Second Annual “Lift Every Voice: A Celebration of Black History and Culture” poetry jam held over three week period

College and Career Readiness Teacher April Young introduces the etiquette during the first of three Poetry Jams, February 9.

Happening Feb. 9, 16 and 23 is the “Lift Every Voice: A Celebration of Black History and Culture” Black History Month poetry jam. The jam is hosted by April Young, the college and career specialist, and takes place in the theater arts black box during advisory.

Senior Maryam Ghazi recites a poem called “Horror Movies” (Alfred Dozier)

The tradition of a Black history poetry jam began last year. Ms. Young proposed the idea of a Black history poetry jam during Black History Month to represent the culture and diversity of Black history. All students of any background are invited and encouraged to recite poems, perform songs and execute dances to appreciate and celebrate Black history.

“As a black educator, I think it’s important that our students, who are also Black and non-Black – whether they’re white, Asian, Hispanic – Black history is everyone’s history,” Ms. Young said. “It’s American history.”

The event is intentionally referred to as a poetry jam rather than a poetry slam. Traditionally, poetry slams are competitions where the crowd judges and chooses the best poet. A poetry jam allows students to come together in an environment where the audience can celebrate and enjoy every performance for what it is.

“[The poetry jam] represents a chance to support a community that doesn’t get a lot of recognition for the great things that they do,” junior Hudson Hooper said.

For some students, like senior Saniyah Jannah, the poetry jam was an opportunity to express herself. Jannah recited “And Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou at last year’s jam, and is performing “From Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes this year.

Senior Saniyah Jannah-Celestine sits down and recities “From mother to son” by Langston Hughes (Lucy Robinson)

“We don’t really have things like that at this school,” Jannah said. “We don’t have a place where we can – I know this wasn’t just for Black kids – but we don’t really have a place where we can just talk about or have original poems or bring poems that represent Black voices and Black pain and Black struggles and stuff like that. I just felt heard, finally.”

The students who participate and attend embody the very reason this poetry jam came to life. Every voice in the community matters and deserves to be heard. Events like these are made to welcome, uplift and magnify student voices.

“This poetry jam,” senior Jaylen Botts said, “represents Black excellence”