Re-Envisioning Our Lives through Literature
The Re-Envisioning Our Lives through Literature Program is sponsored by the Center for Black Literature and supported with funding from the Office of CUNY Collaborative Programs; the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus; the Office of Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries; the Office of Councilman Albert Vann; and JPMorgan Chase & Co. A major goal of this program is to expand the canon of literature taught in high schools, and more specifically to include literature by writers from the African Diaspora. Students in the program have an opportunity to participate in a children’s multicultural literature program, a dramatic writing and performance program, and /or a defining manhood course/workshop, and a spoken-word course/workshop. The participants use literature and the literary arts as a basis for re-seeing and re-imagining their lives.
The premise of the Re-Envisioning Our Lives through Literature Program is that literature should be integrated into the English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum in creative ways that may include drama, poetry, the spoken word, and story. Using texts written by writers from the African Diaspora, students build their knowledge base about literature from another culture; expand their knowledge of diverse cultures, and improve their critical reading, writing and communication skills.
Students who participate in this program are currently drawn from the following schools:
Bedford Academy High School
Benjamin Banneker Academy High School
Boys and Girls High School
Brooklyn Collegiate High School
Medgar Evers College Preparatory School
Workshops and Courses Offered:
Children’s Literature Workshop
The purpose of this collaborative workshop between teaching artists and the classroom teacher is for students to develop storybooks related to varying themes in children’s literature. Teaching artists for this project include a children’s author and a children’s illustrator. Students study basic story elements, language use, point of view, and dialogue, etc., with the children’s author; and artistic techniques, texture, and book production with the children’s illustrator. The final product of this workshop is a children’s book. Students make presentations of their books at a closing program. The books are also placed on exhibit at various venues, including the college and school libraries.
Dramatic Writing and Performance Workshop
The major goal of the Dramatic Writing and Performance Workshop is to provide students with opportunities to re-envision their lives through the reading, writing, and dramatization of a text. Another goal of this program is for students to see the ways in which independent theaters produce and bring stories representing the experiences, trials, and triumphs of people of color to life. Therefore, students in the program have an opportunity to see a live performance at a cultural arts institution. The culmination of the program is a dramatic production where students present various dramatic renditions of the text. Students also contribute to this production by working in areas such as stage setting, stage management, and producing posters.
Defining Manhood Course/Workshop
The purpose of this course or workshop, “Using Lyrics and Letters to Define Manhood,” is to provide students with a holistic exploration into the social, economic, political, physical, and spiritual elements that shape modern urban manhood, especially within the African Diaspora. Using collaborative learning activities and hip-hop and spoken word as primary—but not exclusive teaching strategies—students develop critical thinking skills, learn personal responsibility, and acquire life-management skills designed to make their transition into manhood manageable and rewarding. Workshop topics include, but are not limited to, issues on masculinity, male-female relationships, HIV/AIDS awareness, financial literacy, career exploration, and mental and emotional health awareness. Students also develop critical thinking and positive self-expression skills through their reading, studying, and discussion of selected texts and through their written responses to these texts. The final product for this course/workshop is an anthology representing students’ essays, letters, and poems.
Spoken-Word Course/WorkshopThe purpose of this course or workshop, “Using Lyrics and Letters to Define Ourselves,” is to provide students with opportunities to explore and integrate contemporary and classical forms of spoken word, performance poetry, and hip-hop with acting. Through exploration, reading, and exposition of various works, students begin to discover their own voices and gain the skills necessary to develop their own creative ideas. Students then transform these ideas into creative writing, specifically into various forms of poetry. Finally, this course/workshop is designed to nurture and coach students toward performance mastery and take their writing from the “page to the stage” in a closing program. Students in this course/workshop also have an opportunity to attend a spoken- word performance, poetry slam, etc. In addition, spoken-word artists visit the classroom. The final product for this course/workshop is a chapbook that represents a compilation of poems from the students.
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For information about the CBL contact:
Dr. Brenda M. Greene, Executive Director
Center for Black Literature