North Division student Annie Spencer read her spoken word piece aloud at Community Night, the culminating event of “Our Neighborhoods: Past, Present and Future,” a 25-week program sponsored by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
“In my city there’s people,” she began, “And in my city with people there’s crime. And in my city with people and crime there’s hurt. And in my city with people and crime and hurt, there’s people wishing they weren’t in my city.”
Spencer and other students at North Division High School, 1011 W. Center St., were encouraged to recount their own experiences of growing up in the city during the Milwaukee Rep program, which brought photographers and playwrights as well as spoken word artists to 14 MPS schools.
A number of students sounded a similar theme. “It’s a lot of crackheads in my neighborhood,” began Georgette Moore.
“There be gang violence, jumping,” Elexis Harris said, “Boys getting robbed just ‘cause the boy got on something another boy don’t got on.”
“Gunshots, gambling, moving, just chilling,” Heaven Kelley added. “Hanging out, fighting sometimes.”
But the students also imagined what better lives might look like. “White picket fence with a big big big house,” Kelley said. “Kids running around all smiling and stuff. Everybody being able to get along.”
“For me?” Kelley added, “Sitting at home. Eating junk food. Not being bothered by my mom or my sister.”
Despite the challenges of growing up in the central city, most students at Community Night remain positive about their hometown. When Kelley, joined by Rep Teaching Artist Marcy Kearns, asked how many agreed with the statement “I love Milwaukee,” she garnered applause and a show of hands.
The Milwaukee Repertory sponsored “Our Neighborhoods: Past, Present and Future” this spring. Middle and high school youths learned photography, spoken word and play writing skills from teaching artists the Rep placed in area schools and youth organizations. The students also saw the Rep’s production of Clybourne Park and Raisin in the Sun. They learned the history of their neighborhoods and explored what they might look like in the future.
Kelley’s vision of a “perfect day” is a day with no violence: “People getting along, going out to have fun. Doing whatever they feel like doing that’s not negative.”
Students at Milwaukee’s North Division High School are learning about themselves, their history, and visual and spoken arts, thanks to an ambitious Milwaukee Repertory Theater program.
North Division students learned to create stories and poetry from their own lives in a Milwaukee Repertory program this spring.