Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Noted Poet Spends Time with, Inspires Highland Park High Students

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Noted Poet Spends Time with, Inspires Highland Park High Students

Article excerpt

Shaking and admitting she was a "little bit afraid," Ca'ttia Thomas told her fellow Highland Park High School students on Thursday through an original poem it is time they all take a stand against discrimination directed at all races.

"It kind of hits me hard because I'm a mixed child," the 16-year- old junior said on Thursday. "I figured I would write about it and show them we need to be together. It's a deep feeling. It's kind of personal to me."

In addition to about 75 of Thomas' classmates, nationally-known poet, author and Chicago activist Malcolm London was in the audience Thursday to hear her poem entitled, "Racism."

"I was very honored to see that he thought it was a good poem," Thomas said. "I really wanted him to hear it, because if he thinks it's a good poem, it's got to be a good poem."

London, 22, was in the capital city this week after having been to Highland Park High School last year for the first time. He said the racial and socioeconomic issues children in East Topeka deal with are no different from the ones children on the south side of Chicago are facing.

"Young people have valuable stories to tell," he said. "There are obstacles that exist that are different in every city and every place. To be able to travel to connect those and make those bridges is what I'm happy to be able to do."

London said though racism "isn't a positive thing" to talk about, talking about it with honesty is the only way progress can be made.

"My role here is to facilitate, as an educator, a space where young people can be thinking about themselves in a critical way," he said. "We truly have to be able to have honest conversations in love and understand that ending racism is a commitment to love."

While London was at Highland Park High School this week, he spoke during an all-school assembly and participated in an evening community poetry reading event in the school's media center. He also held several interactive workshops for language arts students to get them writing poetry and talking about racism and other aspects of their young lives. …

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