“How do you want to end the poem?” I ask her. “How do you want the audience to feel when you’re finished?”
Maggie looks very serious for a moment while she considers the question.
“I really want it to be a mic drop moment,” she says. “I mean, I won’t really drop it because the mic is expensive, but I want them to feel like they have to stand up.”
Maggie Luong is a freshman at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk and one of the performers in Moments and Minutes; Long Wharf’s second annual spoken word and visual art festival on April 12th. Maggie originally wrote her poem, Seven Year Old Me, in response to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy earlier this year. She feels that she has a responsibility to share her perspective.
“Growing up, I did deal with a lot of prejudice for being Asian, for being a person of color. I would also hear racist jokes, ridiculous jokes, from peers or classmates or even on the Internet…I guess I got sick of it. Now I’m grown up, and I want to speak out. I want to be an advocate for people…I want to be someone I needed when I was younger.”
Moments and Minutes will feature spoken word performances by 25 students from all over New Haven. The theater lobby will also turn into an art gallery for the evening, featuring paintings, collages, and video content created by 12 additional students.
As members of our Education Department have been working with the performers to help them prepare for the festival, we’ve all been struck not just by their talent but by the brave questions their work asks the audience. Caleb Rutherford, an eighth grader at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School in New Haven, writes in his poem:
“When you see me walking down the street in my brown skin, hoodie, and Timbs, what you don’t see is me listening to Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, walking with the confidence my parents instilled in me, with my head down, blocking the cold wind that cuts across my face…”
Long Wharf will be presenting Moments and Minutes in collaboration with Collective Consciousness Theatre in New Haven. The performers will get to meet the artists who work with CCT, and our hope is that the students leave the festival feeling empowered to continue sharing their stories with the world.
“I’m really excited to perform this piece because [it’s] very personal. I worked very hard on it, and I feel like it should be shared,” said Maggie.
– Eliza Orleans