Snow flakes fell outside, but East was a sizzling inside.
This is how every Friday night should be at city schools. On one side of East, the Eagles were jamming with the Edison Inventors; while on the other side, RCSD students were word hooping at the Youth Connections Poetry Bee/Slam.
Like back in the day, standing room only for the basketball games. You could almost feel Sal Rizzo and his nine Section V trophies. Luckily, the press has its privileges as East Athletic Director Patrick Irving let me through the crowd. Manning the door was our old friend Sam Kimble who you met in Rooting interest in Team Eagle
Some in the overflow basketball crowd found their way to an event just as important in its own right, the first ever Youth Connections Poetry Bee.
There I met Ronald Hall and Eileen Graham, members of the Black Student Leadership team organizing the event, part of a new program, Healing the Hurt, begun by Graham in August in response to the killings at the Boys & Girls Club.
Graham, an outreach representative at MVP Healthcare, along with Hall and other Black Student Leadership volunteers, organized the poetry bee/slam. The poetry, rap and song contest for city middle and high school provided a public space for students to express their frustrations and fears as well as their hopes and dreams. See Program at end.
Hall, a recent Rochester School Board candidate, was thrilled at the chance to partner with the RCSD to make the evening happen.
To Hall, the night is a celebration of youth at its best. A truly authentic setting, the Bee and performances allowed the community to see students–participants and judges–filled with seriousness, passion and playfulness all at once.
The Bee was not designed to coincide with the basketball games, but the two together provided a rich synergy. Next time, Hall and Graham envision Bee performers singing, dancing or even word slamming at halftime.
I also met Brockport student Mark Steffenilla and his girlfriend, Alexandrea Zoccali, who sang at the event, taking tickets. Mark joined Black Student Leadership after Eileen spoke to his public health class at Brockport. Mark knows that black youth are many times underserved and underrepresented unless they are in crisis. He sees the group as being proactive rather than reactive
And Jessica Odasz of Odasz Dance Theatre. Before the Bee–as seen in the pictures–Odasz Dance performed beautifully for us (including Eileen’s son, senior and black scholar Brandon Graham and other SOTA students). As to why Jessica and company were there, the answer is easy. To share their art.
No visit to East is complete without a photo-op at the old Trophy Case (see below). East’s Lower School Principal Marlene Bocker’s daughter, Kierra, a nursing student at Brockport, did the honors.
Along with Patrick, you met Principal Blocker unplugged in Team Eagle with Roland Williams ’93
Also on poetry in the RCSD