William Blount celebrates International Week
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
An old friend of William Blount High School returned for its seventh year to deliver a message that’s always worth repeating.
Teacher Melanie Pritchard and members of her International Club organized its 12th annual International Week last week and invited the very popular group Black Sunshine to perform in the theater.
Pritchard sent out emails letting her fellow teachers know of the event so they would allow their students the opportunity to hear this group of spoken word poets. Members of each class with the exception of freshmen got the chance to hear some original poetry on stage from two Black Sunshine members who encouraged these high school students to make their own attempt at writing.
Sound it out
“My goal is to get everyone to be a writer,” said Jonathan Clark, who goes by the name Courageous. He has been writing poetry since he was 13 and performed on stage at the age of 14. This member of Black Sunshine told his audience, “Writing is one of the best ways of self-expression. It’s a good way to get to know yourself.”
Rhea Carmon, who is Rhea Sunshine, is the founder and director of Black Sunshine. She is a math teacher at Austin-East High School in Knoxville and has been performing her original poetry on stage for about 10 years.
She said the group travels across the country, delivering the message of self-expression and acceptance of others. They visit a number of high schools and colleges.
“We want to show these students that poetry is more than lines that rhyme and Shakespeare,” she said. When the audience sees how much fun the performers are having, that often inspires them to write some of their own poetry, the founder said.
This teacher/poet/performer said she started writing poetry at the suggestion of one of her high school teachers.
“I hated English so my teacher thought this would be a way to enjoy it more,” Carmon said.
Carmon performed one of her poems called “Sound of a Soul Crying Out,” about the injustices of racism and how easy it can be to judge someone by the color of their skin. She sang the poem, reeling in the audience with her soulful sound.
Clark and Carmon took turns entertaining this group of students which contained a lot of English students, foreign language and career technical classes. At one point, Clark had them jumping up and down, yelling out their names and otherwise showing their enthusiasm pretty early in the day.
There were serious messages mixed in with the spirited performance. His first poem dealt with how he handled being a biracial student when he was small.
“Because I am half black and half white, I come at life from a different perspective,” he told the students. His poem delivered the message that what’s on the surface isn’t as important as what’s on the inside.
Carmon was also a source of encouragement as she told the crowd to believe in themselves as writers and not be afraid to show the world who they are. She continues to define herself, telling them, “There are poems inside me that I haven’t written yet.”
In their midst
Then as a special treat, Black Sunshine introduced a student poet in their midst. AJ Wimbley performs on local stages and was given the chance to do so in front of his William Blount peers.
He performed a poem he wrote during a dark time in his life, when both of this grandmothers passed away.
Pritchard said her students are thrilled every year when Black Sunshine is invited to International Week.
One of the members of the International Club saw a performance years ago and thought it would be a great addition to this annual celebration at William Blount.
“They love it,” she said. “As soon as you start talking about International Week, they want to know if Black Sunshine is coming.”
In addition to this presentation, International Week also featured salsa dancing at the Freshman Academy with Waldo Solano from Salsa Knox, a Latin dance school in Knoxville. That event was held Nov. 2 for the entire freshman body.
The final event of the week was the Culture Fair held on Nov. 16 in the auxiliary gym. Several community members and clubs at William Blount set up displays and spoke to students one-on-one about international issues. This was open to 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders.
The displays, Pritchard said, were prepared and manned by the WBHS International Club, the Spanish Honor Society, and the, French Honor Society. Community members who participated included Ann Wilson with Volunteers for China, the Peace Corps, Walter Davis and Shirley and Cato Clowney.
The activities were organized by the International Club officers: Nathan Pritchard, president; Jonathan Williams, vice-president; and Josh Barnes, secretary.
The International Week panel consisted of WB students Laura Braden, Logan Plemmons, Cody Carbonneau, Sami Solano, Erica Eve, Matt Lane, Jessica Wilson, Lacy Tucker and Brenna Page.