Read and listen to student projects from our recent workshop.

In spring 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, House of SpeakEasy’s SpeakTogether initiative pivoted from in-person workshops for high school students to virtual classroom sessions. Working with educators at Talent Unlimited High School in New York City, we coordinated a series of spoken word and poetry sessions with poet Sheri Booker, who worked with a class of 10th-grade students to develop their voices and encourage them to embrace the power of their own stories.

Over the course of six weeks, during which they experienced a global pandemic, a national lockdown, and uprisings against police brutality and structural racism, the students composed and performed original works of poetry for their teachers and peers. The workshop culminated in a series of final poems that are reflected in this collection; each poem is marked by these unprecedented moments in history as well as Booker’s guidance. In them, you will hear deconstructions of gender and culture, calls to political action in the face of racial violence, and meditations on adolescence.

These poems are instant artifacts of a pivotal time in our culture, and the collection is a testament to the vision, creativity, and resilience of these students and their teacher.

You can read their individual poems and listen to recordings of them reciting their stellar works below.

Sheri J. Booker is an award-winning author, educator, and poet. She is the author of Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author, and One Woman, One Hustle: Poems. She currently teaches Writing and Digital Media at Morgan State University.