Powerful Words Create Lasting Tributes 

CPS students celebrate Black History Month with essays and poetry

February 26, 2013

This month, students from across the District will be celebrating the history and heritage of African-Americans in many different ways, among them the power of the written and spoken word.


Decatur Classical School

For the eighth consecutive year, Roosevelt University and the Auditorium Theatre sponsored a poetry competition for CPS students that honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Each participating student was asked to create a poem exploring their vision of Dr. King's "beloved community".


The winner of the competition for 2013 was Casey Wangman, a fifth-grader from Decatur Classical School, which serves 300 students in grades K-6.


"All of our students in third through sixth grade wrote poems for this competition," said Chanmi Chun, Literacy Coordinator for Decatur Classical. "It is part of our goal of imbedding African-American history into our overall curriculum."


Casey's poem, which she read aloud as part of the Auditorium's "Too Hot To Handel" music and literature performance, reads as follows:


I can picture a place
Where diversity is embraced
A loving, caring place
Where hate is not the case

I can picture a beloved community
Where everyone could live in unity
A diverse community
With equal opportunities


Spry Community Links High School

During February, all 200 students at Spry Community Links have been charged with writing a compelling essay about a Chicagoan who best personifies the following quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:


"Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere."


Inspired by Black History Month, this project is a major undertaking for the school English Department. "Our English teachers help students choose their subjects and create outlines, then provide them with feedback on multiple essay drafts," said Spry Principal Francisco Bonnas. "We are very invested in this project, because in addition to helping the students celebrate Black History Month, it helps us gage the quality of writing from all our students at one time."


Located in the Little Village Community, Spry Community Links has a Hispanic population of over 99 percent. But the lack of African-Americans within the student body does nothing to diminish the school's commitment to the celebration of Black History Month. "The Hispanic community has fought for the same civil rights issues and has the same solidarity as the African-American community," said Principal Bonnas. "And we would not have come this far as a community without the work and influence of African-Americans."


At the conclusion of the essay contest, a committee of teachers and administrators will choose one winner from each grade level and provide that student with a college scholarship award. All winning essays will be read at a school assembly later in March. "The students have embraced the challenge of writing a winning essay," said Principal Bonnas. "It excites them, because they know that their words have the ability to carry a powerful message."