Everett High School students address social justice through the arts

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The Poetry Room is a new company that allows people to express themselves with poetry open mics. It’s now going to different areas to host smaller open mic nights.

Grace Carras and Masaki Takahashi own the Reotown company. It’s located in the Robin Theatre and has events the last Tuesday of every month. Events include open mics, joke telling and musicians.

Other workshops have been held at Strange Matter Coffee. Carras and Takahashi have also collaborated with Greater Lansing Art Council for Arts Night Out. The Poetry Room does fundraisers, which are usually held at Henry’s Place in Okemos.

Recently, The Poetry Room took a trip to Lansing’s Everett High School.

Cat Weaver, an Everett teacher, and her husband, John, have attended The Poetry Room. It was there that she was inspired to bring a workshop to her classroom.

“At the last reading, everyone was responding to the topic of The Complaint Board,” Weaver said. “As I listened, I heard so many poems about social justice issues that it struck me that I needed to have something like this happen in my class.”

Weaver and her co-teacher started a unit about social action at the beginning of February. They taught world studies, an integrated world history and world literature class.

Ultimately, they want their students to learn social action, justice and community in the ancient and modern worlds and to use these lessons to help the community.

Weaver contacted Carras and Takahashi about coming to her class and helping her students understand that there are many avenues for having your voice heard.

“We jumped on the opportunity to do so, as we believe it would be fun and rewarding,” Takahashi said. “High school was about the time I started writing, and it helped me go through so much, and it helped me navigate through life.”

Arts are as important as STEM classes. Not all students are great in math and science. Being exposed to other classes shows students that they can be versatile in any section.

“The arts give students a different avenue to find success,” Weaver said.

Carras, the other founder of The Poetry Room, put up a few warmup writing exercises and one larger prompt for the students.

“I personally always value the opportunity to smash someone’s expectations concerning poetry as a genre,” Carras said. “So much of the poetry that students are exposed to in high school is grim, indignant or melancholy.”

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