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‘Don’t Be Late for Poetry’

THE AFRO — Baltimore has some of the most talented, raw, award winning poets in the nation. In acknowledgement of National Poetry Month. The AFRO kicked off our celebration at “Don’t Be Late for Poetry,” a collaborative event hosted by one of Baltimore’s most popular poetry event curators APoetNamedNate and Dew More Baltimore, an organization that uses art as tool to increase civic engagement.

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Interview by Betty Harvin

Baltimore has some of the most talented, raw, award winning poets in the nation. In acknowledgement of National Poetry Month. The AFRO kicked off our celebration at “Don’t Be Late for Poetry,” a collaborative event hosted by one of Baltimore’s most popular poetry event curators APoetNamedNate and Dew More Baltimore, an organization that uses art as tool to increase civic engagement.

The AFRO caught up with one of Charm City’s most prolific young artists, Nia June, at the historic Arenas Players Theatre to give them a platform to share some of the thoughts and experience behind their spoken words.

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In season with Nia June

AFRO: What made you name yourself Nia June?

Nia June: Nia means purpose in Swahili and that was a big process for me because my whole life I had grown up studying dance and I thought that that was my purpose because that’s what I spent most of my time doing, but then I found poetry and that completely changed my life, so I felt like with PURPOSE NIA was the best name, and then June. So, you know the process after April, what we’re in right now, where there’s a lot of rain and the struggle to get back? I feel like June is that first month where we finally see..

AFRO: THE HARVEST….

NJ: YEAH! Like we finally see all of this hard work and growth and change that we just went through, and that’s a big part of me and I feel like that’s another thing that happened with the poetry, I did all of this transformation just to find my voice. So yeah, that’s what Nia June means.

AFRO: So on stage I was captured by all of your words and most of it was the system and not only that but the school, politics, poverty, and plagues that reign in our city. What I want to know is what inspired you? Those things seem like they inspire you the most, but what made you want to come out of your shell and talk about those the most?

NJ: I would say the passing of my father. We all assumed he was clean so it was very rough, it was unexpected and I think finding out that he had been dealing with that and so many mental illnesses. He was living in a very poor community in Baltimore and he was deprived of a lot of things he deserved like basic necessities, you know, food, just nurturing, you know, energy and things like that. I realized that within that community there are a lot of people who have this exact same story, whose voices are not being heard so that was my biggest inspiration. That piece about my dad was the first piece that I wrote and then it all just came flowing from there and that’s my biggest inspiration and now I actually teach kids in Baltimore City, so hearing their stories as well as another layer of inspiration there and stories that need to be heard.

AFRO: The end of your segment, the poem that was about the Baltimore City Schools City system, the poem that was about the biggot, I love the way that you shared that that poem would be entered into the seventh grade curriculum, can you tell us a little bit about that?

NJ: Yeah so, that was an amazing experience, so it started off with a teacher,he heard the poem and really liked it, his name is Mr. O. He works at City Springs and he had his class do a socratic seminar through poem and the kids loved it They dissected it and from the poem, they came to the conclusion that the school system was kinda set up to lead the kids to prison; the School to Prison pipeline. They actually wrote policy changes in a paragraph quoting my poem and presented it to their principal.

AFRO: Wow, that is the power of one voice, with the intention to inspire the masses of the children and you got to see what that turned out to look like. For you to be inspired by those same children and for them to be inspired by you and to identify with your words and see that in their own stories is amazing.

NJ: Yeah, they pulled out the policies that were similar to prison like the bathrooms being locked, the uniforms, not being able to travel places on your own. They had to have their cell phones locked up, so all of these things they felt were restricting them and that manifested into him ultimately submitting the poem to the district to be included into the curriculum.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

Art

Student Work – Nayzeth Vargas

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

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This piece was created by Nayzeth Vargas, a senior at Oakland Technical High School. The Zentangle Method is a therapeutic technique which uses combinations of contrasting patterns and values to create an image. Students were introduced to the Zentangle Method to offset the mental stress they were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation.  

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

Nayzeth is enrolled in the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project, an integrated arts program that supports youth in developing thoughtful, educated voices for their communities. Though art, youth practice mindfulness and boundless creativity. Enrollment for the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project is open to youth ages 13-18 through AHC, for more information visit ahc-oakland.org/legacy.

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Activism

Oakland Mural- Zero Hunger

Six murals, curated by SAM, are aimed at raising awareness and mobilizing support to combat rising U.S. and global food insecurity, especially in the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic.

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Tallest Mural of Oakland spotlights the U.S. and global food insecurity and injustice in support of the United Nations World Food Programme’s mission to end global hunger. Photo credit: @StreetArtMankind #ZeroHungerMurals About Street Art for Mankind.
Oakland, CA (April 5, 2021) – World Food Program USA, in support of the mission of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is teaming up with Street Art for Mankind (SAM) and Kellogg Company to create a series of murals around the United States dedicated to “Zero Hunger,” the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2). Six murals, curated by SAM, are aimed at raising awareness and mobilizing support to combat rising U.S. and global food insecurity, especially in the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic. The first large mural was created by artists Axel Void and Reginald O’Neal in New Orleans, Louisiana, in February. The second mural, created in downtown Houston by artist Dragon76 on the Hampton Inn by Hilton In March, is now the biggest mural of the city with its 13,000 square feet. The third one will be completed by Thursday, April 15th in Oakland on the Marriott City Center 21-story wall by the International artist Victor Ash. When finished, it will be the tallest mural in Oakland. More murals will be created in Washington, DC, Detroit, and Battle Creek, Mich. “At this critical time in the COVID-19 pandemic, we are thankful to our partners for helping to raise the visibility of food insecurity both globally and domestically as well as activate citizens to mobilize around this important issue. While our programs feed people living on less than $2 a day in the most impoverished countries, we understand the severity of the American hunger crisis and support the efforts of both non-profits and corporate partners to feed those in need” said Barron Segar, president, and CEO, World Food Program USA. We are facing the greatest hunger crisis of our time. Hunger is on the rise, with more than a quarter of a billion people marching toward starvation. In fact, famine is looming in four countries: Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, and northeast Nigeria. It is only the U.N. World Food Programme intervention supporting national governments and partners that has so far prevented famine. The U.N. World Food Programme has launched the biggest operation in its nearly 60-year history, with plans to feed up to 138 million people this year.
The United States has been hit with an unprecedented hunger crisis as well, as the pandemic’s fallout triggers unemployment, income loss, and widespread food insecurity. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture1 , African-Americans are twice as likely to face hunger as non-Hispanic, Caucasian households. To give back to local minority communities, Kellogg Company is donating cash to support local food justice programs in each of the six cities. “To raise further awareness about the importance of food justice, Kellogg is making a $10,000 donation to organizations in each of the six communities that are working to provide sustainable and equitable access to food,” said Stephanie Slingerland, Kellogg’s Senior Director of Philanthropy & Social Impact. Kellogg has long been committed to addressing food insecurity in North America – and across the globe — through its Better Days purpose platform, through which we’ve donated 2.4 billion servings of food worldwide.” The mural series is a continuity of the “Zero Hunger” mural created in New York for the United Nation’s 75th anniversary. Visitors to the murals can use Street Art for Mankind’s free “Behind the Wall” app to scan or photograph the mural, instantly accessing more details about the mural, the hunger crisis, and how to take action globally and locally. 1 USDA, Economic Research Service, Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, Jernigan et al. (2017) “We are honored to expand our Zero Hunger series around the United States with the World Food Program USA and Kellogg. We hope our gigantic murals, created by an incredibly diverse group of talented street artists, will inspire the public to reflect on the current situation and do their share to support the fight against hunger within their communities and beyond.
Together we can see bigger and create a hunger-free world,” said Audrey and Thibault Decker, Co-founders of Street Art for Mankind. Mural Pictures https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pg8kus6la6e2bgz/AAA3VCk-s5wFhQS9ZDXE6-9ma?dl=0 The link is updated every day with new pictures. Photo credit: @StreetArtMankind #ZeroHungerMurals About Street Art for Mankind (SAM) SAM is a 501c(3), non-profit organization working with prominent street artists from all around the world to raise awareness on SDG’s and child trafficking through the power of art. SAM has collaborated with the United Nations since 2017. This new “Zero Hunger” series is a continuity of the “Zero Hunger” mural created for the 75th anniversary of the UN at the UN General Assembly in New York. For more information about SAM Mural in Oakland contact us at:
 Email – Audrey Decker: adecker@streetartmankind.org
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter #ZeroHungerMurals About World Food Program USA , The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability, and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change. World Food Program USA, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, DC, proudly supports the mission of the United Nations World Food Programme by mobilizing American policymakers, businesses and individuals to advance the global movement to end hunger. Our leadership and support help to bolster an enduring American legacy of feeding families in need around the world. To learn more about World Food Program USA’s mission, please visit wfpusa.org/about-us. About Kellogg Company: At Kellogg Company, we strive to enrich and delight the world through foods and brands that matter. Our beloved brands include Pringles®, Cheez-It®, Special K®, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes®, Pop-Tarts®, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes®, Rice Krispies®, Eggo®, Mini-Wheats®, Kashi®, RXBAR®, MorningStar Farms® and more. Kellogg brands are beloved in markets around the world. We are also a company with Heart & Soul, committed to creating Better Days for 3 billion people by the end of 2030 through our Kellogg’s® Better Days global purpose platform.
About Kellogg Company: At Kellogg Company, we strive to enrich and delight the world through foods and brands that matter. Our beloved brands include Pringles®, Cheez-It®, Special K®, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes®, Pop-Tarts®, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes®, Rice Krispies®, Eggo®, Mini-Wheats®, Kashi®, RXBAR®, MorningStar Farms® and more. Kellogg brands are beloved in markets around the world. We are also a company with Heart & Soul, committed to creating Better Days for 3 billion people by the end of 2030 through our Kellogg’s® Better Days global purpose platform. Visit www.KelloggCompany.com or www.OpenforBreakfast.com

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Art

WOM’S KIDS by Gwahara Almuflihi from West Oakland Middle School (WOMS)

Gwahara’s plane is flying over Oakland. He said it was a symbol of optimism, and that each cloud represents a student from his 6th grade class.

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WOMS KIDS was created by Gwahara Almuflihi from West Oakland Middle School. Gwahara’s plane is flying over Oakland. He said it was a symbol of optimism, and that each cloud represents a student from his 6th grade class. Gwahara and his classmates are enrolled in ArtEsteem, the award-winning art program from Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC). ArtEsteem classes encourage students to see themselves as positive change-makers in a dynamic relationship to others and their community. AHC’s services continue to grow and evolve during the Covid-19 pandemic. Their team of professional teaching artists currently provide remote visual and cultural art classes in grades K-12. To learn more, visit www.ahc-oakland.org.

WOM’S KIDS was created by Gwahara Almuflihi from West Oakland Middle School (WOMS). Gwahara’s plane is flying over Oakland. He said it was a symbol of optimism, and that each cloud represents a student from his 6th grade class. Gwahara and his classmates are enrolled in ArtEsteem, the award-winning art program from Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC). ArtEsteem classes encourage students to see themselves as positive change-makers in a dynamic relationship to others and their community.  AHC’s services continue to grow and evolve during the Covid-19 pandemic. Their team of professional teaching artists currently provide remote visual and cultural art classes in grades K-12.

To learn more, visit www.ahc-oakland.org.

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