Menassiance Program at AMPED

11:43 AM JCPS DEP 0 Comments

My mother introduced me to reading at an early age. Her understanding that I must be able to read and write well, has probably saved me more times than I know. Even though I despised assigned reading while in school, I learned to master the  art of skimming for information; though I’d never allow myself  to become completely submerged in a piece of literature. Poetry and Prose gave me that opportunity. I finally got to connect a classic novel to my life and my worldview.
It's this worldview that is experienced by so many, but sometimes having little time and an even narrower space to share their to  story in relation to the story assigned for a grade. My school (in)experience and inability (not all of which is my fault) to see the circumstantial similarities between characters like Huck Finn, Hester Prin, and Don Quixote,  caused me to miss or not receive great life lessons.

This camp was redemptive. Remembering how I felt having to read certain books,  I was granted the opportunity to do something I’d never done before; relate a popular book to not popular or publicized sentiments. For two weeks, I joined a group of high school freshmen and sophomores, in an attempt to analyze William Goldings’ Lord Of The Flies. Our goal was to find commonality in the books characters and situation. I was charged to connect urban vernacular, events, feelings, and understanding to the novel.
On the second day, I realized that I too was understanding that the island the characters were stranded on, is symbolically the island the island that so many of our boys feel they are on. We talked about being put into situations, by no fault of your own, and finding ourselves trying to survive in a place that offers no straight answers and challenges you at every turn. One student said,  "It's easy to turn into a beast if you're left alone with no guidance. Surviving  is better than dying." Unpacking topics like: surviving, power, violence, friendship, police brutality, and much more together, we journeyed through the book that I repelled when I was their age. As a poet, actor, and mentor my role leader and facilitator became blurry. Both myself and Shauna Evans revisited our internal islands and shared and learned with these magnificent young men.
Every day at eight o clock in the morning, these young men dragged themselves into the Portland based Neighborhood House. Jet lagged from their dreams, the young men arrived consistently throughout the two weeks. Each ready to discuss and debate each event featured in the books various chapters. Each day they offered a new level of introspect. These young men came to conclusions that could’ve been expressed by later versions of themselves.

With the wisdom of common sense and the logic of old men, we found ourselves immersed in daydreams and nightmares. Each chapter helped these young men delve deeper into themselves. The developed their personalities, learned what type of sensibilities they shared, even created a sense of brotherhood; all the while reading and comprehending a book that was written far before their time.
Mrs. Evans’ innovative and engaging curriculum, gave voice to these newly discovered feelings. With these voices our group developed poems, songs, and prose that explained their thought processes and displayed their situational understanding of different power dynamics in the book. In returned we learned about the various power dynamics in our everyday life.
I was truly honored to be a part of such a deep, funny, fearless, and inquisitive group of young men. I finally got the chance to apply actions and creative thinking to assigned literature and in the end; I can’t remember reading the book, but I remember every lesson the book taught me.
Something happened to me while working these boys. I realize that all is not lost, but there's much to learn. And some of the lessons must come from the kids. The reason they jumped into Lord of the Flies, is because they were not asked to jump out of their worldview.  They got to drop their guard, share their understanding, agree, disagree, and traverse their own island. Spread Love.

-Lance G. Newman II, Founder of SpreadLovEnterprise, an Art Education Company.