As Kaila McAlpine spoke, her passionate tone filled the gymnasium, captivating the audience.
She was among a host of students and faculty members taking part in the Wiregrass Ranch High School’s Poetry Slam on Feb. 22.
With “Diversity Rules” as the theme, participants could share a poet’s work, or deliver their own literary creation, on stage.
The school’s Black History Club conceptualized the theme and coordinated the second annual event, which was timed to coincide with Black History Month.
“I think diversity was the best way to bring everyone together,” said Averi Willins, vice president of the club. “Black history shouldn’t just be for black people. I feel like it’s an awareness for everyone.”
Willins, along with club president Sa’Derrica Tate, welcomed the audience before Fiona Williams, of Saint Leo University, performed the national anthem.
A special tribute was given to Jimmy DuBose, a former assistant principal at Wiregrass Ranch, who also made an appearance at the event.
Posters displaying the faces of prominent African-American writers, such as Langston Hughes, Tupac Shakur, Alice Walker and James Baldwin, among others, flanked both sides of the stage.
Rose Daniels recited “My People” by Langston Hughes – conveying the value of humanity through the wonders of astronomy.
“The night is beautiful, so the faces of my people,” the sophomore recited. “The stars are beautiful, so the eyes of my people. Beautiful also, is the sun. Beautiful also, are the souls of my people.”
In another piece, Juanita Lamprea Garcia also spoke on the constellation of stars as they relate to people. The writing expressed that while each star is different, they all work together to brighten the dark sky.
One literary work used the analogy of a seed to emphasize the importance of human growth – breaking free from its shell in order to flourish.
Another drew a comparison between people and crayons: a diversity of colors, opposed to just one, combine to make a picture complete.
Even Wiregrass Ranch’s Principal Robyn White offered words of inspiration.
In the poem “You Stand Out,” she spoke of a world where unity outshines individual differences.
“What really stood out in that poem, was the commonalities that we all have – things that we enjoy.
“No matter who we are or what we stand for, these are all beautiful things in our lives,” the principal said.
During an intermission, the school’s step team, led by McAlpine, put on a lively presentation.
The gym echoed with rhythmic hand claps and foot stomps as the team performed their march with precision.
With an energized crowd, the presenters kept the momentum going as they continued to speak with emotion.
William Cuebas presented another literary piece that told the story of a person’s introspective journey in life – peacefully interacting with different ethnicities.
The 16-year-old said he found this reading compelling because it exemplifies how society should coexist.
“We should be treating ourselves not only as equal, but we should celebrate our differences,” Cuebas stated.
After reading a quote, Wanda Diehm took the time to commend Wiregrass Ranch High.
“We do diversity here so well,” the social studies teacher said. “I see it in my classroom, in the hallways, in the cafeteria, and I love it.”
Writer Charles Bennafield’s words were eloquently recited as Willins read “I Am Diversity.”
“My name is Diversity and yes I stand tall,” the senior quoted. “Recognize me and keep me in the mix. Together there’s no problem that we can’t fix.”
Willins stated that the poem was moving because it gave her the opportunity to look at diversity not only as a concept, but as a person.
McAlpine admitted that poetry helped her discover a newfound appreciation for literature.
“When I write poems, I draw from my emotions and my perspective,” the 16-year-old explained.
That was evident as she presented her own literary work “Blend” at the Poetry Slam.
In the poem, McAlpine expresses her views as a young African-American lady while encouraging everyone to “blend” as one people.
Cuebas also acknowledged “Blend” stating that it “really took the crowd by storm.”
He added that, “Art is a way of presenting concern, our creativity, opening our imagination, and I feel like that’s what we’re doing with this.”
Published March 06, 2019