A Reflection by Stephanie Miller, Higher Achievement Program and Development Associate
Let’s start with the obvious: young kids writing love poetry, and reciting it in front of a crowd. How great is that? If you don’t even get at a deeper meaning than that, that’s just great. In so many ways. For the kids, it’s an act of courage. To go out there, stand in front of a room with people you know and don’t know– basically being on stage, and being vulnerable.
Tom Mayer, a major champion of Higher Achievement Baltimore, put it to me this way when I asked him why Love Out Loud is important. Even at its most basic level, there is something phenomenally brave about middle school scholars getting up on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers, family members, and peers to talk about love. Most of the adults I know could not – or would not – do that, and these scholars are doing it by choice. They work hard to get prepared, and they go through a huge range of emotions to make it to their 15 minutes of fame – or 60 seconds in the spotlight. But – that’s also not the only reason for Love Out Loud. In the time I spoke with Tom, I heard one big message loud and clear:
We owe it to our scholars to let them know that they are heard. We, as a community, owe it to young people to hear what they’re saying and let them know that their voices are important. Higher Achievement’s annual Love Out Loud performances are more than just a show. Each year, scholars come together to do something really special: stand up (on a BIG stage), speak up (with BIG voices), and be heard (by a BIG audience). And, they have something really BIG to say – if we listen.
Tom drew a parallel for me during our interview, between Love Out Loud, and the unrest last year in Baltimore. Comparing a poetry performance and a riot may seem strange, but I’ll let Tom’s words illustrate the point:
“When I think about last year, I think of a high moment of the city and a low moment. The high moment was Love Out Loud, where it was kids’ voices being raised to express some aspect of what they feel love means. And I was there. And the good news is they knew they were being heard. They knew that people were listening to what they had to say and they weren’t invisible. Now, the low moment in the city was the riots. The rioting was just the flip side of that same coin – which was – people need to be heard. And if they’re not heard in joyful, validating, positive environments like Love Out Loud, if they feel that their voices are invisible. Instead of joyful poetry, there will be anger. There will be violence. Instead of doing step dancing, they’ll be stomping on police cars. I saw exact parallels, because it’s the exact fundamental thing.”
We invite you to come be a part of the joy. Hear our scholars out at Love Out Loud on March 10th, and witness a pivotal point in the lives of young people. RSVP today at http://2016baltimoreloveoutloud.eventbrite.com.