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Peace (in honor of Boston, and victims of violence everywhere)

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I am a terrible blogger, I know. I haven’t updated this place in way too long, but after seeing a post on the Humans of New York tumblr, where the photographer has captured a Boston local’s hip-hop poem about peace in honor of the victims of Monday’s bombing, I wanted to share this with everyone.

First, a little background:

aerial view of book

Me standing next to the entire “book” in D.C.

In preparation for the Dalai Lama’s “Power of Nonviolence” summit in 2011, the GlassBook Project collaborated with Rutgers MCJ Scholars and middle school students from Newark’s S. 17th St. School to create a forty-foot long accordion structure glass book that focused on finding peace.

Specifically they were asked to look at the differences in how young people and adults seek, explore, and find peace. We did this to illustrate the many paths people take to find peace and to bridge some common misconceptions or presumptions adults have regarding youth.

And with family violence and dysfunction playing such an important role in the development of children, the connection, dialog, and understanding stemming from this piece can facilitate peace.

This book was unveiled at SAMHSA’s National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Washington, DC. Student-artists also received recognition by Congressman Donald Payne, (D-NJ) and the U.S. Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus.

While some of the students were initially skeptical of how an abstract concept like ‘peace’ applied in their daily lives (many of whom had been touched by violence and tragedy), the end result was a gorgeous sculpture filled with love, sharp insight, empathy for others, and a view of the world around them that made us all truly hopeful and proud of the future in a way that sometimes the words and actions of adults do not. I wrote this poem for them.

View of the book

A closer view of the book.

The New Tie-Dye
For my students in the “Finding Peace” GlassBook Project from S. 17th Street Middle School in Newark, NJ

We’ve decided. Peace is silence. Or,
music. A pen, a black & white marbled notebook.
Tattoos that hide scars,
bright stars in the night sky.
The green of your lucky shoelaces,
grins on your hand-drawn smiley faces
a stained glass butterfly.

It’s knowing why.
Peace:
it’s sometimes slippery, sly.

It’s a giant pair of headphones like saucers on your ears,
microphones, horses
soft clean sheets, baby’s feet
your own room, your own place
your friend’s face, mother father sister brother:
who kept away the night monsters?

student artist with book

One of the student-artists explains her images to a visitor.

We’ve turned these things and more into bits
of blue, yellow stripes, flowers
like a puzzle like a rhyme
sixteen by twenty inch wide
words and worlds side by side
our own magic carpet ride.

Here’s the secret: it’s not
what you see on the panes.
It’s the empty spaces between,
the curve and the clear,
the tape joining all our shapes
and colors and clutter and clamor,
the swirl of all this and the absence
of that. We’re hip or not, sixties
hippies, soul, hip-hop or rock
it’s a new colored world like oil paints
layered fresh on the old, and this
is our new tie-dye.

You might also like: Fifteen-Minute Field Trip

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