Jamming and Slamming at East

Jamming and Slamming at East

dance troupe from Odasz Dance Theatre

Snow flakes fell outside, but East was a sizzling inside.


Cooking good at East

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.




Sam Kimble

IMG_1507Like 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.IMG_1523

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.


(left to right) Eileen Graham, DJ Brandon Briggs, Ronald Hall

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.


Judges Panel (from behind the DJ table)

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.


Mark Steffenilla, Eileen Graham, and Alexandrea Zoccali

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.


dance troupe from Odasz Dance Theatre


Kierra Blocker

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


Roland catching my TD pass

Snow flakes were falling outside, but East was sizzling.IMG_1515


Displaying East’s glorious past

Also on poetry in the RCSD

Our first submission! “November” by Olivia Spenard, Creative Writing Program, School of the Arts



About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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