The Power of Words

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday morning, 13 February 2019—Black History Month)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God.

Words, with their power and potential, have always fascinated me. This is not surprising coming from an English teacher. Throughout my life I have been inspired by countless authors whose words and works have shaped me, comforted me, and challenged me. And while this list includes the expected names like Shakespeare and Dickinson, the author with the most profound impact on me is the current Poet Laureate of the United States, Tracy K. Smith.

Her impressive list of awards includes the Cave Canemen prize for best first book by an African-American Poet, and the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her book Life on Mars.

I had the privilege of taking her Poetry class in 2011 while she was still a professor in my Master’s Program. What astounded me most about her was not her accolades but the deep humanity of her presence and her spoken and written words.

While she was still quite young, Tracy began to understand the role language plays in the world. In her memoir entitled Ordinary Light, Tracy recalls a TV show from her childhood that made her feel connected and inspired her. She writes,

“Gettin’ to Know Me,” [was] the only show I’d ever seen that focused on a black girl – not only on her but on her parents and little brother and grandparents as well. It took her entire world into consideration instead of making her a satellite to more prominent white characters. In every episode, the girl, who would have been just a little older than me with neat braids or bushy loose ponytail, learned about Black History from her grandmother…The girl on “Gettin’ to Know Me” never clammed up when she felt herself getting close to the pain of Home. She knew which questions to ask. She was brave, strong in her sense of what that heavy history added up to…

It is this history that is part of Tracy’s focus in her current mission as Poet Laureate.

In a recent cross country tour called “American Conversations” Tracy’s goal was to help others see the “humanizing power of poetry.” She believes that, “poems put us in touch with our most powerful memories, feelings, questions and wishes,” and that, “talking about poems might be a way of leaping past small-talk and collapsing the distance between strangers.”

During Black History Month it is important not only to remember the towering figures of the past but also the very real and very powerful individuals present in our lives today who continue to inspire the conversations that bring us all closer together..

Let us pray,

Heavenly father,

Tracy’s poetry and prose reminds us that we all possess the power to transform the world in which with live. Let us pray that words can indeed have the power Tracy, and so many others believe they can to transform, challenge, and unite.

Help us to live with a strong connection to our own humanity and in doing so become closer to each other and to you.

And, like the little girl in Gettin’ to Know Me, please help us know which questions to ask and, when we get the answers, to be strong in our sense of what history adds up to.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us

Live Jesus in our Hearts…Forever

Emily McLean–English Teacher

 

 

A Prayer for Healing

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday morning, 12 February 2019—Black History Month)

Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God.

On January 28, 2000, Cornel Young Jr. was shot and killed on the corner of Atwells Avenue and Valley Street in the city of Providence, Rhode Island.

At the age of 29, the life of a young black police officer of three years came to a tragic end. Cornel Young Jr, a graduate of Classical High School was the son of the Providence Police Department’s highest ranking African-American officer, Major Cornel Young Sr.

At the time of the incident, Cornel Young Jr. was off duty eating at a late night diner called Fidas when a dispute between two customers escalated to an extent that resulted in police being called to the restaurant. When two uniformed police officers arrived, one of the patrons involved in the dispute pulled out a firearm. Officer Young, dressed in plain clothes, saw the fire arm pulled and, as a result, he pulled his service weapon, which all off duty officers were required to carry at the time.

The uniformed police officers began to shout, “Drop your weapon, drop your weapon.” Officer Young assumed they were shouting at the customer who was part of the disturbance, as he approached the officers. Instead the officers fired on their fellow officer Cornel Young, who they claim they did not recognize as the incident unfolded.

Cornel Young was shot six times and was pronounced dead hours after arriving at a local hospital.

Today the Young & Woods Providence Public elementary school bears the name of Sergeant Cornel Young Jr. and serves as a daily reminder of the complicated history of black males falling victim to lethal force, perhaps none more complicated than a black male police officer falling victim to a police shooting.

Let us pray for peaceful communities.

Let us pray for our law enforcement who risk their lives to protect us all and are daily forced to deal with the consequences of a long legacy of globalized racism.

Let us pray for reconciliation and healing for the institutional racial discrimination that continues to influence and shape our society.

Let us pray for all victims of gun violence, especially young black males who are disproportionately victims of the gun violence found in the United States.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle… Pray for Us

Live Jesus in Our Hearts… Forever

Mark Carty–Social Studies Teacher

To Be the Best We Can Be

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Monday, 11 February 2019—Black History Month)

Let us remember we are in the holy presence of a loving God.

I will be reading a poem by cwoods.

Beautiful woman this poem is for you

Full of beauty and grace

Rare black Queen sitting high on your throne

No one can take your place

Your heart is full of pure gold

Never to be played with

Bought or sold

Your Love is Patient Your Love is kind

Always trying to bring joy to others even when you can’t do it for yourself

And keeping them close in mind

A good woman is what you are

A woman to whom is proud of who she is and what she stands for

Never seeking definition from whom she is with

A strong woman is what I see when I look at you

One who can pick up the small pieces of her broken heart

And carry on as if she was never hurt in the first place.

When talking about this woman I can’t help but smile

Knowing the woman that I can speak so highly of is ME.

Let us pray:

God, give us all the confidence we need to be the best that we can be:  to remember where we came from and our royal blood;  to know our own worth and to not let anyone change who we are;  to be strong when others try to bring us down because they do not understand us.; to spread out love to others and show how unique each one of us is.  To the “Rare black Queens” sitting on your thrones, do not let the hate stop you from taking your place.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever.

Monique DaFonseca–Class of 2019

They Are Our Children—-They Are Our Students

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday morning, 27 March 2018)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

This past weekend I was riveted to the news, watching young people from all over the US march for a cause they are passionate about, searching for a way to express their beliefs, and demanding to be heard. The signs they held were barbed, ironic, and just plain funny. Their speeches were thoughtful and delivered from the heart. Yes I realize that not everyone believes in their cause, although no one on either side wants to see children die.  But if we could, for a moment, push political rhetoric aside, what we would see are amazing children and young adults participating in the wider community. What I saw made me proud to be a parent and an educator.

And what I saw was another movement, in the summer of 1963, where Americans from all over the US marched for a cause they were passionate about. In fact, much like our children today, their very lives depended on it. Unfortunately, the passage of time has condensed that march to a single speech, Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech. And no disrespect to Dr. King, but history has forgotten the hundreds of thousands of young black Americans who demanded their civil rights and freedom on that day, on the days to follow, and still today. Although the causes are very different, the marchers on Saturday are much like those who stood in solidarity 55 years ago. Like their historical brethren they are enduring discrimination and hatred not just for their cause and but for who they are.  And who they are, are beautiful, talented, articulate, flawed, mature and immature, complex, nuanced, and incredibly important members of our society. They are our children, our students, our friends, our loved ones, and our future. Our community is strengthened by their activism as opposed to the people who sit back and hate.

Let us pray:

Dear God,

Help us to come together to stop the gun violence in our communities that kills so many of our young people.

Help us to see how our perceived cultural norms alienate so many.

Help us to understand the pain of mental disease.

Help us to celebrate those who actively participate in their communities and show passion for social justice.

Help us to put aside our differences and come together to solve real problems.

We ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

St. John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Kristine Chapman—Social Studies Teacher

“I Am Equal—I Am Equal—I Am Equal”

(Prayer offered on the Public Address and intranet systems for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday, 27 February 2018—Black History Month)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

I’ll be reading a poem written by M, called “equality”,

do not talk down on me like I am less of a soul

less of a point of the whole universe observing itself

less of an intelligence than you are; I am

equal, I am equal, I am equal, I am equal

and how long have we been trying to prove it?

 

Let us pray,

Oh Lord you created us in your image and likeness.

Help us create a world where people are not afraid of being who they truly are, no matter where they come from, what they believe in, who they love or the color of their skin; where people are not racially profiled, killed, or mistreated because of their race. But instead let us live in a society of acceptance, peace, and knowledge, where people understand each other and fight for equity to make the world a better place.

Saint John the Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever.

Alejandro Jimenez—Class of 2018

Uplift Our Narratives

(Prayer offered on the Public Address and intranet systems for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Monday morning, 26 February 2018—Black History Month)

Let us remember we are in the holy presence of a loving God…

Given the introduction of these poems throughout the span of this month, I’ve decided to read a piece named “These Poems” by June Jordan.

“These poems

they are things that I do

in the dark

reaching for you

whoever you are

and

are you ready?

 

These words

they are stones in the water

running away

 

These skeletal lines

they are desperate arms for my longing and love.

 

I am a stranger

learning to worship the strangers

around me

 

whoever you are

whoever I may become.”

 

When I first read this poem it struck me as very subtle but also very powerful. Poems are meant to reach out to you and connect you to the poet as if you were next to them while he or she was writing it. A sense of freedom and liberation should come to mind as you hear these prayers or poems because that was their intended purpose. Poems represent the free nature of putting a pencil down to paper without having anyone else to tell you what to write or how to write it.

As Black History Month comes to an end, let us remember that these poems and prayers are calls to freedom from a population that has been historically marginalized for generations. We must uplift their narratives, we must derive lessons from the words they have bestowed onto us. As a society, the only way we can move forward is by looking back and analyzing our own history.

Let us pray,

God, we say thank you for those who shared throughout the course of Black History Month. Let the impact of these poems and prayers remain within the hearts of those at La Salle Academy and let us ensure that the efforts of those who fought for the cultivation of Black History Month have not been done so in vain.

 

St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts, forever

Kenny Demola–Class of 2018

A Chance To Chase Our Dreams

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system and via the school-wide intranet for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday, 16 February 2018—Black History Month)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

Today I will be reading a poem called,

Harlem

BY Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Let us pray,

For a promising future where we unite as human beings and strive for a community that provides equal opportunity to all regardless of race or socioeconomic status—a community where everyone is entitled to the chance to chase their dreams. Allow those who wish to make a positive impact in our world the opportunity to make their dreams become a reality.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever.

Beah Cyrus–Class of 2018

“I Recognize All of You, Every Creed and Color….”

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system and via the school-wide intranet for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday, 15 February 2018—Black History Month)

Let us remember we are in the holy presence of a loving God….

Kendrick Lamar once rapped:

I’m African-American, I’m African

I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village

Pardon my residence

Came from the bottom of mankind

My hair is nappy, my nose is round and wide

In the popular media today there seems to be a line drawn  somewhere; for some people the sky is the limit to be whatever they so choose. While the best way to succeed as a black person more blatantly put by J Cole is:

They tellin’ kids “sell dope, rap or go to NBA,” (in that order)/It’s that sort of thinkin’ that been keepin’ kids chained.

While Childish Gambino once said:

The black experience is black and serious / ‘Cause being black, my experience, is no one hearin’ us / White kids get to wear whatever hat they want / When it comes to black kids one size fits all.

We live in a society where the topics of race and racism are sometimes forgotten, misunderstood or ignored.  With hate crimes, derogatory words and racial profiling becoming an everyday norm, now more than ever it is time to acknowledge the issue. The thing is—your friends and peers sitting right next to you may have faced these issues in their day to day lives and you may not even be aware.  You may live in a blissfully unaware life where race does not affect you. But as once said by Kendrick Lamar:

I recognize all of you, every creed and color…

We gon’ talk about a lot of things that concern you, all of you

Now I don’t care if you

black, white, asian, hispanic

And he has a point, the conversation about racism does not mean that only one race should be concerned and discussing it. Instead we as a community must come together to see how we can strengthen ourselves and keep ideas of hate away.

Let us pray..

As once said by Tupac:  It ain’t easy, being me, will I see the penitentiary, or will I stay free? As time passes by, society begins to realize the black experience is a hard one. May we never forget the sins of the past and that history still affects us today.  Lord, let us realize that we are all equal even though at times it does not seem that way. Let us remember that when the odds are stacked against us there are those who are always there willing to lend a hand.  Let us be judged on our virtues not our color.  Amen.

 Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever.

Dariana Espaillat—Class of 2018

Question for after video: Are you ever conscious of how you act in public because of your race?

“The Eyes However Are The Mirror Of The Soul”

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system and the school-wide intranet for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday, 13 February 2018—Black History Month)

Let us remember we are in the Holy presence of a Loving God..

In honor of Black History Month at La Salle Academy, I will be reading this poem called “The Laws of Motion” by Nikki Giovanni…

The laws of science teach us a pound of gold weighs as

much as a pound of flour though if dropped from any

undetermined height in their natural state one would

reach bottom and one would fly away

 

Laws of motion tell us an inert object is more difficult to

propel than an object heading in the wrong direction is to

turn around. Motion being energy—inertia—apathy.

Apathy equals hostility. Hostility—violence. Violence

being energy is its own virtue. Laws of motion teach us

 

Black people are no less confused because of our

Blackness than we are diffused because of our

powerlessness. Man we are told is the only animal who

smiles with his lips. The eyes however are the mirror of

the soul

 

The problem with love is not what we feel but what we

wish we felt when we began to feel we should feel

something. Just as publicity is not production: seduction

is not seductive

 

If I could make a wish I’d wish for all the knowledge of all

the world. Black may be beautiful Professor Micheau

says but knowledge is power. Any desirable object is

bought and sold—any neglected object declines in value.

It is against man’s nature to be in either category

 

If white defines Black and good defines evil then men

define women or women scientifically speaking describe

men. If sweet is the opposite of sour and heat the

absence of cold then love is the contradiction of pain and

beauty is in the eye of the beheld

 

Sometimes I want to touch you and be touched in

return. But you think I’m grabbing and I think you’re

shirking and Mama always said to look out for men like

you

 

So I go to the streets with my lips painted red and my

eyes carefully shielded to seduce the world my reluctant

lover

 

And you go to your men slapping fives feeling good

posing as a man because you know as long as you sit

very very still the laws of motion will be in effect

Let us Pray,

Dear Lord, as we begin this week please help us all to use the power that we possess individually to wield power together in unity. Let us all get past barriers of ignorance that are blocking our capacity to love, and let us focus on what we all want on the inside, which is peace and community. Help us to do this today, and everyday.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…. pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…. forever.

Caroline Akanji–Class of 2018

We Celebrate Our Differences

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system and intranet for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday morning, 7 February 2018—Black History Month)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God.

I will be reading a poem by Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

Let us pray:

God, thank you for making each one of us different. Help us all come together and celebrate each other’s differences: that even though we may not all look or act the same, we were created equally with your love. Make us strong and able to defeat our fears and the people who fear our differences.  May we come together to defeat evil and become one.  Amen.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever.

Monique DaFonseca–Class of 2019