Three eighth-graders and two teachers will share the stage for a poetry reading on Sunday, providing a platform for diverse and marginalized voices in the local arts community.
At 2 p.m. on Jan. 19, five performers will share their poetry through the Emerging Diverse Voices in Orange County performance series. This event will be held at the Burwell School Historic Site. Admission is free, and refreshments will be served.
Sunday’s poetry reading is the second event in the series, and it focuses on the work of teachers and students from Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill. Areale Smith, one of the teachers who will perform, said the event will be a valuable experience for both the audience and the performers.
“The most rewarding thing is just knowing that you are engaging in the act of giving,” Smith said. “It’s an exercise in vulnerability, which is something that I think we all should practice.”
In addition to providing a platform for diverse voices, the event is unusual in that it juxtaposes the poetry of students and teachers in the same performance.
Eric Zeigler, the second participating teacher, said he has performed his poetry many times, but never in a setting like this, in which adults and middle school students will share the stage. The other poets agreed that this combination makes this reading stand out from similar events.
Zeigler said he is looking forward to seeing the hard work of his students, Gulinky Lu, Jamira Bucknor and Arul Nagarajan. For Lu and Nagarajan, this will be their first experience performing their poetry at a public reading like this.
Lu plans to perform a poem discussing the problem of climate change. Nagarajan said he turned to poetry as a way to speak for himself and for others within his community, complementing the theme of the Emerging Diverse Voices series.
“They have a really clear sense of the complexities of what it means to be today’s youth,” Zeigler said. “It’s an honor to be able to share the same stage as them.”
The participants said they hope their poetry will provide the audience with a new perspective and deepened understanding of the diversity within their community.
The Diverse Voices series is spearheaded by Kim Lane, a local artist and gifted education specialist at Smith Middle School. The program is funded by a grant from the Orange County Arts Commission and will continue through June with events every one or two months. Lane said she is eager to create a space for diverse voices, especially for the younger artists of the community.
“I want them to feel safe in the diverse environment sharing who and what they are,” Lane said. “They have something to say, and they’re saying it very fluently.”
Bucknor, who has performed her poetry a few times before, said she appreciated the opportunity to share her work alongside her teachers and peers. She and the other students hope the audience sees this as a chance to connect with the younger generation through performance poetry.
“I hope the audience walks away with a new understanding of spoken word and poetry,” Bucknor said. “Maybe they’ll find it brings them joy as well.”
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