Last Wednesday in the basement of McCarver Elementary School, an image of a young man in a hoodie appeared on the gray concrete wall as nearly 80 second through fifth graders finished their turkey and cheese sandwiches, mixed vegetables and applesauce.
“Does anyone know who this is?” asked Mr. Brendan, the fifth-grade team leader for the McCarver Scholars after-school program.
“You could say that,” responded Mr. Brendan, to the boy who shouted out the last guess. Then, he pulled his hoodie up over his head and told the story of Trayvon Martin, in honor of the third anniversary of the 17-year-old boy’s death. For 10 minutes or so, Brendan and the kids, ages 7-12, talked about power, privilege, integrity and the law. Brendan said that just for this day, the kids could wear their hoodies in school.
Write@253 is honored to work with the bright, beautiful and talented McCarver students and the dedicated and enthusiastic staff of Peace Community Center in the McCarver Scholars program. Every Wednesday, our volunteers lead writing activities and a blogging club. For the past month, we’ve worked with students as they’ve gathered in the basement at cafeteria tables, sharpened pencils in hand, to write and illustrate graphic novels with characters as varied as Russell Wilson, Japanese wide-mouthed women and orphans.
We will publish their work and take many of them on a field trip later this month to the Near-Sighted Narwhal, a small, magical store on Tacoma’s 6th Avenue that houses more than 1,000 self-published books, zines and comics. The students will get to create their own zine and, we hope, feel what it’s like to be a real writer, to have a voice and a real audience for their words. We hope they like the feeling.
We hope they take it back to McCarver Elementary, where the annual student turnover rate has reached 179% in recent years due to severe poverty and housing issues. In our city, kids who quality for free and reduced lunch, which includes nearly all of the McCarver scholars, are about half as likely to graduate from high school as their richer classmates.
The McCarver students are as bright, beautiful and talented as the children in wealthier Tacoma neighborhoods. They have voices that we all need to hear — and listen to.