Friday, December 13, 2013

Poetry Sightings in the "Invisible Child" series

This week in the New York Times's "Invisible Child" series about a girl who is homeless in New York City, there were a couple of moments where black poetry was highlighted. For one, there's a video adjoining one of the stories in the series where the little girl, Dasani, recites Maya Angelou's poem "Phenomenal Woman." Even as she's distracted by her younger sibling, the girl continues reading the poem from memory. 

Here's another mention of black poetry from the series:

Minutes later, Dasani is sitting in McKinney’s packed auditorium for an assembly on Black History Month.

She hates Black History Month.

“It’s always the same poems,” she says.

The new honor roll is called out. Dasani’s name is missing. It must be a mistake, she tells herself. But when she hears all the other names, the truth sinks in.

She slumps in her chair as a group of boys takes the stage to recite Langston Hughes.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?

Dasani knows this poem well. They read it every year. She stares blankly at the stage.

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load
Or does it explode?
That's Hughes's "Harlem," which is often known by that question about a "dream deferred." After coming across that comment from the girl about "the same poems," I wondered what it would mean to expose young people to different and new black poetry. Or perhaps more important, what would it mean to expose teachers and other school officials to other poems.  

"Invisible Child" series and coverage

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