Wiregrass Ranch High School’s annual Poetry Slam, for Black History Month, focused on the importance of voting.
With the theme “Let Your Voice Be Heard: Vote,” the event also was a tribute to the late Denise Goodridge – the school’s former principal’s secretary.
Goodridge passed away last year due to health complications.
The Feb. 21 gathering took place in Wiregrass’s gymnasium.
Students packed the bleachers to hear the poetry from members of the Black History Club and from some faculty members.
Gloria Jackson, a reading teacher at Wiregrass, helps to oversee the Poetry Slam.
Before the wordsmiths took the stage, Jackson asked those gathered to reflect on Goodridge’s life.
As a slide show displayed photographs of Goodridge, guest vocalist Fiona Williams sang a rendition of Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
Jackson also had encouraged students to come to school wearing blue — Goodridge’s favorite color.
Sa’Derrica Tate, president of the Black History Club, offered opening remarks before the poetry presentations.
She reminded her classmates about the need to express themselves at the ballot box.
“As you get closer to the age of 18, keep in mind to vote. Don’t sit and complain about our country. Instead, go out and let your voice be heard. Your vote is your voice,” she said.
She brought attention to the fact that 2020 marks 150 years since African-American men were granted the right to vote, by way of the 15th Amendment. And, it’s been exactly one century since women were granted that right, too, through the 19th Amendment, she added.
In her poem, “A Vote Is,” Tate described the right this way: “The shield for my mother, my sister and my aunt. It is the fight we have finally won!”
Faculty member Yvette Fisher, who stood alongside the students, offered encouraging words through her literary piece, “Silence No More.”
She shared: “I will speak and I will speak loud at the voting polls, always remembering that we all get to speak. We all have a choice because we all have a voice.”
Fisher said voting is a topic that cannot be “overemphasized.”
The teacher said her parents and grandparents were involved in the civil rights movement, and noted that resonates with her because the work for progress continues.
Fisher also reflected on Goodridge, noting the woman’s kind demeanor and the impact she had at Wiregrass.
Student William Cuebas offered a deeper meaning about going to the polls, in his poem, “It’s More Than Just a Vote.”
He said, “And true equality was rearing its bright face. So the next time that you’re taking the bus to go vote, don’t forget who came before us. The right to vote has a bigger message to me. It’s more than just a vote, it’s a symbol of our unity.”
Cuebas also touched on Goodridge’s positive vibe: “She always had this wonderful smile, this passion in her heart.
“I feel like this dedication to her memory, was one of the best things, I feel, we’ve done in this Poetry Slam,” the 17-year-old said.
Besides listening to poetry, students in the crowd had a chance to dance and sing.
The Kuumba Dancers and Drummers of Tampa entered the gymnasium, accompanied by the vibrant sounds of drums.
Dr. Kya Conner — the group’s speaker — was joined by various dancers and drummers dressed in African attire.
The purpose of the Kuumba dance is to “strengthen and preserve traditional West African dance and drum culture,” Conner said.
The rhythmic motions are accompanied with songs and chants during West African events, such as baby showers, funerals, weddings and graduations.
Conner instructed students in the crowd how to perform the stylistic clapping, as the drummers joined in unison. She also taught them how to incorporate a unique chant along with the clapping and drums.
Volunteers were invited to come down to learn an energetic dance routine, and several responded to the offer.
At the program’s close, Jackson brought it full circle, by reflecting on the life of Goodridge.
“Her impact has been tremendous,” Jackson said. “Even though she’s gone, she forever lives in our hearts.”
Published March 11, 2020