Monday, March 28, 2016

Words Unlocked Guest Blog Post

With National Poetry Month just a few days away, I’m already full with anticipation as teachers across the country prepare to embark on Words Unlocked 2016! I imagine the conversations young people will have with one another, the understandings they will dis-cover, and the connections they will make in places most people will never truly know. Words Unlocked is designed with young people held in secure, locked facilities and their teachers. The Words Unlocked website is packed with free resources including downloadable lesson plans, student handouts, poetry resources, and how-to guides. My favorite resources by far are the Words Unlocked Anthologies. These collections give all who venture in a glimpse into the hearts and minds of our young people held in confinement. 
words unlocked evolve
glimpses into times of change
pause, transformation

Last year’s theme was transformation. Words Unlocked 2015 Focus Poet and Lead Reviewing Artist, Jimmy Santiago Baca, had this to say about the poems he read:

“You hear their lives and feel their faces and you want to sometimes hold them and protect them from the cruelty and injustice in our world, and you can.”

Experiencing poetry, whether through reading or listening, unlocks words once held by others and allows us a doorway into worlds beyond our physical reach. Just this morning I was watching Words Unlocked 2016 Focus Poet and Reviewing Artist, Donté Clark, perform his piece, "Let Me Breathe” imagining the faces of thousands of young people captivated by his words and sharing an experience.

The theme for Words Unlocked 2016 is interconnectedness. We each interact with one another, making understanding impossible if we are simply considered alone. What bold truths will our young people share about being mutually connected—to others, to communities, to systems, to the world? Words Unlocked assures that bold truths permeate facility walls and travel into the consciousness of those of us living our lives on the outside. As Jimmy Baca wrote “ can.” Listen to the words of our young people. How might they move you into action?--Christy Sampson-Kelly

Christy Sampson-Kelly is a tireless advocate for a particularly vulnerable group of young people—those with special needs held in locked juvenile and adult facilities. She is also the author of reMembering Mulatta, a book of poetry that exposes her journey through the lived experience of being neither this nor that as a woman of mixed ancestry. She currently serves as the Director of Practitioner Support at CEEAS, leads Words Unlocked, and provides direct coaching to schools in the areas of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and student engagement.

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