Spring 2019 One Book Wrap-Up Event: The Hate U Give

Barb Clauer reading some of the original poems before the groups got to work on their own.

Inspiration Story Problem:

The inspiration for this project was initially panic, which happily led to spontaneity, creativity, and resilience.  At the last minute, The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas was unable to come to campus for her keynote talk and other events connected to her planned visit 4/17/19 to wrap-up the 2018-2019 One Book year.  Mindy Barbarskis and Melissa Kaplan asked if I would be able to do a poetry activity as part of the wrap-up, which they quickly planned for those who still wanted to come or who hadn’t gotten the information that Angie Thomas was unable to attend.  Sure! Around 35 people showed up to a wrap-up session held in LCC’s Michigan Room to discuss the book, share feedback and, unbeknownst to them before it happened, participate in a community-generated poetry activity.

What it came to be/Project specifics:

I quickly developed an activity using the poems produced by my ENGL 201 Introduction to Poetry students from language produced by classes who read The Hate U Give (link to post) inspired by the activity I have used for the Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance Black History Awareness events (link to post) in that we used the first lines from my students’ poems to inspire new poems from the wrap-up attendees.

Magically, this allowed me to address a loop that I had been feeling I had not been able to close in previous projects regarding reflecting on the actual poems produced and their content.  With the groups at the wrap-up hearing and looking closely at the student-written poems from the Spring Poetry Project, they ended up reflecting on the content of the poems and then building on them to write their own. Reflecting on the poems produced is something I would like to build into future Poetry Projects.

First, the wrap-up day participants heard the original poems written by my ENGL 201 students – I read a couple and one of the ENGL 201 poets, Victor Verhill, also read a couple.

ENGL 201 student, Victor Verhill, reading one of the original student poems

Then, grouped at large tables, they were given one of the following prompts:

As a group, using the first line of the student poem inspired by The Hate U Give, “Hidden Beneath My Skin Is A Soul That Nobody Will See”, as line one, construct a community-generated poem – each person contributes one or two lines. Decide on the order of the lines and write it on the sheet provided. No pressure! Have fun 🙂

You can also use the prompts that inspired the poem:

What’s it like to feel like you have to code-switch (for those of you who don’t)? What would happen if you didn’t code switch?  Code-switching: brief/loose definition = consciously or unconsciously switching among dialects and speaking styles, as well as other markers of identity, depending on the specific situation.

What aspects of our identity do we get to decide and what aspects does society dictate? Why?

“This is not me, nor do I want it to be”

As a group, using the first line of the student poem inspired by The Hate U Give, “Identity”, as line one, construct a community-generated poem – each person contributes one or two lines. Decide on the order of the lines and write it on the sheet provided. No pressure! Have fun 🙂

You can also use the prompts that inspired the poem:

What’s it like to feel like you have to code-switch (for those of you who don’t)? What would happen if you didn’t code switch?  Code-switching: brief/loose definition = consciously or unconsciously switching among dialects and speaking styles, as well as other markers of identity, depending on the specific situation.

What aspects of our identity do we get to decide and what aspects does society dictate? Why?

“I can never be myself. Blank canvas.”

Groups working on the prompts and their poems

As a group, using the title or first line of the student poem inspired by The Hate U Give, “Read Me”, as line one, construct a community-generated poem – each person contributes one or two lines. Decide on the order of the lines and write it on the sheet provided. No pressure! Have fun 🙂

You can also use the prompts that inspired the poem:

What does the cover of The Hate U Give say to you? What does the phrase “the hate u give” mean to you?

What’s it like to explain racism (to those who don’t regularly experience it)…

“Read Me”

As a group, using the first line of the student poem inspired by The Hate U Give, “It’s a Luxury”, as line one, construct a community-generated poem – each person contributes one or two lines. Decide on the order of the lines and write it on the sheet provided. No pressure! Have fun 🙂

You can also use the prompts that inspired the poem:

What’s it like to not be afraid of the police (for those of you who are)…

What’s it like to realize you benefit from some type of privilege (especially if you don’t feel “privileged”)…

“I can’t help but feel upset.”

The groups set to work writing their own lines, sharing them with the larger group at the table, and then ordering the lines into their groups’ poem.

Participants working on the poetry activity
Poetry in progress

The Poems:

This poem, written by Suzanne Bernsten, Sierra Bouyer, Curlada Eure-Harris, Julie Linderleaf, Jeanettia Green, Marah Jones, and Robert Moore was inspired by the poem “Hidden Beneath My Skin Is A Soul That Nobody Will See” written by LCC students Emmerson Myhre, Lauren Nugent, Kurstina Simmons, and Tucker Tatroe. Both poems were inspired by prompts concerning identity and feeling pressure to code-switch.

Participants working on a poem
“The Life From Which You Choose” poets at work
The life from which you choose

This is not me, nor do I want it to be
Who am I if I am not only myself?
Why is there a secret that I cannot share with everyone?
The person who others feel I should be.
Angry, angry at society.
Made to feel I am less…
Stereotyped.
Like a superpower that can be summoned on demand.
It can be exhausting.
I feel trapped beneath a false face.
If I hide, I feel it is not the real me.
But if I don’t, I fear you won’t like what you see.
I wonder what it’s like to always be yourself
What is it like to be unaware?
Some people may not be themselves living their lives as a lie
Feeling as if they chose to be themselves
That person wouldn’t exist anymore
Because they haven’t been themselves in a long time.
Who gets to see the real me?
Who am I with?
What will I show?
I am unique 100%
A complex identity is a high, life right!
We are human genomes 99% shared.

This poem, written by Yolanda Crim, Jahmallia Forde, Patti Goggins, Alex Gradilla, Prisca Mtemavalye, Leticia Navarro, Ronnie Oliver Jr., Curtis Pratt, Jonathan Rosewood, and Kimberly Skorna was inspired by the poem “Identity” written by LCC students Levi Lantz, Taylor Matlock, Sam Nichols, and Jake Sinnaeve.  Both poems were inspired by prompts concerning identity and feeling pressure to code-switch.

Participants working on their poem
“I Can Never Be Myself” poets at work
I can never be myself. Blank canvas.

Trapped between two walls of communication
I’m on a journey to discover and grow into a future of self.
Please don’t judge each other or what we see today.
Why do we need to put a label on ourselves?
Am I not good enough? Are you better than me?
Am I not human? Let me be me.
Brown, red, white, blue.
Born here, went there,
told I’m everywhere.
To be myself in this environment, would I be outcasted?
White supremacy plus poverty suppresses me.
My ultimate wish is to express me,
and to JUST let be.
It feels like energy gets depleted at a very fast rate.
I accept myself for who I am,
If you don’t feel free…just leave.

This poem, written by Tonya Bailey, Monica Hemingway, Nan Jackson, Melissa Kaplan, Aida Rochid, and Sirpenia Stewart was inspired by the poem “Read Me” written by LCC students Killian Burcham, Madison David, Audrey Spitzfaden, and Chloe Teunis. Both poems were inspired by prompts concerning the cover of The Hate U Give and racism.

participants working on the poem
“Read Me” poets at work
Read Me,
Don’t judge me,
Don’t overlook me
Don’t exclude me
  Rather
Maximize Experiencing
  Who I am
  I am Human
I have no words to tell you
What you don’t know about me
So ready to brush off
Push away
Deny
Mom said “no that’s a hairstyle for black girls”
It’s like a brick wall
Dad said, “I don’t want you dating black men. They’re no good.”
A blank stare
And my brother overheard.
Every day is like they think they understand,
but do they really?
Why is there still
hate in this modern day?
Why hasn’t it
gone away?
Where have we
gone astray?
Maybe we’re hiding
The Hate We Give
How about loving, caring, and sharing
with others
because we are all
loveable
and important.

This poem, written by Mindy Barbarskis, Greg Berry, Joshua Braswell, Alma Cameron, Ellie Darnell, Mia Misner, and Dr. Pamela Smith was inspired by the poem “It’s a Luxury” written by LCC students Robert Glew, Raymond Latchaw, Victor Verhil, and Keaton Woods. Both poems were inspired by prompts concerning recognizing one’s privilege and fearing the police.

Participants working on the poem
“I Can’t Help But Feel Upset” poets at work
I can’t help but feel upset
With the rise in racism
When I feel our American court system is not fair
to all our Citizens
When someone does not hear or see me
When I am not seen for myself
I feel like a broken record saying “I’m sorry”
The rich white people protect their perfect world
I can’t help but feel upset
When I am split between both sides
That most black men fear the police
How do I separate myself from white hands
on a loaded gun?
I can’t help but feel upset
My parents won’t acknowledge their white
skin safety
White privilege not being recognized.

After the poems were written, one person from each group took the mic and shared their poems with everyone.  Snaps and clapping followed 🙂

What did I learn?:

“This isn’t what we had planned but here goes” sort of day: Barb Clauer introducing the poetry activity.

I learned that, due to the inherent flexibility and spontaneity of the Poetry Project, something meaningful can come from a community-generated approach even with very little time to prep an activity or plan at all! In addition, this activity provided an opportunity to reflect on the poems created during the semester-long project, which is something I wanted to figure out how to do.

And, as always, I was amazed and inspired by how open people are to trying something like this.  From an e-mail with the One Book committee chairs and others later the same day of the wrap-up:

Hello One Book Committee superheroes!!! 

(…)Everyone totally amazed me with how game they were to jump into the exercise and what came together in these poems in that short time of “speed poetry”.  Thank you for asking me be a part of what turned out to be a really meaningful day. (…)

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