AGC Students Slam Violence in Powerful Poem

6 Jun

Last month, the Third Rail Writers, a group of 6th graders under the guidance of Mr. Tim Bernier, took an original piece V.I.C (Violence In Chicago) to the stage with the Kuumba Lynx Half Pint Poetics event. The mission of AGC, to foster mindful leaders who take action to positively impact their communities and the world, shines brilliantly through Kaimana, Serena, Jason, Alondra, Jorge, and Fernando, as they refuse to accept the status quo of violence in their cities.  “This is our time, the future is in our hands,” they say, reminding their peers of their power and responsibility to make change. V.I.C is a collaborative piece which masterfully employs conversational, call and response and ensemble delivery, emphasizing the role of the collective and the individual in Chicago’s violence.

We’d love to share a letter from AGC teacher and Social Justice Educator, Tim Bernier, the Third Rail Writers’ coach.

The written word can be honest, beautiful, and captivating; commanding, when spoken with passion; staggering, when hit with heartfelt tone, and powerful in its true delivery. For me, hip hop is a medium that provides space for the spoken word to flow effortlessly and authentically. As a teacher, I’ve found hip hop to be a bridge that brings inner city kids closer to reading for understanding, and writing with a focus on genuine expression of self. Hip hop has provided me a venue to showcase injustices of the past and present in a way that elicits student response which is -and can be- cool, current, and critically appealing. When exploring writing in class, I am constantly working to  encourage my students to write from the heart; starting with their own individual and cultural histories. We free write, and write to be free; we brainstorm, rewrite, and get up and share our ideas –regularly. Third Rail Writers was born because, honestly, I love to write and read. As one who is wholly committed to this profession we call teaching, I teach as I live, read, write and breathe –with passion. If poetry and hip hop can turn my students on to reading, writing, and thinking critically…then, I’ve done well. As a poetry team, we will continue to explore what it means to be critically conscious, historically accurate, honest and authentic. The goal is to not only profess that which we learn and know, but to also be positive role models, culture keepers and true leaders.

I am so very proud of my Third Rail Writers. In my opinion, they sincerely represented what it means to be “risk-takers” the very moment they stepped up on the University of DePaul’s stage and stood in front of seasoned slam judges -as well as hundreds of students, teachers and activists- to read their original poetry. In the end, we walked away with memories to last a lifetime, and a killer plaque to commemorate their effort. 
​I would like to send a huge thanks to Ms. Gillespie, Mr. & Mrs. Beluso, and Ms. Amaro for coming out the day of the slam and supporting our team, real time. Last, “Where they at, Where they at, Where they at!?”, the biggest  shout-out goes out to my team, the Third Rail Writers: your courage is contagious, and your words are inspiring -never stop writing!
Peace & Praxis,
Mr. B
3rd rail writers
3rd Rail Writers Award
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