Teacher to Teacher
The following selections are from prompts from Bob's new book, Writing
I came here from Ireland about a week before the fire; my brother found me a factory job working an assembly line at the meat packing company he worked for. When I first arrived and saw the statue, I still expected to see gold paved streets beneath Lady Liberty. New York was still hardly what I expected but I was still hopeful on my train ride to Chicago. I walked down a narrow street with my brother, the little alleyway his apartment building sat in was hardly a street built by dreams like I’d been told. It was close quarters in my brother’s house. Our cousin, his wife, and two children all stayed in one room while my brother slept in a room with his wife and young daughters. I shared the couch with my nephew; he was only nine and didn’t take up much space though. When I started work at the factory it didn’t exactly seem like a place that would help me achieve my dream of becoming a pub owner, but it was money, and I needed that. One night I woke up to my young cousin staring out the window and the smell of smoke. I looked outside of our tiny, dirty window to see what looked like half the city engulfed in flames. At this point, America looked more like Hell than a golden land of prosperity to me. We didn't leave the apartment all three days of the fire. My cousin’s wife said it was the apocalypse and walked around mumbling passages from the Bible because “judgment day had come.”
When the flames finally stopped raging, three hundred people were dead and the meat packing company had been reduced to a pile of ash, apparently because of some vow kicking a lantern.
It was when we began to rebuild that U began to see that golden shimmer all immigrants come here for. I got money for losing my job at the factory and opened a pub with my brother and cousin. We now live in a nice house and all have our own rooms. The fire was a tragedy, but here we are four short years later, and for me, the streets have been replaced with gold.
“The Day the Beatles Came to Town”
As you my fellow students know, this week was “Beatles Week” in honor and celebration of the newly popular British Rock n Roll sensation’s arrival to America. Although I have not been much of a fan, your enthusiasm in the halls inspired me to investigate this British Phenomena further. Thus, I jumped at the chance, when given the opportunity to attend their concert this past week and will enlighten you about my experiences. Hopefully, you will enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed writing it and will learn something new about that rock group you so admire that you did not realize before.
As the lights began to pulsate, a much older man in a dark suit appeared, stood in front of a microphone, and with a wave of his hand yelled in his best announcer voice reminiscent of the Johnny Carson Intro, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatle!”
Almost immediately the sound of cheering and screaming fans deafened my ears to the point that as these long haired boys appeared, OI could no longer hear anything that resembled any acceptable form of communication. Thus, instead of listening to the music, I had no other choice but to rely upon my other senses. My immediate attention was drawn to the police officer on my left, two rows up. Dressed completely in unfirmed black, his thick black-rimmed glasses matched his black hair. His stern face as he glanced back at me for only a second revealed his young, newly shaven face, and his disgust at the atrocious actions that were gracing the stage and of his required presence at such an event. His Peter Pan Pose with his left hand gripping his black nightstick, and his right hand resting on his gun, demonstrated to me that he was ready for action as he stared intently at the group of four on the stage, instead of at the crowd of unruly teenage girls confessing of unspeakable acts that they wished to do to the boys and places of ecstasy they wished to take them. Who was he really here to protect, I wondered. The first coherent and logical noise I heard was from a man who suddenly appeared to my right. He was an older gentleman of at least 70 and clearly out of his element. Dressed in a greyish-brown wool suit and coat, his hat made of the same material reminded me of the days my father spoke of when men dressed like men, and everyone knew their place. His long drooping nose, sunken eyes, and wrinkled face, revealed that he had indeed lived a long and difficult life.
“Damn pot smoking, brownie-eating, war-hating, tea-drinking, biscuit –eating, hippies!”
My curiosity certainly got the better of me and I had to ask, “Excuse me sir, but what sis you say?”
Startled, he looked at me and responded, “Oh, uh, nothing.” However, as he glanced away, not so under his breath, he continued, “pansies, momma’s boys.”
Excerpts from the Autobiography of William Henry Thorne, concerning the Events at
I have often been urged by my friends and family to record some instances of my
The Author's Recollections Concerning Fort Dearborn:
In the spring of 1812, I turned fourteen. This momentous occasion was
This was no more extreme than the sentiments of the Americans; my own father
At any rate, things came to a head. Captain Heald received orders that the Fort
We marched out of the Fort at nine o'clock in the morning on August the 15th. I
It was very quiet, I remember-- no chatter, or other friendly noises. Even our
William Wells had ridden ahead as a scout, his observation and knowledge of the
He was informing us of an ambush. We formed rank and faced away from the
We were not kept waiting.
They had been hiding in the trees behind the dunes, and now they ran out,
Well, I certainly didn't kill that man-- he almost killed me-- but just as the
My recollections are a little hazy-- I'm sure anyone who's done any fighting can
At the camps, however, my memory serves me well. Tanner Freeman and my
Freeman, perhaps to distract himself, engaged me in conversation. I will always
I said something to the effect that all Indians were savages who ought to be
"You must never say such things, William." His voice was strained, as if he were
I was resolute. "No human behaves like that." I said, jerking my head at one of
He turned to follow my gaze and was silent for a few moments. Then he turned
I looked away, and was overcome with fury. "Rip out her scalp." I snarled.
Freeman nodded, and indicated the scene in front of us. "Like that?"
Badly wounded, I knew my fate was to follow Burns. I am proud to say that I did
Once Burns was dead, it was my turn. Someone grabbed me by the scruff of the
She regarded me with a furrowed brow. I focussed on her, a point of thought and
"Wait!" She called in Algonquian, and threw up her hand. Although her voice was
The woman who had tortured Thomas Burns turned to her. "What is it, Prairie
Prairie Hen pointed at me. "I want that to be my grandson."
There was an uproar, but Black Bird, who had led the ambush, stood up and
"He's mine!" Shouted the man holding me. "He's mine to do with as I choose!"
Black Bird glared at him, and asked Prairie Hen, "Why this man? Why not choose
She shook her head. "It must be this one."
"He's wounded!" Came a shout from the crowd.
"He's not fit to replace Red Hawk!"
The old woman snapped. "He is more than fit to replace my dead grandson,
"Why?" I heard him snarl, his breath hot on my face.
There was a gasp from the assembly.
It was Black Bird who spoke then, his voice frigid. "For the honor of helping an
That moment before he did so was the longest I've ever spent in this world. At
Of course, I was one of the lucky ones. Other captives were tortured and killed.
As for me, you children well know that I also married, and am now a respected
By Brittney Conner, YCA Corp Teaching Artist
I was raised on Pork fat and penny candies
Ass whoopin's and fighting to lick cake batter outta bowls
Yo mama jokes and my grandma's southern accent.
I've never had my mah-mah's twang I have her voice.
There's a shiny diploma on my shelf.
A white man somewhere told me I speak good English, I speak well.
Gave me a degree.
Niggas forget I know niggas.My diction is often mistaken for privilege.
I read books when we had nowhere to sleep.
Digested epilogues when there was no other option.
My hands are smooth.
Lotioned them with education.
Few in my family have smooth hands.
Few have washed the blood from them.
I am lady Macbeth, no matter where I go I can't remove them spots.
Do you see the King blood on my hands? Vice Lord, Queen, Cobra blood?
Do You see? They are red like my Brother's, like my Uncles, like the men I share blood with.
Like the men I share colors with.
Niggas forget I come from niggas.
I was raised in the Low Ends. On Gun shots and Rest in Peace T-shirts.
My Mah-mah has the weight of five children, and their children's children and children of children that aren't even her children's dreams buried in her apron.
I have more cousins then we have food.
But none is left unfed, She cooks ever meal like last supper.
You never know when you'll need one less table setting.
Niggas forget I was raised by niggas.
My nigga mother has a Masters degree.
Some white man somewhere told her she could count right.
She knew I was counting on her, so she saved pennies like prayers. Showed me copper can be spun into books, travel, a diploma.
Gave me more than she even knew was out there.
Niggas forget I am a nigga.
I was raised on Jiggolo, jig jig o lo and smacked lips.
On quarter juices and knowing I was going to be bigger than the hood.
On dictionaries and homework assigned by my mother.
By niggas who would rather be niggas.
Who still love pork fat and licking the bottom of the bowl.
By Lamar Jorden, YCA teaching Corp artist.
Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" furnishes a dance hall filled with 50 rhythm-less spoken-word poets somewhere in South Florida.
The classic ballad behooves you to move once the groove Electric Slides into your eardrum.
The dance floor was a vacant plateau urging to be occupied.
Neglected by the rhythm-less standing off to the side who decide to twist, rock and glide at their own personal leisure.
Creating sights similar to miniature seizures.
It's quite a sad thing to watch.
Those who botch even the simplest of moves,
groove next to those who haven't decided whether they want to nod their heads or bend their knees.
So, they do both.
Not quite simultaneously, but the effort is imminent.
And in a sense, I expected to see better dancing before remembering that we're in a night club in the day time, surrounded by poets;
people who are more constructive with their hands and damn near destructive with their feet,
and finally, I remembered that we're in West Palm ...
Read Camping Trip.
Read "Someone's Cheating," by a 9-year-old student. See how Moe's Café prompts work with young kids!
Check out Say What magazine's first on-line issue: www.saywhatonline.org
Two Stories by Lauren
Young Chicago Authors has a new publication called Under Construction. It is an anthology of YCA writing for the past 20 years. Call 1-847-835-5430 for a free copy.
Click here for more student writing.
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