“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
Greetings to you from Project Team Spoken Word and Song Writing for Social Change. Here is an update on the project currently underway with students of EHS ninth grade English classes. After students watched four video productions specifically designed for the class unit, we find students are making references in class to things they’ve learned from the mentors. RUT now can proudly claim to be part of the DNA of the course. We’re hearing student ideas for creative projects percolating. We are making plans to offer students coaching on creative project production – to assist them in developing their ideas. Watch the videos to get a better understanding of students' comments; it adds more depth to their words. We hope that this segment brings you into the classroom and we would love to hear from you about this project as we look to expand its scope to other Seacoast area School Administrative Units (SAUs). Send us an Email or include your comments in the Comment section of the Contact Us form.
Provides an introduction to the program - The Arts Are About Connection -and what each student may expect by getting involved in the project.
This video introduces his background and work he is presently doing to further the conversation on race. He gets us thinking about the meaning that our culture assigns to the skin we're in and how our art has the power to change a culture of bias to one of equity and inclusion for all.
The material is copyrighted and meant for use in connection with the Racial Equity program in Exeter, NH.
You're invited into the space she occupies, one surrounded by art, social change and protest posters - to hear how this space influences her and the work she does. She states the historical fact that it was once, for a prolonged period in U.S. history, a punishable crime for a black person to learn to read or write. Courtney asks us, "How did people keep their sparks of creativity alive in that world of exclusions? What if Beyonce were not allowed to sing today? " She ends with suggestions for opening doors to creating - imagining the better future we all know is possible.
You'll watch singer-songwriter Bob Marley inviting oppositional leaders to join in establishing peace in Jamaica during a time of violence that had been ravaging their streets. Kevin shows us the arts' place in changing history and encourages us to experiment to find our best method and style of expression to speak up for freedom - still being negotiated in 2021 for black U.S. citizens.
"The project is already a success in my mind, and we're only halfway through. I've never seen my students so inspired to research and write about topics they are truly passionate about. The artist mentors have not only helped show my students that they have a voice, but they've also inspired my students to use their voices in powerful and purposeful ways".
Exeter High School 9th-grade student comments:
Everything that I have learned in this unit has made me really reflect back on my own history and provoked me to be more aware of how racism is happening so often that is going unnoticed, and after watching these videos I feel inspired to do something about it.
This whole unit has changed my thinking, since it has broadened my horizons and helped me understand different perspectives and opinions that I hadn’t thought about before.
This unit has made me think more about the world around me and how I can make it better.
How has everything we’ve read and talked about during this unit changed or challenged your thinking?
. . . it has challenged me to think about how much I am learning about today’s issues, and not just issues, but those who have seen those issues first-hand and experienced them from a lens I will never see through no matter how hard I read. I’ve realized that I have not read or looked at, consciously or unconsciously, many pieces of art from black people or many people of color either.
I’ve been looking at my education through the years, the people painted out to be heroes, and villains and written all over it is the “European vision” that Reggie and others talked about with us. Another thing I’ve been enlightened by watching these videos is how important art is to our culture, our lives, and even things that can be as harsh and violent as politics. Art at our school and at many others in the US, is one of the things least acknowledged and praised as a subject. People look for our GPAs and As, Bs, and Cs but never any deeper than those numbers, and that makes it harder for students to see the importance of art in all its different forms.
I think a lot that we read brought to my attention how bad it really was and still is for many black people. I feel like before this year I was ignorant toward that aspect, but now I’m trying to educate myself more and learn about the struggles.
I’ve also realized the power of literature. I didn’t realize that songs, books, and poems could make such a difference, but they can. One thing that really stood out to me was the Bob Marley concert where he got the two political rivals to stand up there and hold hands. I realize that art can help bring ideas and inspire people to make positive change. Another thing I realize is . . . that I don’t read that many novels or poems by people of color. That is one thing I would like to change.
Racial Unity Team’s Spoken Word and Song Writing for Social Change aka Arts In Action project brought artists into the classroom to tell their stories of using the arts to heal and to advocate for justice. The artists then mentored youth in creative expressions of a future without racism, where everyone has opportunities to thrive and participate in civic life. Songwriting • Poetry • Spoken Word • Editorial. Eight teens from Exeter High School will share their creative expressions from this incredible collaboration at this unique CreativeMornings Portsmouth event.
If you like the work, we are doing please donate towards the work we will do during the 2021-2022 school year. Another school will be selected for the program to donate visit our website racialunityteam.com
This question made the shift to students’ finding their voices and learning how to apply them in their creative expressions.
The "Bookshelf Diversity" project grew out of the RUT partnership Arts in Action with Exeter High School ninth grade English teachers in their unit on justice, equity, and social change. In her class presentation, student Ingrid Janicki's project "Bookshelf Diversity" emphasized bringing more voices to our students' worlds/ perspectives and not in tokenism through performative diversity, but instead, healthy readings that honor natural inclusiveness versus reading diverse books on Chinese holidays or celebrations of progress for under-represented groups. Ingrid advocated for reading books as if most stories could have people of any identities playing out the plot lines as well.
An Interview with EHS English teachers Dennis Magliozzi and Kristina Peterson and ELO Coordinator (Courtesy SAU-16)
The DEIJ - diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice - initiative across SAU 16 has recently taken on more focus, structure and form. Three teachers have collaborated to reset their lenses and ask the tough questions about how and what they teach with DEIJ in mind.
This year, they have partnered with Racial Unity Team (RUT) to transform how they perceive and teach the classic novel written by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has been the subject of conversation in countless classrooms for six decades. Magliozzi and Peterson, both English Teachers, have been working with Mockingbird for 10 years at Exeter High School. Despite their best efforts, they could not find a way they felt cast the discussion about issues of race and equity in a
way they felt worked well. This year, one of their goals when reading Mockingbird is to critically examine why Harper Lee focuses on certain characters and round out those whose stories are not told. This move to look at the novel through the lens of underrepresented characters in the book has served as an entry point into critical conversations about race and equity.
When aligning this approach to a world view in 2021 versus one from a small Alabama town in 1960, it is clear there are real shortcomings in the book as a solo unit. It didn't do what the teachers hoped it to do by
itself, but there was great potential to leverage it. “In some ways, we can see Harper Lee’s novel as her attempt at using art to change the world,” Peterson said, “and we want our students to do the same.” That’s when the lightbulb went off in terms of curriculum – the teachers began to team up to use Mockingbird as a piece from which to launch their students into action research.
Their approach became to study Atticus Finch’s world view by asking students questions such as these:
● Have we realized his vision for justice in the United States?
● If so, how?
● If not, what changes can we make to get there?
● What change do you want to see in the world?
● How can you affect that change?
From there, students are invited to create art as a form of expression to further their impact. That’s where Adam Krauss, ELO Coordinator in the school, joined the mission. Krauss helped Peterson and Magliozzi
join forces with several mentor artists from The Racial Unity Team. This partnership allowed students to hear from individuals who shared how they and others use art to make an impact on the world, and how
they grapple with the realities of being Black in America. Working side by side with these artists, students are learning to govern their voices and use art to inspire others. The final component of the student work is – with the help of the mentor artists – to turn their research for social change into art for social change.
Power opens up doors or prevents doors from opening. In this work three central things play out in this project: the injection of these professionals and their voices empowers students to claim voices of their own; the initial collaboration between these three teachers has led to collaboration among other colleagues and members of the community; and the resulting creative expression, which can be through art, music and/or the written or spoken word.
Krauss, Magliozzi, and Peterson are trying hard not to send the message that one voice is the end all be all. “Our students have just as much agency in this project and conversation as we do as their guide on the side,” said Krauss. Students have just as much power to criticize, challenge, and change their world – our shared world – as everyone else involved in their education. That’s equity and inclusion at work. It’s a vision for justice Atticus couldn’t attain. But lifting up voices, ensuring people from all backgrounds and experiences are welcomed and their stories are heard – that is a vision for justice that all teachers can
I write this letter of support after a semester of working with 110 students as our school and the Racial Unity Team partner on a NHSCA pilot project initiative. At least three things are clear: 1. students are hooked - learning, reflecting and hungry for change; 2. we're growing professionally while our school enhances culturally; 3. the success from the past few months has us in a position to partner with neighboring schools in the service of expanded justice studies, equitable outcomes, and the creation of a student-centered network focused on agency and social change.
I'd like to elaborate on the point about students. Today I was talking with one of our students about what she enjoys about school, and she remarked how surprised she was to be doing such an "official" project. I asked what she meant, and she explained she wasn't used to school work involving real-world topics with professional artists and leaders in a way that put her voice and ambition at the center of the experience.
That's what this project has been about: connecting students not only to the world and people around them, but also, to the fires brewing in them - the fires that make them want to ask our artist-mentors how young people can find and use their voices. That a curriculum existed to support this and that there were teachers open to adapting and innovating where needed and possible to ensure we fan those flames is another facet that we will not overlook. Equally compelling is the institutional backdrop that this has played out as our district bolsters our work around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
As a result we have students getting peers to think about constitutional quandaries found in the Pledge of Allegiance, wanting to change the uniform standards governing female athletes, pushing for social-media "fasts" in service of improved personal and social well-being, as well as considering the impacts of "cancel culture," re-imagining the current structure and goals of public education, and asking others to consider their word choice in everyday interactions.
Thanks to your support, we have identified the various nexus points between these ideas and pedagogical strands and are excited to share what we have learned with colleagues and learners in another district. That is, after all, the purpose of education: to share our passions and knowledge so that more people tomorrow benefit from what we learned today.
With this experience as the focal point, we bring practiced perspective, vetted resources, shared ideals and devotion to working together toward them, along with what happily feels like a bottomless well of commitment and enthusiasm to doing the work it takes to make it happen. Thank you to all who have been involved and to you for considering our re-application.
Sincerely, Adam Krauss, CAGS, Exeter High School, Extended Learning Opportunities, Coordinator and Class of 2024
May 14, 2021
The Racial Unity Team of NH has been granted $7,500 by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts to deliver a program that gives youth support in creating songs of community. The Kennebunk Savings Bank has also contributed to the Team’s project at the level of Official Sponsor. Participants may apply the genres of spoken word, rap, hip hop, or lyrics to songs in a creation of their own to express the value of our racially diverse population. We’re also pleased to join Exeter High School as “artists in residence” to begin working in the classroom on this exciting collaborative project.
As with community and protest songwriters of the past, the young composers will critique what needs repair, then use music as a universal, non-threatening language through which to share what they know best—their own stories and what they see happening around them. The course seeks their creative vision of a world without racism.
Students will be asked to add new lines to classic songs to adapt them to today’s oppressions and the changes they want to see. Then they’ll be asked, “What has stood in your way or your friend’s way to becoming the best you/they can be? What would the road to justice and fairness look like?”
Creative visioning in the project “Spoken Word and Song Writing for Social Change” will counter current racist commentary heard in newscasts. Student truths revealed in lyrics and poetry have the potential to tear down stereotypes, open our hearts and imaginations toward understanding the ways we under-serve black and brown citizens. This “Arts in Health NHSCA Project Grant” can open eyes to see how we grow stronger with equitable resources, how we all benefit when everyone is given the chance to grow and thrive in school, workplace, town and neighborhood.
Those interested in hearing more about the class and/or having interest in joining this class should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Logo Designer:_ehasan at Fiverr.com
A fresh and innovative voice in music and digital content, Kevin Writer is Los Angeles-based as a music supervisor and producer. With a keen ear for musical color and the ability to redesign structural elements from popular music into symphonic idiom, Kevin brings dedication to the producer's intent, respect for his musician colleagues, and a spirit of collaboration with each
composer and filmmaker he meets.
Samples of work: www.facebook.com/dougandthebugs
Doug Holzapfel immersed himself in the music industry in Los Angeles as a songwriter and music producer. He has worked with numerous recording artists and major labels creating works in styles ranging from pop and hip hop to rock and jazz. He scored TV shows for DreamWorks and Netflix and earned a platinum record for his contributions to the DreamWorks' feature film Trolls.
Courtney Marshall, PhD, posted on her Facebook page: “I am a Black feminist fitness instructor and high school English teacher. Let’s get free!”
Courtney leads dialogues on race, gender, and social justice issues and is an advocate for—and writer on—prison reform. She was a facilitator for the UNH MLK Leadership Summit for students and has run literacy groups at the Berlin, NH Correctional Facility in hopes of improving prison life by bringing literature to inmates. Over the years she has taught as a professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at UNH and as an English teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Listen to his work at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ryXm8byxW0
Reggie Harris generates courageous conversations, getting us to do deep thinking on issues, build our self-awareness, and use our voices to advocate for peace and justice.
A master storyteller, musician, and educator, he is affiliated with The John F. Kennedy Center’s “Partners in Education” program. His impressive work over decades with students and teachers has aided in the expansion and enhancement of curriculum standards for all grade levels. Mentored by the foremost authority on the Underground Railroad, Dr. Charles Blockson, Reggie is one of the premier interpreters of the use of music in historical movements for social change.
As a musician and social justice advocate, Sylvia served as manager of “Culture Keepers | Culture Makers,” a project team that created an art show and panel discussion on how art changes lives. The works were displayed at the Racial Unity Day gallery and Seacoast NH libraries to build awareness of racism and to envision our communities without racism.
Recently retired from UNH’s Office of Community, Equity, and Diversity, Sylvia designed programs to build self-awareness, inspire policy changes, and honor diversity as a community value across campus—in classroom, curriculum, and campus life. She teaches in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at UNH.
Hope Bowen is a junior at UNH, where she is majoring in English and minoring in political science. Her work at the Dover Teen Center finds her mentoring, tutoring, and encouraging leadership skills. The Center is a national role model for prevention, funded by the local Police Department; and Hope has impressive success stories about the work being done in this community-building facility.
As an intellectual, a strong advocate for social and systemic change, and an aficionado and writer of hip hop, she brings much to our grant project.
Kristina Peterson has been teaching English at Exeter High School since 2008.
Kristina has a Masters degree in teaching. She also teaches in the UNH Writers Academy, mentors future and current teachers, writes SEL curriculum for the Emozi program, and is the Secretary of the New Hampshire Council of Teachers of English.
Adam Krauss is the Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) Coordinator at Exeter High School, following several years teaching U.S. history and government. He is active with the Seacoast Educators for Equity and N.H. Leaders for Just Schools.
Dennis Magliozzi has been teaching English at Exeter High School since 2008.
He has an MFA in poetry and is currently enrolled in the Philosophy of Education program at UNH.
Listen to his work at
Randy Armstrong is a renowned performer and recording artist. He was the director of the African Drumming and World Percussion Ensemble and faculty instructor for North Indian sitar and tabla at Phillips Exeter Academy from 1991 to 2020 and has taught World Music at Plymouth State University for the Graduate Studies Integrated Arts Program.
The song, I HAVE A DREAM, was inspired by a series of important life events. "It was my humble effort to give voice to the inspirational vision of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in these troubled and changing times."
A founding member and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Racial Unity Team, Ken's volunteer work touches many New Hampshire social justice organizations and school districts, the NH State Board of Education, the Governor’s Office, and the Legislature.
His role as a community change agent is to lay the foundation for developing racial understanding and to
promote growth of a new generation of Granite Staters who recognize the value of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in our communities and are willing to speak up for justice.
Dr. Clint Smith, bestselling author of “Counting Descent”, spoke to a group of 215 high school students at the Exeter High School on February 2, 2022, as part of the Racial Unity Team’s Community to School Arts in Action project. This was also an occasion for many to celebrate Black heroes and events throughout history that advocates for equity and inclusion through poetry. Before the start of the event he reflected on his childhood "When I was in school, we didn't read a lot of books written by people who looked like me or about characters who looked like me. So I wrote Counting Descent for that kid who needed a book that represents him. And to think that my book might now be in the hands of one of your students who really needs it, makes everything come full circle for me.” He told Kristina Peterson English teacher at the Exeter High School. During his conversation with the students he said, “A poem is a time capsule of who you were when you wrote it, and my poems are a reminder to myself of who I want to be - my north star - posing the question, ’Am I the person I want to be? If not, what do I do to align myself with my values?’” Clint also spoke of the history of literature saying, "Slam poetry isn’t always taken seriously by those who call themselves intellectuals. That's because the genre of slam poetry originated with black and brown people. Slam poetry isn’t always found on a page, but we need to remember that Homer and Shakespeare, and a host of other writers lived in a time of oral traditions through storytellers and actors on the stage. The printing press wasn’t used until the mid-fifteenth century. Slam poetry needs to be accepted in the literary canon.
To learn more about the Racial Unity Team’s community-to-school projects and how your school can become part of this movement contact us.