The Year of the Speech
Brooklyn students take action through words and images
Inspired by the 2008 election season, Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School’s (BCAM) publication Take a Position, Create a Vision is an impressive collection of persuasive speeches and campaign posters by 11th grade students. The students encouraged themselves and one another to get up and make a difference through writing, speaking and action.
Emerging from a year of energetic political discourse and dynamic campaign art following the 2008 elections, BCAM English Chair Kevin Greer expanded his rhetorical essay writing unit to a multi-layered project featuring published student speeches.
Giving new spirit to SPI’s concept of citizen journalists, Greer motivated his students to passionately articulate their interests and opinions through careful study and mastery of the formal qualities of rhetoric. These students used their visions and words to present strong statements on issues such as global warming, their school’s uniform policy, love and sex, the importance of basketball, and the “American Dream.”
The project showcased 21st-century sensibility. Students used internet-based programs such as Google Docs and Google Chat to facilitate editing discussions with SPI consultants Nita Noveno and Emily Herzog.
Students energetically assumed the task of enlivening their visions through persuasive and compelling imagery. Christy Herbes, the high school’s media art chair, worked with students to master the graphic design programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, so students could bolster their individual positions with carefully constructed poster art and visual campaigns.
Student Author Crystal Diaz said, “We need to pick ourselves up and to create this change, create this dream in these modern times.”
The students’ work brought to life the promise of the strength of words, and called others to join the task. Student author Camille Adolphe wrote, “It is mandatory that our elders are aware of our views and our goals for our world, for our communities, and for ourselves, so they know what lies ahead.”
At the conclusion of the project, the student authors emerged as activists, calling on the duty of their fellow peers, parents, and communities “to know the statistics, to stop the abuse, to learn from experience, to listen, and to do something…now.”
They celebrated the book’s release in June 2009 at a public reading hosted at the Court Street Barnes and Noble in Brooklyn, where the students’ voices reached an even wider audience.