Saturday, March 31, 2018

The One With Lessons from Snoop Dogg

This month, I'm participating in the Slice of Life challenge with Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post or you can head on over there to check out other people's stories and follow along with the fun. For more information on what a Slice of Life is about, you can go here

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Today is the last day of the Slice of Life Challenge! I missed about five days and I considered going another few days so I end up with 31 posts altogether but instead, I'm going to stop here. 

I'll do one more reflection post tomorrow so I can recap all I've learned about being a writer this month but for today, I want to focus on what I've learned about spoken word. Maybe you've heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, also known as frequency illusion or recency illusion. This is what happens when you learn something, notice something, or experience something and then all of a sudden it keeps coming up all the time and everywhere. 

This happened to me this month. Once I zoned in on spoken word poetry and wanted to learn more...I came across so many conversations and examples of spoken word. I'm not sure if it's because I was seeking it our or just that I was more in tune to making connections to spoken word but it was really fun. 

I explored spoken word poets, watched their performances for their words and their messages but also how they delivered them, I listened to hip hop and dug into the history of hip hop, I tried writing and even delivered my own spoken word performance. 

What I noticed most is that spoken word is so powerful because it's potent. Writing is powerful no matter the medium but spoken word poetry is especially powerful because it's writing distilled down to the strongest nouns and verbs, imagery and description. It's amazing and beautiful, usually heartbreaking but sometimes funny. 

Spoken word is mesmerizing to me because it brings words to life. It exudes emotion and makes the writing so personal. I've been thinking a lot lately about how reading and writing is humanity. Part of what we do is take in stories and share stories and if one cannot do this, one's humanity is not in tact. Spoken word take reading and writing and brings it to life, it reminds me just how much heart goes into writing. The performance aspect is my favorite part. It's also the scariest part! I don't mind writing down my ideas but having to perform them was definitely something I had to think about. I paid attention to my inflection and when I wanted to speed up or slow down, how I wanted to move. I had to focus my attention on more than getting the words right, I had to think about how they would slip off of my tongue and whether they would pack the punch I wanted to. 

I have so much more respect for spoken word now that I've spent time delving into learning more about it. I think it's like anything else, from the outside, one can look in and think there isn't much to it or to be fooled by the people who make it look so easy. But spoken word is truly an art form. 

While I've learned about spoken word poetry and the mechanics of it, I've also learned about the history of spoken word and hip hop...and I've only barely begun to scratch the surface but I have so much more respect in general for the genre because of my exploration this month. 

Last night, my husband put on Coach Snoop on Netflix. The description of the show is this: "Fueled by his own rough upbringing, Snoop Dogg creates a youth football league to keep at-risk kids off the streets and focused on their goals." I was working on some writing so I was only half paying attention at first but I found myself drawn in as I watched how they described each of the players on his team and told their stories. What stood out to me the most was how Snoop talked to the kids, he is so kind with them and often, at the end of a conversation, he would say, "I love you." It's so simple and yet it stood out to me because it was powerful. You can watch the trailer here and it's probably the last show I would have picked to watch but I really found it interesting. 

In fact, I wish more educators would watch this show because it gives some insight into kids' lives that we might not know about or might not truly understand. Not that every student is going through what the kids he coaches are going through but it's still so powerful to see how he learns about the kids and their families and their stories. When it comes to addressing school shootings, I believe we need to focus our energy on seeing the students in our schools. Teachers and students need relationships that resemble those Snoop has with his players. We need to better see and connect with our students. In focusing on this, we impact students' connection to school, engagement with school, and in turn their overall mental health in and out of school. We don't need more secure school entrances or bullet proof glass or metal detectors. We need students who are seen, respected, and loved.

It seems random, throwing in a connection to Snoop Dogg but it's not. Like I mentioned before, stories are humanity. Reading and writing are humanity. Spoken word is part of this. And spoken word has roots in the griots, oral storytellers from West Africa, to the South Bronx after the Civil Rights Movement and knowing this gave me a stronger respect for the genre as a way of speaking out about life, a celebration but also a call for action. I don't know much about Snoop Dogg but from watching Coach Snoop, I have a lot of respect for the connections he makes with the kids and families he works with as a coach. Watching the show reminded me how spoken word poetry is part hip hop and rap but also part love. Love for life and yet also a desire to want to make the world better.

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