Advocacy, Outreach, Poetry

December 22, 2009 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

posted by Marion Palm ’95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer

I have found great satisfaction in advocating for education in my community. Sunset Park, Brooklyn is a multi-cultural and diverse community that had no high school. For decades, residents campaigned for a high school for our children, but our children were forced  to attend high school in other schools nearby. (When my own child was of high school age, I had to send him to a private school in Masbeth, Queens rather than wait for his number to come up for a specialized school. He has since graduated from a private school in St. Peter, Minnesota with 4-year scholarships and is a per diem in the Cicero School System in Chicago, Illinois, when not studying to get into Second City.)

In the budget cuts, our planned high school was cut out by Albany saying that the law did not require the city to provide more than an eighth grade education to our children. A letter I wrote to our local paper as an “outraged parent” (their words not mine), launched a unified protest by groups in our community. Together with parents, educators, and local residents, we enlisted the help of elected officials in nearby Bay Ridge and Park Slope, also we were able to enlist the help of the borough presidents of our other boroughs, and the actress Cynthia Nixon to bring attention to our cause. We called attention to our plight on the City Hall Steps in Manhattan and invited lawmakers to come to a Town Hall meeting at Community Board #7 to hear what our community needs were and see our children first hand. The children wrote a song and protested with handmade signs. We also sent busloads of school children to Albany so other lawmakers could see first-hand the faces of the children being denied a high school education near their home. The process was long and intense, with nobody giving up on getting a high school for our children in Sunset Park. To make a long story short, the new Sunset Park High School opened its doors on September 8th, 2009.

I really feel my leadership training learned at Bank Street helped me coordinate this effort on the grass roots level. I also feel my work as the director of Poets Under Glass, a writing consortium I incorporated in 1987, helped me make the contacts that helped galvanize this effort, as did my relationship with the president of my borough who selected me (with his late Poet Laureate of Brooklyn, a member of my group) as the poet to launch Brooklyn Poetry Outreach, which has an open-mic series at Barnes & Noble Booksellers Park Slope retail store. This venue encourages children to submit poetry and perform it at the series. The children receive a certificate from our borough president and their poems are listed on the Brooklyn-USA official website. We are waiting to hear the announcement for the new Poet Laureate of Brooklyn. I hope teachers in Brooklyn will encourage poetry in their schools and help their students submit poetry to Brooklyn Poetry Outreach. I don’t have any other motive for telling you about Brooklyn Poetry Outreach except that it was created by a fellow educator I respected very much and I would like to see his name honored by seeing the program continue. Have a wonderful holiday season everyone!

Marion Palm is the founder/director of Poets Under Glass, a writing workshop that has provided more than 150 workshop meetings at the Brooklyn Public Library.

Entry filed under: community, dialogue, equity, families, leadership, policy, politics, school reform, the arts.

What I Learned from My Grandson, Eric… Happy New Year

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