One year ago, my dear friend and Glamour Top Ten sister, Maggie Dunne contacted me and told me about the Lakota Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She told how much the children loved poetry and relished in art and culture. She began the Lakota Children’s Enrichment program to provide artistic and literary resources to the Native children on the Reservation, aka the “Rez”. Last year, she developed a Youth Summit and Poetry competition for the students, and I was able to send copies of my book to the winners.
This year, on April 9th , I jumped on a flight to South Dakota to meet all of the poets, the Lakota Children’s Enrichment team, and a host of involved parents and teachers. I landed, and was greeted by the excited Maggie, and witty Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Jody Williams. I truly didn’t know what was in store —but I had the feeling it would be memorable.
We’d go to our hotels and the next day we’d take to the roads for the Pine Ridge Reservation. We’d meet up with the youth, that for so many months, we’ve become so familiar with, through Pine Ridge Writing and Art Challenge.
When I met these students, their eyes, had the hope I’ve seen in the eyes of my peers back at home. The students walked with such a modesty and humility, yet their poems spoke loud of colors, rage, and passion.
I’ve been to many places, but the generosity of my new friends on the Rez was something that I couldn’t remember feeling before. People, who had little to give, kept finding reasons to continue to give. There, I felt both honored and undeserving. During our award ceremony for the poets, Jody and I were even honored with quilts. We were wrapped in them and blessed by the people of the Tribal Council.
We even took to the badlands, my eyes swelled as we approached. I have never seen such beauty. The land was sacred in all of its essence, yet eerie in its bloody history. I learned of the elders, who were buried there, and the women and children who were murdered there, this too reminded me of my people back home.
I was allowed to read and write with the youth. The students wrote about peace, and suicide, land, and the realities they’ve become so attached to. I got to South Dakota and stood amongst a wealth of youth that shared my fears as a child. We all had art and education in common. Like me, these children knew that school would be the only way out of poverty. Like me, they fight the mold of oppression. Like me, they are poor, and of color, and they really love poetry. I stood amongst them with an unwavering desire to instill the idea that art and education would be the tool to their futures and now I go to my bed hoping they believe me —- and they remember my words, like I remember theirs.
- Jasmine Mans
Read their poems here: http://goo.gl/LROCiZ
Learn about Lakota Children’s Enrichment here: lakotachildren.org