Kristopher Rollins co-directs the Urban Leadership Academy at Central Campus with Emily Lang. Together they began a writing workshop several years ago at Harding Middle School that mushroomed into the phenomenon known variously as Movement 515, RunDSM, Share the Mic and Brave New Voices. It’s a rising chorus of teen poets that spun off a feeder program in a cohort of district elementary schools called Half-Pints. “Half-pints, whole hearts!” is the mantra.
Last month Rollins completed his doctorate degree at Drake University. The topic for his thesis?
“I did it on the impact that mentoring the half-pints has had on our high school poets,” he said last night before the half-pints spoke their truth, their WHOLE truth and nothing but their truth in their latest poetry slam at the Central Campus auditorium.
Poets from River Woods, Findley, Capitol View, Hillis, Samuelson, Stowe, Morris, and King Elementary went at it with the coveted Golden Boom Box on the line. Hillis brought the traveling trophy with them as the defending half-pint slam champs. But at the end of the night, King took it home.
Honestly, folks, if you haven’t heard the half-pints, you can’t imagine what you’re missing.
A pair of pals from Morris did a tandem piece about Christmas and Ramadan, their respective high holidays.
A brave boy from Hillis recited a requiem for a loved one lost to cancer and another from Findley performed in the face of the recent deportation of his father.
And on and on.
Grinning girls bounded onto the stage, looking as excited as children do when they are about to open presents. Then they gave gifts to the audience.
One 5th grader racked up a full slate of perfect 10s from the panel of judges (high schoolers from M515) for a piece that was an adoring homage to her teacher – talk about a priceless perk in an undervalued profession.
Anti-bullying posters are commonplace in schools nowadays, sadly. There’s no way they have the impact of peers poeticizing about meanness to one another. You know how you deal with a bully? Punch ‘em with a hard-hitting poem!
Some were solemn, in need of support and healing. And they came to the right place. Thinking themselves friendless, they scored 10s and became the eyes of hug hurricanes that stormed around them when they left the stage.
One girl just didn’t seem like she was going to quite be able to muster the courage to stand up to the mic. You should have heard the kids from schools all over town exhort and encourage her. She could do it – and she did!
“We are like planets,” one poem declared. “We may be far apart, but we are still part of a system…” It was a good and timely reminder.
“This half-pint program started as a pilot at King (in January of 2015),” program coordinator Words Taylor told the crowd after the results were announced. “And now, for the first time, they have won the Golden Boom Box, so please celebrate with them.”
And EVERYONE cheered, because, as this burgeoning community of bards is wont to chant, “It’s not about the points, it’s about the poetry!”