Today at ACJ I brought in a few of Danez Smith's poems for the kids to read. They really enjoyed "Boyz in the Hood 2" and "Juxtaposing the Black Boy and the Bullet." They argued over whether they were faster than bullets. They wondered if bullets really lived their lives in a flash. We talked about metaphors and allusions and how powerful an image can be. It seems as though every time I try to get a message through to them about signifiers in poetry, these kids already know it better than I do.
After reading "Boyz in the Hood 2," one kid paused and told us that in two years, he would just be a memory. When I asked him what he meant, he told me he was worried his family and friends would forget about him if he was locked up. This was the first time he really shared openly in class, and I was devastated to hear that he felt this way. We told him that we wouldn't forget about him. That he should keep writing and sharing and that way no one could forget about him. No child should have these worries so early in their life.
Last week I gave one of my students The Autobiography of Malcolm X and he reported back to me that he's already more than halfway through the book. That's 200-something pages! He told me it's way better than the movie, and it seems like a very accurate representation of his struggle. He wants to go to Mecca. He really just wanted to get back to the pod to read some more of the book. Kristine told me she's going to try to get a class set and have everyone read the book. I was so excited at the prospect of this group of kids all learning the story of Malcolm X. I'm really looking forward to what might come of this. Every week is a new adventure.
-Mike Bennett, Words Without Walls Teaching Artist