2020-2021 Poetry Project in collaboration with LCC’s “We Shall Overcome: Raising Our Voices Together” Multi-Genre Event

2020-2021 Poetry Project: “We Shall Overcome”                                        Community-Generated Poems:  8 prompts, 80+ student responders, 8 poets

Below is the text from the Poetry Project Invitation and Prompts (around 80 students from ENGL and HIST courses responded  late Fall 2020 semester):

 

Dear LCC Students: 2020 has been a challenging year.  As a way to reflect on and learn from challenges past, present and future, the Music Program at LCC is inviting students to lend their voices to a community-building project related to the song “We Shall Overcome” and its messages of unity, determination, racial justice, hope, and overcoming adversity. (If you’re interested in adding your singing voice as part of the virtual choir portion of the project, please contact Dr. Ten Brink tenbrinj@star.lcc.edu).  Please take some time to respond, in writing, to the following prompts.  There are no right or wrong ways to respond, although the more specific language you use the better.  Your anonymous responses will be used as part of the LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project, to craft one or more poems surrounding the concepts in “We Shall Overcome” (lyrics below the prompts) in order to let our voices be heard.  Thank you for taking the time to consider these prompts, share your ideas, and let your own voice be heard.

 

  1. What does the title of the song “We Shall Overcome” mean to you?
  2. One verse of the song is simply “We are not afraid” repeated. Afraid of what?
  3. Imagine you are singing this song. Who is your audience? What do they hear? How does that change if you are alone or with a group?
  4. Is there a song you often return to in order to help you get through something difficult? What song? Why?
  5. When I sing with others, my voice becomes a _________ and then it ________.
  6. Protestors often adapt a song to reflect current circumstances. If you could add a verse to reflect our current time or your current truth, what would you add?
  7. What title would you give your civil rights anthem?
  8. Singing as an act of protest is powerful because_________.

 

We shall overcome

We shall overcome

We shall overcome some day

O deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.

 

We shall live in peace

We shall live in peace

We shall live in peace some day

O deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.

 

We’ll walk hand in hand

We’ll walk hand in hand

We’ll walk hand in hand some day

O deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.

 

We are not afraid

We are not afraid

We are not afraid today!

O deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.

 

Love will see us through

Love will see us through

Love will see us through someday.

O deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.


Faculty joining my PA day Poetry Writing Activity ended up being the poets 🙂  Here’s how that session went…

Rough outline for 1/7 10-11a PA day Community-generated Poetry Project – “We Shall Overcome”

Introduction

  • Ok to record? (disclaimers: not a WebEx pro, worried if I share my screen I get kicked off…)
  • so…yesterday was intense; feels like both a luxury and a necessity to do creative work like we’re going to try today
  • we’ll see how it goes – this approach is brand new…I’m making it up as you watch :/
  • I have no specific hopes or goals for what we produce, I haven’t done this in this way before and I’m grateful for the push to further evolve the Poetry Project
  • a little about Jon’s project – virtual choir performance end of last semester and larger collaboration coming in Feb. (Jon?)
  • Poetry Project jumping in to be part of that really cool project
  • what is community generated poetry (perfect for this Overcome Project)
  • idea for today is to create/weave together one or more poems from the raw material; then that poem or poems might be woven into the virtual choir project
  • describe how we’d do this f2f (separate tables for the prompts, raw material hard copy, highlighters, sticky notes, big notepad)
  • describe how we’re going to try this today (connect to Sp20 Vote Poetry Project – students submitted lines to a discussion board and I wove them together)
  • Cory Booker quoted “we shall overcome” in his comments in the Senate chamber around 9p…

 

Let’s try this:

  • How many did the “homework” (reference the “directions” document) How did that go?
  • how many wandered in here without looking at the “homework” b/c poetry sounds like a salve today? totally fine! don’t leave! you’ll be able to contribute or even just listen if that’s what you need
  • what prompts did they cover?
  • General plan:
    • focus on one prompt at a time (just as a way to organize our work)
    • share the lines you’ve copied/noted/highlighted verbally
    • talk a bit about what we’re hearing
    • put lines that seem to connect in the chat – I’ll copy to another document and then read back
    • do we have a poem? or maybe a stanza?
    • repeat with next prompt
    • if we don’t use a line or you didn’t share it or if you find others you can always e-mail me – I will be continuing to work with the raw material and perhaps play around with more poems in the future
  • If we run out of “homework” let’s look at the Prompt 5 (when I sing my voice becomes…) together and pull out good lines/images

Each poem had a different list of poets so they are listed below each poem…

 

When I Sing with Others (re: Prompt #5 When I sing with others, my voice becomes a __ and then it ___)

 

When I sing with others, my voice becomes a

beacon of light, an anchor, an echo

and then it guides,

smooth like butter on a hot pan.

 

It becomes a low rumble, invoking a primal force,

and then my voice rises, growing in intensity,

gathering with others, becoming a surge

of truth and undeniable unity.

It becomes a tidal wave that washes over everyone

an earthquake that moves mountains.

 

When I sing with others, my voice becomes

a seed that blossoms

a part of something greater than myself,

interconnected.

My voice is a vibe and then a party with friends.

 

It’s a beacon and then it echoes.

an instrument and then it amplifies

My voice becomes a Siren

that blends as I get in tune and harmonize

 

When I sing with others, my voice becomes

a small ingredient in the recipe

it becomes part of a whole, growing in strength

My voice becomes a wave and then it spreads

 

It becomes a bird, that flocks and then soars

ensuring everyone hears the messages.

My voice becomes a thread

that pulls us together.

 

When I sing with others, my voice

becomes an instrument that amplifies

a chorus beyond me

We gather force, sending a message of urgency

heard by the ears that need hope

 

My voice becomes a carrier and then a reason

Singing together, we are more powerful and far-reaching

than the sum of each part

My voice is a part that becomes the whole,

synecdoche, cacophony, euphony

and then translucent light.

 

Poets: Suzanne Bernsten, Barb Clauer, Willie Davis, Jennifer Hood, Melissa Kaplan, Kali Majumdar, Chuck Page, Jon Ten Brink


 

New Verses (from Prompt 6: add a new verse to “We Shall Overcome” – this is the one I’m hoping others will work with to more skillfully arrange and hopefully sing it following “We Shall Overcome”)

 

We have come this far

We have come this far

We have come this far, today

Hope will aid us through

I know it to be true

we have come this far today

 

Say her name, say his name

we are not to blame

it seems they are hunters

and we are their game

We live in a world of fear, a cry for help,

for the future, for our own sake

 

Though others scream lies,

though others scream lies

Though others scream lies today!

O deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall speak with one voice someday.

 

We shall see the light,

We shall see the light

We shall see the light someday

O deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall see the light someday

 

We breathe the same,

We sleep the same,

We all have a heart.

We can make the world start anew.

Tangled up in Blue;

Behold the Temple of Light

 

Bring us together,

in any kind of weather,

to march for right, in plain sight,

bring peace to the world,

and freedom unfurl,

come back to win, again and again.

 

Stand with loved ones,

stand with all,

today does not determine tomorrow.

and even if I fall, I am no longer alone,

the fight will rage on,

as I am on my way home.

 

Poets: Suzanne Bernsten, Barb Clauer, Willie Davis, Jennifer Hood, Melissa Kaplan, Kali Majumdar, Chuck Page, Jon Ten Brink


 

Only Titles (from Prompt 7: What title would you give your civil rights anthem?)

 

Together We Thrive

We Fight as One

I Release Myself to Love

The End of Divisions

We All Live Free

United with Love

The Path Is Yet to Be Walked

A Step Forward

Today is A Day

It Will Not End Here

 

No More

We Won’t Stop Now

Your Soul is Infinite

I Release Myself to Love

The World Needs a Change

We are One

The Justice We Deserve

Freedom Belongs to Everyone

The Future is at Stake.

Wake Up

 

Poets: Suzanne Bernsten, Barb Clauer, Willie Davis, Jennifer Hood, Melissa Kaplan, Kali Majumdar, Chuck Page, Jon Ten Brink


 

Unstoppable (from Prompt 8: Singing as an act of protest is powerful because_________.)

 

I once sang a Swedish protest song

covered in bruises

eyes still stinging

from the tear gas and pepper spray.

Singing is more powerful than shouting;

It’s the souls’ key and no one can silence

a song we all know.

 

If you sing, you will be heard

a shared act of creation, the calm power

that although seems weak,

may, in fact,

be unstoppable.

 

Poets: Melissa Kaplan and Barb Clauer


 

We Are Not Afraid

(from Prompt #2: One verse of the song is simply “We are not afraid” repeated.  Afraid of what?)

 

Fear will not oppress us.

Fear will not control us.

Of course we are afraid but

together we are stronger than our fear.

The cloud of uncertainty looms but

we are not afraid of losing hope,

not afraid of change,

not afraid of freedom.

Our futures are unguaranteed but

we can envision the future

and we are not afraid.

 

Poet:  Barb Clauer


Many of these poems were then incorporated into the Music Programs Virtual Choir Program “We Shall Overcome: Raising Our Voices Together”.  This program won a Gold Telly in the 42nd Annual Telly Awards.

We Shall Overcome

 

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