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I’ve Known Rivers

It always gives me profound courage and honor to sit among a group of Afrodiasporan middle and high school students as they process materials that can stump some adults.

A little over a year ago, I was in Harlem, New York City, at the Schomburg Library. I literally camped out there for close to a day, just to absorb the atmosphere filled with Black brilliance. When I entered, I stopped in the foray and there was this etching, art piece on the floor. I walked the circle of it. The flow and energy of it is what struck me. Then, I realized it was a visualization of Langston Hughes’ praise song to our people.

The H&H teens processed I’ve Known Rivers, An Address to the Slaves of America, A Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and Ain’t I a Woman. The analysis of these 11-15-year-olds encourages anyone who wonders about the ability of the youth to be aware of history and make connections of what has transpired in our country over the past 150+ days.

“We read history so we know what happened and so it won’t happen again.”

One of the youth commented about wanting a different world, where the killings of Black bodies is not the norm or the assault of Black bodies is not excused away. They processed where they came from, their parents, and their grandparents. In that brief exchange, they

“Who are you?”

They processed where they came from, their parents, and their grandparents. In that brief exchange, they understood they were more than teens living in the west and south suburban parts of St. Louis County. They understood that within them is a living history, flowing and moving, sometimes unpredictable, sometimes quiet, always fluid, like the rivers of time.

Next week, Tuesday, June 27, 2017, they will meet at LaBonne Bouchee to celebrate a birthday and process the continued effects of race and human decisions. The middle school is reading British author, Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses. This tale re-imagines what if the tables were turned and Black and White were reversed, told from the British Diasporan experience, this tale invites the teens to imagine what man’s role with those they think are different.

The middle school is reading British author, Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses. This tale re-imagines what if the tables were turned and Black and White were reversed, told from the British Diasporan experience, this tale invites the teens to imagine what man’s role with those they think are different.

The high school is stepping into the more difficult writing of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. This book, written in 1987 and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, continues to stump some adult readers in understanding her literary mysticism and mystery. Toni Morrison invites the teens to delve into the difficult material, language and some scenes that may make them cringe, to re-imagine what happened during the waning years of enslavement. Heart-wrenching, split-second, moments of desperation continue to have an effect on lives. It is based on a real story and invites us to ask what would we do and what effect does this have on the relationships between Black men and women.

There is still time to join us. We meet every Tuesday from 4-6pm at various locations in the west and south metro areas.

June 27 – LaBonne Bouchée on Olive Blvd in the Westgate Center in Creve Coeur. This is in honor of the Director’s late father’s birthday and his love of books, cake, and people! We are reading Beloved. Middle School will read and engage with Noughts & Crosses.
July 4 – yes, we are meeting and discussing Frederick Douglass’ speech – What to the Negro Is The Fourth of July. We will discuss this against the backdrop of this America. We will also engage in Langston Hughes’ poem, I, Too, America and Malcolm X’s essay, The Bullet or the Ballot.
Location: Nordstrom’s eBar, lower level, West County Mall. Also a chance to go upstairs and visit Barnes & Noble.
July 11- This is a Read and Write-In. Many of our young people have required reading for their rising grade with accompanying essays or thoughts on the works. This is their opportunity. This is located in a quaint Tower Grove Neighborhood. Hartford Coffee Company.
July 18 -Back to the library. Tentative location is the Headquarters on Lindbergh in Frontenac. This may change to MidCounty in Clayton or Grand Glaize Branch on Meramec Station Road. We are engaging with Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
July 25 – Ending at a Coffee shop! Tentative selections are Rise Coffee House on Manchester near Chouteau or Park Avenue Coffee in Lafayette Square. We will encounter some Anansi Stories and excerpts from Brown Girls Dreaming, Another Brooklyn, Clotel, Jefferson’s Sons, Between the World and Me, Native Son, and overall book look. The teens will end with a co-write of what they think will be the future of education, literary works, and people of color in America.

Our 2018 season will be from June 5-July 31 (we get a bonus week!)

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