Teachers share African-American poetry with students


C. Thomas reads his poetry to students during the African American read in.

In light of Black History Month, an assembly was presented to appreciate African American literature. Several presenters read poetry or an excerpt of their choice. The speakers included various teachers at the school, in addition to a professional poet, C. Thomas. They presented literature they felt was relevant or inspirational.

Math teacher Timica Shivers presented three poems by Langston Hughes. She read “Dreams”, “Dream Variations”, and “Harlem.” “I chose one topic: dreams,” Ms. Shivers said. “Since I was a young kid, I’ve always dreamed. My favorite definition of the word dream is having a strongly desired goal or purpose.”

Assistant principal Kimberly Jackson presented a poem, also by Langston Hughes, called “War”. This poem covers themes of both racism and violence, which Ms. Jackson found important and relevant today. “I wanted something inspirational for all. This is called an African American read-in, but this event is for everyone.” Jackson said. “I choose this poem because although it’s short, it really hits home at what our nation is facing right now.”

Jacqueline Stallworth, an English teacher, read “We’re going to Mars”, a poem by Nikki Giovanni. This poem presented a powerful narrative about a hope for peace and success in the African-American community, seen through the lens of space travel. Other poems included an excerpt from author Kwame Alexander’s novel, Booked, read by assistant principal Lisa Moore.

Thomas, the guest speaker of the event, has been writing since he was thirteen. “The first poem I wrote was called ‘A Day in The Rain’,” Thomas said. “I’d never written a poem before, and my friend dared me to do it. She dared me to put it into a contest, and I did. I won first place. From then on, I couldn’t stop.”

Thomas read his own poem, from a collection of poetry called Bernard’s Bedroom. He has published four books of poetry. The poem he read was written to a friend of his at the time who was struggling with her self worth. “I’m here to help others,” Thomas said. “My goal in life is to live permanently off of doing poetry.”

Thomas went on to explain how poetry had personally impacted him, and why it could be helpful to others. “Poetry was a way for me to escape many things when I was young, become somebody outside of society,” Thomas said. “I wanted to know what African American poets did to keep them going. I wanted to know how they went on, being black. It was helpful to me, being a gay black man.”

The main message of the assembly was to inspire all students, African American or not. “Mold yourself properly,” Thomas said. “Don’t let negativity become you. Let yourself be inspired by people who want to fuel you. You are deserving of everything. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”