Inscribing Expression

The formation of Project WRITE (i.e. Project for Writing and Reading as Tools of Education), activates the communicative thrust of written words.  Co-founded by Taurean Brown and Ajani Husbands, this organization combines arts and community service by offering weekend writing workshops to high school students in East Palo Alto.  Project WRITE transcends the goals of traditional, knowledge-based high school education.  According to former Co-Director Rudy Rubio, “we tap into their creative energy; we want them to learn about different ways to reinvent their own words.”  Likewise, the Stanford Anthology for Youth mentors middle school students in literary expression.

Before initiating Project WRITE, Brown and Husbands had presided over the publication of En!gma Magazine: Stanford’s Journal of Black Expression, a literary publication peppered with Stanford students’ poetry, short stories, and artwork..  In a similar vein, Deborah Burke (class of 2005), founded Soul Sistah Magazine in 2002, a periodical designed for African American religious women.  As Burke recounts, “I wanted to create a forum of expression for multicultural women to express the many dynamics of themselves. Being an incredibly spiritual person myself, I infused Soul Sistah with spirituality, so that it was a creative place for women to speak about God, culture, race, men, love, sex and careers.  Along with co-editors Wendy Goldberg, Andrea Lunsford, and Jan Barker, Burke printed four magazines between 2002 and 2005.  “They proved to be a hit,” Burke exclaimed, “It was one of the first times the black woman’s unique and varied experience was covered with vivid color, honesty, intimacy and a whole lot of soul.”

Ron Ragin of the Spoken Word Collective in performance. Photograph by Mark Otuteye

Focusing on the sonorous, fricative, and phonetic constitution of language, the Spoken Word Collective treats spoken word poems as “performed arguments.”  Methodologically speaking, this organization harnesses the liveness of speaking, the vibrancy of slam poetry, and the musicality of beatboxing (i.e. percussive articulation of words) to accentuate “the literary elements of metaphor, diction, rhyme, word order, and alliteration.”  The Spoken Word Collective offers twenty-five poetry workshops per year to elementary school, high school, and college students, with the intention to encourage written collaboration and to eliminate writer’s block.

Featured image: high school sophomore Luis Flores receives help on a poem from Rudy Rubio (class of 2008), a member of Project WRITE.  Photograph by Linda A. Cicero / Stanford University News Service