We began this year’s program with a spoken word poem by Shane Koyczan called “This is My Voice,” which explores the power of individual voices to create change. This is my voice, Koyczan writes. There are many like it, but this one is mine. In response, students wrote about their own voices. We gathered those words into collective poems that capture the diverse voices of each class in this anthology and serve as inspiration for the title of this publication: This Is Our Voice.
Throughout this year, we explored voice as a means of self-expression through writing. We experimented with the frustrated, angry side of our voices by writing rants directly addressed to the things we can’t stand. For inspiration, we listened to Eminem’s recent freestyle, and read a rant called “An Open Letter to Hummingbirds.” We also looked at the ways that writing can empower, and express the things we believe in. Drawing on Suheir Hammad’s poem, “What I Will,” we wrote Manifestos to voice what we stand for and feel passionate about.
We used voice not only as a tool for self-expression, but also as a way to help us see beyond ourselves, as a tool for imagination and empathy. Taking inspiration from a recent NYC Wildlife campaign, we wrote persona poems in the voice of some fellow New Yorkers who don’t have the chance to speak for themselves: raccoons, red-tailed hawks, coyotes, and piping plovers.
In another act of ventriloquism, students took on the voice of Lady Liberty, writing their own updated versions of the famous Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus”—give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Reflecting on our current political climate, students thought about what they would say to a new immigrant coming to this country, or this city, for the very first time. They wrote words of welcome and warning that show both kindness and candor, using their voices in one of the most powerful ways: as a gesture of care.
As you read this anthology, you will hear many voices—some of them excited, some of them frustrated, some hopeful, or humorous, some quiet, others loud. In each of these voices, there is great creativity and strength–a testament to the power of a single voice and to the immeasurable force of so many voices coming together.
We’d like to thank the many teachers and staff members at IS 392 for their collaboration and support throughout this residency: Principal Joseph, Assistant Principal Cooper, Ms. Ordde, Ms. Valentine, Ms. Rance-Fisher, Ms. Beckles, Ms. Tasher, and Ms. McKenzie. Thank you to Leonore Gordon, who generously funded this residency. A huge thank you, always, to the staff at the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, Jordan Dann, Amy Swauger, and Jade Triton. And above all, thank you to all the student writers, all the student voices, at IS 392. It takes courage to make yourself heard, and to put your voice upon the page.
Erika Luckert, Writer-in-Residence
Sahar Romani, Education Associate
by Miguel (6th grade)
Give me your heart. I welcome
you to the USA. I hope you will
be safe because now at this time
it’s not the same as it was in the past.
Right now it’s more dangerous than you
think. The golden door is not golden
anymore. It doesn’t shine like it used to do.
It’s now a rusty old hate
kind of door. It’s not the best door
to go in, and now people rather
go to another door.
Please give us the golden door back.
We don’t want hate, killing,
We want the golden door back
Not a rusty hating door.
Lady Liberty Poem
by Jacquelyn (8th grade)
All you huddled masses, come to me.
Thinking of a golden door.
Waiting for a special welcome.
But, little do you know…
Being here can make you feel like
A man with large hands is choking
You may like that feeling, but also may not.
There is gold, but it’s not a door it’s a light switch.
How tired are you now?
Don’t be afraid
To get yelled at by a big man in a suit.
Don’t be afraid
To be confused.