
We’ve been beaten, we’ve been hung,
We’ve been slung to the ground,
But life has come around for us as black in many towns,
We’ve been talked about, stepped on, and not thought of in their minds.

But it’s our time to shine.

We have become the people they tried to keep us from being.
Lawyers, doctors, teachers are the jobs we’re achieving.
We’ve been down a bumpy road,
The story is still being told,But I think blacks have obtained a greater gold.
-Quentin McKnight, 10th

White people do this, black people do that.
When white people’s lights go off, they panic
When blacks’ lights go off, they plan it.

In the old days people picked cotton for a buck,
But now we win the lotto just by pure luck.
In the old days they kept their food in an ice box,But now black people have their own stocks. -Kivante Hunter, 9th

Love of my culture is everything I know,
Black is beautiful from my head to my toe.
Love of my culture, so nice and sweet
My culture is everything kind to meet.
I wouldn’t trade my culture for the world
Because I’m a
Sexy Cute kind of girl. -Brittany Mackin, 9th

The Blackness of a Person
The blackness of a person describes their dignity and strength,
The blackness of a person describes the love of God within.
The blackness of a person tells a person so much about their history,
The blackness of a person tells the world about their pain and misery. -Jaleesa Thomas, 10th

A raisin in the sun
That is what black in the summer is to me
Plump and juicy, round and sweet
Healthy as a beet.

Though pigments may differ
And hair may not be straight
More valuable than a mink fur, body of a figure eight.

Rhythm so on tempo
Dancing so on beat
Swaying hips from side to side
Sweating in the heat.

Everything about black
Stands out like the number one
Especially in the summer time,
Like a raisin in the sun. -Jasmine Steverson, 10th

Monday, May 08, 2006

Field Trip

Ahh, field trips. They bring back such terrible memories from childhood. Growing up in Vermont, I remember being subjected to the torturous tour that was the Shelburne Museum, a local attraction that showed how boring life was during the bygone days of yore. The thing that made this field trip terrible wasn't necessarily that the museum was boring (it was); it was the fact that we went there EVERY GRADE FROM KINDERGARTEN TO 6TH. Just thinking about the place still makes me shiver. I'm just trying to show the reluctance with which I agreed to chaperone our sophomore trip to Jackson State last Thursday.

We arrived at Jackson State at 10:30, earlier than trip leader, Counselor Curtis Humphrey expected. After a bathroom break, we headed to lunch at the school cafeteria. There, we stayed for over two hours, feasting on fried chicken and other delicious soul food. After our leisurely lunch, we had a tour of the gym, student center, and gift shop (of course). We also walked by the part of campus where different fraternities and sororities hang out in their designated areas. This was the setting of one of the funniest events of the school year.

Angelo Boykins, a boisterous man-child who has spent equal time entertaining and frustrating me with his misbehavior this year, bragged on the bus ride to JSU that he was, "Gonna get me a college honey, yo." I tried to dissuade him from this impossible task, but he assured me he would triumph. "You don't even know, Mr. Hebert." The truth was, neither of us could predict what would happen later on sorority row.

In the outdoor quad, there are special benches reserved only for the members of a certain frat or sorority. Feeling young and cocky, Angelo approached one of the benches, sure that these older college women would eat him up. He would regret this decision almost immediately. Before he even had the opportunity to spin any game, a tall woman with large, curly hair confronted him screaming. "No! Uh-uh! Get out of here! Leave! Get OUT!!!" The woman looked like a momma bear protecting her cub, and the look on Angelo's face was priceless. His eyes were the size of dinner plates and his body shook as he backed away from the woman and the benches. Female chaperones came rushing over to yell at Angelo, while all the students around him burst into simultaneous laughter. I was laughing right alongside them.

After Angelo recovered from this incident, I sidled up to him. "Any luck with the ladies yet, Angelo."

"Don't talk to me, Hebert."

Maybe I could grow to like field trips.