Poetry in PLACE
MONOLOGUES IN Motion
Fifty-two students from Marshall School participated in Poetry in Place Monologues in Motion during the 2021-22 school year. Students met for one hour each week to explore regional African American history, literature and culture and bring their own perspectives and experiences of the city through poetry and theatre arts.
Throughout the year we welcomed four guest artists to work with students as well as volunteers from Messiah college who worked with students on revising their poetry to be included in Sankofa’s Original production of Echoes of the Eighth: Stories from Harrisburg’s Old Eighth Ward. Students’ work was included in the production as well as in an accompanying anthology.
During our early workshops students were introduced to the Gathering at the Crossroads, the monument on the capitol lawn that features life-size bronze statues of four notable African American orators who resided in or visited Harrisburg in the later 19th century: Thomas Morris Chester, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, William Howard Day, and Jacob Compton and the names of one hundred men and women who were catalytic agents for suffrage, citizenship, and opportunity and betterment between 1850 and 1920. Each student chose one of these ancestors to research and write about. Their research inspired poems dedicated to the ancestors.
Guest poet Julian "Juelz" Davenport led our November workshop. As students talked to Juelz about the discoveries they made about the rich African American history of Harrisburg, Juelz shared his poems and talked to them about his experience growing up in Harrisburg, elaborating on how writing helped him recon with his past and embrace a better future.
Our spring workshops focused on the future, what the students wanted for their own futures, as well as the future of our planet. Thankfully, the warmer weather allowed us to move from virtual workshops to live workshops held outside.
Our final workshops focused on students recording their poetry, which will hopefully be used in future projects.
In her essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” Audre Lorde writes: “Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.” It is our hope that these young poets will continue to discover the power of writing and find the confidence to use their voices to change the world.