“I have a dream”: Slam Poetry in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King
“I have a dream.” These are the words that started one of the most famous speeches in recent history, and is what people tend to think of whenever you mention the name Martin Luther King Jr. All around the United States every year there are unity celebrations on and surrounding the third Monday in January in respect to this man and his accomplishments in the fight for social justice. This year, Lourdes University’s Social Work department decided to take over the school’s unity festivities with a poetry slam. Poetry slams are opportunities for both students and community members to share their work with an audience, in this case focusing around the concept of unity, equality, and of what those special words, “I have a dream,” mean today.
This year, Social Work students wanted to make this poetry slam even more meaningful in remembrance of Dr. King by inviting into the school some of the poets and vendors from Toledo Streets. Toledo Streets is a local newspaper organization that allows those who are homeless or in poverty-level situations to gain professional writing and sales experience. These monthly newspapers include articles written by the vendors, who in turn for their papers ask a donation of $1 to the organization. Selling these papers rather than just resorting to begging is giving these vendors a sense of responsibility and worth that many of them admit they haven’t felt in years. With their profits, some vendors are saving up for clothes for job interviews, transportation, and some are saving for housing.
Students, staff, and community members alike were taken aback at the pure connection that the vendors demonstrated in the spirit of Dr. King and his message of acceptance. Racial equality was a large focus of the night and many of the poets created a great deal of insight for the audience. The event was met with nothing but praise from students at the university. “Tonight was powerful and thought provoking to say the least…” said Social Work student Ryan Harris. The president of the Student Government Association, Zhané Broomfield, had this to say: “This was a great initiative to show towards diversity and inclusion at Lourdes.”
Inviting a community to come together in celebration of acceptance, equality and justice is something that social workers do on an everyday basis—this event was no different. Organizing this night of poetry, culture, and fellowship was an act that allowed the Social Work students at Lourdes University to exercise their natural abilities and spread that acceptance to their peers. The department, as well as the staff of Toledo Streets, look forward to continuing this tradition with a poetry slam in Dr. King’s memorial each year, as well as potentially bringing their organizations together for other events in the future.