With their simple yet profound words, two students from Phillip Rogers Elementary have joined the literary ranks of award-winning Chicago poets.
Each year, in honor of the contributions made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre sponsors a poetry contest that challenges CPS students in grades 3-12 to explore their vision of “the beloved community”. This year’s winner was Jeanie H, a 5th-grader at Phillip Rogers Elementary School.
Lights to Equality
By Jeanie H.
It’s time to walk hand in hand,
It’s time for a world of equality.
It matters not who you are, or what you claim to be,
You’re you, and that’s good enough for me.
Can’t we see who we are,
Our hearts have strayed too far.
Everyone wants happiness,
No one wants pain.
But you can’t have a rainbow,
Without a little rain.
Jeanie’, who was an ELL student until 2012, was shocked to find out that she had won the citywide competition.
“I felt happy and really proud of myself,” she said. “I like to write, and was excited to write a poem about how everybody should be equal.”
Joris Soeding, the teacher who encouraged Jeanie and his other 5th-grade students to participate in the contest, felt it was a way for them to celebrate not only the life of Dr. King, but the values that are at the core of Rogers Elementary.
“Our diversity is something we celebrate every day at Rogers,” he said, “so the notion of Dr. King’s beloved community aligns perfectly with our focus, both in terms of multiculturalism and literature.”
Also among this year’s finalists were Coura M., another 5th-grader at Phillip Rogers, and three students from Harold Washington and Frank Reilly elementary schools. All five students had their poems published in N’Digo Magazine and the winner and first runner-up were invited to read their poems at the Auditorium’s annual “Too Hot to Handel” concert.
“With our diverse group of professional and volunteer musicians, ‘Too Hot to Handel’ exemplifies what the beloved community is all about,” said Christina Bourne, Director of Creative Engagement for the Auditorium. “We are always thrilled to have our CPS poets be a part of this unique performance.”
From November through February, the Auditorium Theatre’s Creative Engagement Department presents workshops in 20 CPS schools, with themes like “The Sound of Nonviolence”, “The Power of One”, and “The Beloved Community”. These experiences have produced student-made change quilts that decorate the walls of the Auditorium Theatre, as well as musical compositions that are created and performed by the students.
“In one workshop, we ask students to look at a brief speech by Dr. King and use its message to create their own personal soundtrack,” said Bourne. “They learn about writing music and building an ensemble, and end with a performance of an original song that explores their vision of Dr. King’s beloved community.”