Monday, November 8, 2010

Sharing Af-Am Poetry at Woodland Elementary

Woodland students participating in poetry exhibit

Last Friday, November 5, two new black studies contributors, Consuella Kelly and Danielle Hall, and our lead black studies graduate assistant Adrienne Smith joined me in coordinating a mixed media exhibit for the more than 150 fifth graders at Woodland Elementary School in Edwardsville, IL. What a good time we had!

The students were vibrant, curious, and knowledgeable about a range of topics covered in poems by the exhibit's featured writers Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Nikki Giovanni, Eugene B. Redmond, and Margaret Walker.

The exhibit showcased several photographs from Redmond's extensive collection of images, and we let the Woodland students use our mp3 players so that they could listen to poets reading their works.

One of our longtime contributors, Al Henderson, had added upbeat instrumentals to the poets' readings, so the compositions were poetic and rhythmic. Did the students notice? Of course. You should have seen them bobbing their heads and moving their bodies as they listened. (They taught me all kinds of new dance moves, by the way.)

We began our exhibit at 9:30 in the morning and ended around 2:30. We received a new group of 25 or so students every 45 minutes. First, I would introduce the exhibit and then gave the students time to wander around listening, viewing, and reading. At the end, we took Q & A and asked the students to comment on the poems they favored most.

Listening to the students talk about their favorite poems and provide reasons why was really enjoyable. Their answers were quite varied, and their observations about the poems gave me reasons to re-read each one from new perspectives.

(Funding for the exhibit was made possible by funds from the Illinois Humanities Council and the Black Studies Program @ SIUE).    

Related content: Eugene B. Redmond and the EBR Collection

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