Grammar school students ‘Speak Out’ at library event

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — On Saturday, Feb. 9, Maplewood Memorial Library hosted the fourth annual “Kids Speak Out,” an event held during Black History Month that showcases the work of South Orange-Maplewood School District elementary school students. This event encourages students to express themselves through spoken word, poetry and art to celebrate Black History Month. Poetry and artwork from all of the elementary schools was on display.

Jane Folger, head of the children’s department at Maplewood Library, said, “This was a uniquely fun event where students had the opportunity to speak out and be heard by their community. All the kids had amazingly profound things to say about the world, about fairness, about compassion and about themselves. The program opened with an oration by Jefferson School fifth-grader Naomi Abrams, who recited — from memory — the entirety of Langston Hughes’ ‘Let America Be America Again.’ It was a stellar performance that touched every heart in the room. Eleanor Levy, another Jefferson fifth-grader spoke about her work with the autistic inclusion multiage class.”

Clinton School students read poetry and displayed their “blackout” poems. Jennifer Latimer, the Clinton library media specialist, said, “The ‘Kids Speak Out’ event is a unique opportunity for students around the district to come together and share their accomplishments. It provides valuable public speaking experience for our youngest students who might not otherwise have a platform for their messages.”

Students from Marshall School, under the leadership of library media specialist Maria Kazanis, shared their beautiful artwork, inspired by artist Alma Woodsey Thomas, with the audience. “First- and second-graders were inspired by her art to create eclipse images in mosaic form. It was encouraging to see so many of my students and I was especially proud how they were able to verbally express themselves about their art in front of an audience,” Kazanis said.

Tuscan School students, who ranged in age from third- through fifth-grade, read “I Am” poems as well as haiku poetry that highlighted their unique qualities and desire for peace in the world. Library media specialist Amy B. Popp said, “It was wonderful to have so many students share their poetry with the community. Additionally, it was heartwarming to listen to all of their diverse stories and messages for peace in the world.”

Seth Boyden third-graders from teacher Cadine Gray’s class contributed their art and writing, showing their own dreams for the future alongside Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. “Their dreams are deeper and reach farther than one would expect from children this age!” said Janine Poutre, the Seth Boyden School library media specialist.

South Mountain fifth-graders shared their amazing poems dealing with civil rights and social justice. “This is a wonderful event for the students to share their thoughts and feelings with everyone,” Cathy Campbell, the South Mountain library media specialist, said.

Photos Courtesy of Amy Popp and Joanne Beckerich