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insideOut

Working with InsideOut Literary Arts

I started teaching in 2007 with City Year, Americorps largest program which primarily focuses on literacy in public school classrooms across the country. It is an organization which is often criticized for putting untrained young people into classrooms. I was certainly that, working in 8th grade civics classrooms twice a week and also running programming at a teen center on the border between Jamaica Plain and Roxbury in Boston. While I had never formally done any teaching before, most of my work was relegated to classroom assistance and also helping students conceive of and execute civic engagement projects in their school and broader community. While the work was taxing, over-taxing at times, overall the experience steered me on a path towards working with youth. At the present time, I teach poetry two days a week at two high schools in Detroit. I am fortunate to have gained a position as a Writer in Residence for insideOut Literary Arts, a Detroit-based writing and literacy organization founded by Terry Blackhawk nearly two decades ago. (Eddie Stewart is a student at Marcus Garvey. He works with iO's Peter Markus at his school.)

Community vs. Competition

What makes a literary community? This question is one that has been posed to me many times over, and I have some difficulty answering it, to be honest. Part of this comes out of a certain squeamishness I have around the word community. It is a slippery word to me because of the way it’s used. There’s a sense in which it is used to mean a neighborhood, or a section of a neighborhood where people share similar cultural markers, and I find that much easier to parse than the more broad uses of the word i.e. “the black community”, “the LGBTQ community” etc.