Monday, October 31, 2016

"I Wish" by @akbar_offishio - a @BeechwoodArts Production. @fairfieldu @CWPFairfield @writingproject

Yesterday was one of the magical moments in life where I was left feeling numb, mesmerized, humbled, and optimistic (even in today's political climate). Akabaru R. Niyonkur, a junior at Bassick High School, was asked to read his poem, "I Wish," at the Beechwood Arts and Innovation production of "Synesthesia," a salon in Westport, Connecticut, uniting artists, singers, writers, and collaborators. Akbar's poem was written during his summer participation in collaboration with CWP-Fairfield's Young Adult Literacy and Labs and Invitational Leadership Institute for Teachers (a National Writing Project production). This summer, Fairfield University Art Museum contacted us about collaborative writing with Rick Shaefer's masterpiece, Refugee Trilogy, and the rest has been history.

Akbaru received air time with Jennifer Bangser on local radio, and also caught the ear of Tanya Baker on the West Coast who interviewed him for her radio show on the partnership work. Unique to yesterday's performance, however, was the vision of Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito who produced and collaborated the collection at Beechwood. Their salon brought the writing of Akbaru to a whole new level, especially with the pairing of  pianist Daniel Kelly and vocalist Frederick Johnson. I know that Akbaru teared up while discussing his story in other venues, but yesterday was my turn to tear up. Hearing his words set to music, and accompanied with the talents of other guests, opera singer Wendy Morgan-Hunter and storyteller David Gonzalez, brought the summer work of Ubuntu Academy to a whole other level. The magic of Daniel Kelly and Frederick Johnson cannot be replaced, and what they did for Akbaru is immeasurable.

Several years ago, when CWP-Fairfield set out to create a literacy opportunity r for relocated refugee youth and immigrant students during the summer, I never anticipated that our collaborations would rise to this level. The synesthesia/synergy of Beechwood Arts and Innovation, coupled with the philosophy of Ubuntu - I can be me, because of who we are together, has exceeded any expectation I originally had. I simply wanted to promote kids as writers and to showcase some of the stories we often forget in American society.

Akbaru said, "I think there should be another event so that the other students from Ubuntu Academy might have an opportunity to share their writing, too." I would love to see that happen, too.

William King and Jessica Baldizon, graduates of Fairfield University's Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and instructors for Ubuntu Academy, will be traveling with me to Atlanta, Georgia to present on two-years of work, including support for a young man like Akbaru.

I was fortunate enough to attend yesterday's dress rehearsal, and then heard the live performance - and lucky for me, the musicians gave me permission to record. I couldn't help but put a video together showcasing CWP-Fairfield's summer work. CWP-Fairfield and IICONN of Bridgeport hope to collaborate more for a sustainable future of Ubuntu Academy at Fairfield University.

Yesterday motivated me even more - we definitely are stronger together!

Yesterday was a good day, and I'm kicking off into a new week with pep in my step.
Happy Halloween!

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