After months of meeting on Zoom, our student ambassadors from University Heights High School (UHHS) in The Bronx, NY and…
After months of meeting on Zoom, our student ambassadors from University Heights High School (UHHS) in The Bronx, NY and longtime N4 partner the Open Doors’ Reality Poets finally had an opportunity to connect in person. With many of our UHHS students graduating this month, it was a beautiful and moving capstone for this incredible group of seniors.
Every time I am with N4 my respect level for the young elevates. Their stories are similar to those of adults. I am always amazed at how they confront these issues and learn from them. I feel certain the future is in good hands.—Peter Yearwood, Reality Poet
Describing this year-end celebration, Northeast Regional Manager Ashley Pinciaro notes, “The students and poets shared in a story exchange together and participated in a story embodiment exercise led by artist Shaun Leonardo. A key moment was at the end of the day, when participants exchanged poems and letters with each other, reflecting on this shared community built during the pandemic.”
In their group poem, “Roadmap to Success“, the Reality Poets write, “Out of the mouths of babes comes words of wisdom/ We hear compassion, empathy, equity/ Wise beyond their years/ They know how to approach life without fears/ We have always been inspired and feel privileged to be a part of Narrative 4.”
Of her first N4 Story Exchange experience, Reality Poet Theresa Williams shares, “Some people judge me before they get to know me because of my disability. I was apprehensive at the beginning of the program because I was the newest member of Open Doors and this was my first time participating in Narrative 4. After I was paired-up with my partner and we shared our stories, I realized that we had so much in common. We shared stories about the meaning of freedom and being patient in life. Before I was paired-up with my partner, I thought she was unfriendly. I was wrong because I found out that she was the sweetest person in that group.”
“It is often said that our young people are the ‘voiceless’ in our political and cultural landscape. This narrative work proves that, if given the right platform, youth far surpass our expectations in the bravery and generosity required for truth-telling.”—Shaun Leonardo, Artist
Reality Poet Vincent Pierce adds, “I always get inspired by the N4 group, how vulnerable and willing everyone is and I walk away with so much joy every time we are together.”
(l.) Field Exchange guest artist Shaun Leonardo. Photo credit: Argenis Apolinario. Courtesy Bronx Museum of the Arts. (r.) Shaun models a story embodiment exercise with participants.
We are grateful to all of the participants for sharing their time, talents, and stories with us. For more about Shaun Leonardo’s work, please visit elcleonardo.com and recessart.org. We also invite you to explore Shaun’s MIrror/Echo/Tilt, a performance-based curriculum designed to reframe personal narratives and promote individual agency.
Watch students from The Bronx, NY, and Langley, KY, cross state lines — and cultural divides.