By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – Over the summer, Hamtramck Public School District will be organizing a series of cultural literacy events meant to highlight art and expression in and around Metro Detroit. These Pop-Ups are meant to help children engage with literacy before schools return to in-person learning.
The second event in the Pop-Up series, held yesterday at Pulaski Park, showcased jazz musicians, spoken word poetry, African Drum Storytelling and even high-rise stilt walkers. These performances, and their cultural significance, were deliberately chosen for their engagement with cultural literacy, explains HPS officials involved with the program.
“We live together, we learn together, and we learn from each other,” said Holly Gilbert, a K-3 Literacy Coach. “Yes, reading may seem hard from an instructional point, but when we’re deliberate this way, there is something for everybody.”
Madeline Porter, Program Director for the Summer Pop-Up Series, is a staunch supporter for the Arts and Arts Education. Her goal as an educator is to allow students to use the arts to engage with the world around them.
“This program is designed to bring students back into the fold [after COVID],” Porter said. “To help them to get an education, it’s important for us to educate in any way we can. And I’m so passionate about that. So that is my stance on the arts and education through the arts. That’s what this program is all about – to educate and teach and reach every child no matter where they are.”
Joel Fluent Greene, a local Spoken-Word Poet, performed his poems at the HPS Literacy Pop-Up
However, officials involved with the program believe that this program has a larger power than just providing children with a sense of cultural literacy. In addition, officials believe the Pop-Up series can be a community-building tool to connect people with a broader sense of community.
“It’s a community building program, and education should build those ties,” Porter said. “We all have to come together. Even in Hamtramck, we have segregated little enclaves of communities. This is one place, and the school is one place in the community. We need to have more events where all cultures come together, and we can all come together as one.”
Carol Ann Paul, an Educational Improvement Consultant with Wayne RESA, says that the original goal was to bring members of the community together.
“We’re looking to connect the city with the skills, but also encompass that larger goal of literacy,” Paul said. “So that’s our ultimate goal. We really wanted to get the community involved and make sure that we came to them. It’s not about them coming to Hamtramck Public Schools. It’s about us getting out into the community and bringing them in through all these fun activities.”
The organizers of the event believe in the arts as one of the most powerful means of expression. In a political climate that can oftentimes be hostile to art and expression, the act of passing along an arts education is a powerful assignment to the organizers.
“It’s a political platform, whether people know it or not, it is that platform,” Porter said. “I use the arts to speak up and speak out. And this is an opportunity to show our youth, to show the community, how they can use the arts to speak out through art, through music, through poetry, through prose – through every way you can produce it.”
Hamtramck Public Schools will hold two more summer Pop-Ups – one on July 21 at the HPS Community Center, and another on July 28 at Pulaski Park again. Students attending these Pop-Ups will receive a free backpack filled with books, a writing journal, and math learning supplies.