The Festival’s move to Newark (a major transportation hub) not only made it more accessible for many schools and communities in the area, but it also helped us open some new doors.
For at least the past 5 years, the Poetry Program had been trying hard to bring more opportunities to students and teachers in Newark with, frankly, less than favorable success. While we’ve sponsored poetry mini-festivals in cities such as East Brunswick, Millburn, Summit, etc. for nearly two decades, we’d seem to just come up short each time in Newark (with no fault of theirs or ours).
But the Festival created for all of us an urgent and common goal that seemed to make things happen. Upon partnering with NJPAC and the city to bring the Festival to Newark, we quickly became aware of the opportunity to reach more Newark schools than ever before. And this time with greater results.
Earlier this year, we co-organized two mini-festivals at Arts H.S. (with Central H.S.) and Technology H.S. (with West Side H.S.) featuring a diverse group of writers from Brooklyn (via Argentina), Elizabeth, Los Angeles, Jersey City, Newark, Somerset (via Guyana) and Warren County. Poets Margie Barnes, John Murillo, BJ Ward, Gretna Wilkinson, Florencia Varela, Evie Shockley, and Joe Weil helped to make these events quite special.
Also, we hosted an event at Newark Symphony Hall on Thursday, October 7 (the first day of the Festival!). 2010 Festival Poets Michael Cirelli, Jericho Brown and Tara Betts (pictured above, left to right) agreed to come early to participate in what turned out to be a spectacular reading and conversation. Approximately 1,000 middle and high schools spent the afternoon in the Sarah Vaughn Concert Hall, attentively listening to three dynamic poets. Students even braved the long walk to the microphone to asks questions. To make things even more perfect, Mayor Corey Booker made a surprise visit, gave one of the impassioned speeches we’ve all come to know him for, and then read a poem by Langston Hughes.
We think this might be a good start in doing more programs in the state’s largest school district.