Finding Freedom: An Everyday Mood

Amina Henry
Writer-in-Residence, Spring 2019

Introduction 

It’s been a pleasure to work with students at John Jay High School of Law. For this residency we had a thematic focus on oppression and liberation, exploring the voices of those who have been oppressed while also exploring spaces of liberation. We read and discussed the exhilarating and thought-provoking work of a diverse range of poets such as Frank O’Hara, Langston Hughes, Jericho Brown, Gwendolyn Brooks, Natalie Diaz, danez smith, Frank Stanford, Ruth Stone, Pablo Neruda, and Sjohnna McCray. Through lunes, odes, manifestos and free verse, as well as a concentrated focus on metaphor and theme, we examined the power of  wordsmiths to make change. We discovered that a road to liberation can be paved with words – we can create the change we want to see in the world, and in fact, we must. We can make the world more meaningful, more beautiful, and more just by, for a start, using our imaginations and being brave.

I want to thank Principal Glauner, Assistant Principal Shtyrkalo and Mr. Joyce for welcoming me into your school to work with your students. I also want to thank Mr. Strong and Ms. Chairman.

Lastly, thank you and congratulations to all of the participating students. I’m very pleased with the work you created during our time together. We began every class session with a call and response. “I have a voice, my voice is powerful, my voice can change the world!” More than ever, I have faith that your voices can change the world for the better.

Featured Student Writing

Annissa C.

Pink Room

Love surrounds us

We really struggle at times

It’s all love

A pink room

Black fan blows air out

Posters, pregnant, pink

TV blazes sound

Man I don’t need around

God, what now?

Blue Pools

There’s a sea full of blue pools in front of me and all I can think of is you, grandma.

I miss laying on your couch

listening to your stories while you cook.

I can almost smell your fried bake from here.

I can see you piling a plate high with pancakes and me giddily pouring on syrup.

Manifesto: Life

Here’s what I know for sure. There are constantly news headlines with another person’s child gone. I no longer believe that this government is working to protect me. I want to live in a world where my body is my body. Where a decision made in my life isn’t a crime in the state of Alabama. Where my fellow brothers and sisters don’t fear police. Where we don’t kill each other for the streets that don’t care about us.

Michael A.

Change Our Ways

I believe the world is terrible

All we do is take

We take land

We take lives

We even take Jobs

Love

Love is black girls double ditching

On the Golden Gate bridge

Over the Horizon

Dear Big Brother Jay,

I’m in Republica Dominica. The sunset is beautiful here. The ocean hits the shore and coconuts fall from trees. I remember one day walking home from the park with you. It was the first time I ever beat you one on one. I was so happy. You remind me of the coconuts falling here, like when I dropped you.

Iyssis C.

I’ve Left Earth

I’ve left Earth. I’ve left Earth mentally. I’ve brought a suitcase filled with love, family and hope. I’ve left behind the hatred, the cauliflower, the disgusting pollution and the immature human beings who speak not from understanding but just to hear themselves speak.

Ode to My Bed

You are the cushion that holds up my restless body at night I think about you through my happiest and loneliest days Through all the despair that trickles down my face And through all the smiles that I smile from ear to ear Bed, you are the only reason to wake and sleep The only reason I don’t want to wake Just so I can lay on this cushion day after day And hour after hour.

Love

Love is skin deep Love is Sandy Lou finding her sheep Love is a maze, you might fall in a cave Love is being afraid but still taking chances Love has gotten you out of the cave and you’re safe.


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