At Oak Park High School, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons brings together an unorthodox assortment of high school students of all colors, shapes, ethnic backgrounds, economic statuses, neighborhoods, families and yes even cliques making up a thriving community of artists in our Spoken Word club. High school is usually an environment where weakness isn’t understood as making people stronger, where stereotypes and rumors can be reckless and never get old. But in the midst of all that, Spoken Word links about 50 of us. And we have an ability to put weakness and embarrassment and insecurity into something that isn’t scared of rumors. We create something that no one else can.

Our performance that ended this season was last week. In one night, we talked about health care, divorce, abuse, drugs, what we used to believe in, and what we still do. First time performers and seniors who’d been in a dozen shows all spoke up, ignited by the support of our community. The administration at my school refers to everyone in the building as a community.  As much as I would like to refer to our school as a community as well, it just…isn’t. High school doesn’t really lend itself to the word community. It’s a place where people are finding out who they want to be (we all have that in common) but students just don’t seem to help each other out with the process.

Thankfully, Spoken Word transcends the cold shoulders and by nature gets everybody noticed. It ensures a support system for a lot of students that don’t have any other. We “respect the mic,” and encourage each other. “Respect the mic” has been our motto in listening to and speaking in front of one another. Each person has their time at the mic and each is respected and appreciated for what they have to say. The cultural and social diversity, along with the plethora of ideas in the group keeps all of our minds and eyes wide open to the racing world that lies outside the walls of our “community.”