Local high schoolers read poetry about immigrating to America


Alpha Keita, a student at Northwestern High School, read while his mentor, Nick Meriwether, watched at the Postcards from my Country feature at Borderlines Sunday at the Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville. Photo by Samantha Reich for The Writers' Bloc.

By Samantha Reich
Guest Columnist

Past the long bar and under dim lighting is the stage at the Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, Md. Several Northwestern High School and Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House students took the stage on Sunday.

The usual Borderlines open mic, which occurs on Sundays, featured my class Postcards from My Country. High school students and Writers’ House student mentors from the course read poetry in English and Spanish.

Northwestern students Alpha, Nidia, Irma and Ngone and students from the University of Maryland (Dolapo Demuren, Ted Sim, Lenaya Stewart and I) read. The Northwestern students read about their experiences coming to America and of their homes in the Ivory Coast, El Salvador, Jamaica and Nigeria.

The host, Henry Mills, a former Writers’ House and Postcards student, introduced poets who read and rapped in Spanish and English on their multi-cultural experiences.

Postcards is a course where University of Maryland students mentor English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students at Northwestern High School in poetry from their countries of origin. The goal is to increase graduation rates while forming friendships.

By taking on a teaching role, Writers’ House students grow in our writing abilities along with their mentees. We workshop poems about the students’ countries of origin.  High-performing Northwestern students are also encouraged to apply to the Young Scholars Program, which offers pre-college summer courses for high school students at the University of Maryland.

Last year, Ngone participated in the program.

Demuren delivered a passionate poem on the recent Trayvon Martin shooting, including social commentary that was well received and sparked conversation.

Stewart, a future Writers’ House student, read spoken word poetry on her identity as both African-American and Cuban. She criticized the construct of race and particularly what it means to be black.  Sim read a short poem about magnets and though his performance was brief he displayed a commanding stage presence.

I found the stage at Busboys to be intimate and read a poem about campus life and one about Muslim hijabi girls from an outsider’s perspective.

The Postcard event at Borderlines was funded by the Writers’ House and would not have be possible without the Northwestern students, their ESOL teacher, Writers’ House students and Writers’ House staff members Eva Freeman and Mario Escobar.

Postcards also releases an annual journal of poems by the high school students. For the first time, we will be listing this year’s journal on Amazon in May.

View more photos from the event here.

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