Bring The Noise For Martin Luther King Jr., by Solange Baker

Youth Speaks is an organization that works to raise the voices of young people in the form of spoken word on matters of importance to them. They put on different performances from Under 21 Open Mics to Brave New Voices. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Youth Speaks puts on a show on his birthday. This year was the twentieth anniversary of the show. It was inspired by Dr. King’s “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” speech. I had the privilege of celebrating Dr. King’s legacy by performing at the show. While I was beyond honored to be in it, I was terrified at the idea of performing in front of hundreds more people than I had in my entire life. But standing backstage listening to my fellow performers was powerful. After the show I was left feeling empowered, motivated, and awestruck by my peers talent with words. Especially with the current political climate, the world feels terrifying and unpredictable. As those who will one day inherit the world, it is important that we let our opinions be known, especially when we’re given so little voice in the outcome of political decisions.

Backstage I begun to panic. I have performed countless times, but I will never get over the stage fright that comes with putting on shows. But as soon as I stepped up to the microphone and the stage lights hit me, my instincts took over. I had poured my soul into writing this piece and spent hours at rehearsals making sure I portrayed it in the most effective way to get my message across. I forgot about all the people staring at me, and the words came naturally. I performed far better than I had expected. After exiting the stage, relief and joy that I didn’t mess up flooded my senses. The support I received from people a month ago I hadn’t known was overwhelming. And to receive that support from people my age whose work I admired and whose words will stick with me, is something I will always remember.

There has always been a lot of hate in this world. Recently people have been demonstrating that hate more. It’s terrifying, and as a person who will one day inherit this earth, it’s not what I want it to be like. That’s part of why this show was so important for people to hear. I will not sit idly by as hate consumes the world around me. I will not remain silent as people I know and love are jeered at and threatened for their gender, who they love, their skin color, or their religion. I was unjustly born with privilege due to my skin tone. Despite being part black, I will never truly understand what my father or black peers have gone through. Because of how people perceive me I will never be followed in stores by security, I will never be denied a job because of my skin. My experiences of getting treated differently after telling someone of my heritage cannot compare to the violence visibly people of color experience. But if I didn’t use my privilege to speak about racism and to raise the voices of people of color, I would be perpetuating it.

After the show I was met with praise from both my friends and strangers. Even blocks away from the venue the show was held at people stopped me to tell me how much they enjoyed my piece. Five days later at the women’s march someone would stop me and tell me they loved my poem. Knowing that my words touched and impacted so many people was an amazing feeling. It made all my nervousness and hard work worth it.

I will definitely do my best to continue working with Youth Speaks. Performing at Bring The Noise was an amazing experience and I will keep going to open mics and poetry slams. It’s an incredible and special thing to find a way to express yourself, so I’m lucky to have found how much I enjoy writing spoken word. After all, it combines two of my favorite things; performing and writing. But regardless of how many more times I’ll perform spoken word pieces, the fight for equality across race, gender, religion, and sexuality is far from over. I will continue to use my voice to fight to make the world a place I am happy to live in.

Solange Baker, class of 2019

Solange Baker at Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Sophomore Creative Writer Solange Baker was one of the students selected by Youth Speaks to read at their 20th annual Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. held on January 16, 2017 at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco.

SOTA CW recently worked with Youth Speaks and poet-mentor Trey Amos for a six-week unit on Spoken Word in preparation for the opening of our new Spoken Arts pathway in Fall of 2017

Writing From Impulses by Solange Baker

Impulse writing is how I have written for most of my life. Up until freshman year I had not received many prompts. “Prompts” in Creative Writing are exactly as they sound; they are meant to elicit ideas and to get you started on your creative process. In Creative Writing one we are given a warm up every morning to help us organize our thoughts and to get ideas down onto paper. We recently had a guest speaker come in. He answered our questions on his book and on writing in general. One of the tips he gave that stood out to all of us was that he writes out of impulse. He finds the idea of not knowing how a sentence will end to be enticing, an opinion that I must agree on.

The following day the head of our department, Heather Woodward, immediately jumped onto this concept. This time we began class without a prompt. We wrote down the first thought that came to mind and did not stop writing until our ten minutes were up. Through sharing the newly produced paragraphs it quickly became evident that writing on impulse was generating some astounding imagery and ideas. While it is helpful to have a prompt given to you when you have hit a block in your writing, often your brain has the capability to spawn wild and alluring plot and character ideas on its own. It is an understatement to say that the imagination is the writer’s most used tool out of their arsenal. Although it may seem overwhelming, partnering the imagination with a little spontaneity can sometimes be the key to writing your next big piece.

Solange Baker, class of 2019

Adventures in Playwriting by Solange Baker

On Tuesday we started our playwriting unit. As a Freshman this is my first time truly delving into playwriting. The only writing of a script that I’ve done is for my portfolio and four to five times on my own. But this year the experience of the unit is new for everyone. In the past the playwriting unit has been taught by Isaiah Dufort. So this will be the first year that anyone currently in Creative Writing will have playwriting with our brand new artist-in-residence, Eugenie Chan.

Having acted in plays before, I have more experience on that side of the play-producing business. Once, when I was attending the reading of an author making her debut novel, I was told that once you publish a book or piece of writing that you get this uncomfortable feeling of having to let go. You realize that this story that you spent so much time on, that you essentially dedicated a portion of your life to producing and revising, is no longer only yours. It’s not personal anymore and that can be hard to let go of. In playwriting this takes a more physical form as your words and ideas are being portrayed by somebody else. But you can imagine that at the same time it’s probably wonderful to be able to see your work come to life. It might be worrying as the actors and director will most likely interpret your work differently than you had intended. As cheesy as it sounds, that’s part of the beauty of writing: the reader always brings their own experience to the writing and makes it—in a way—unique to them. In fact, as you are reading this you are making it your own, interpreting it differently than another person would by subconsciously bringing your own background knowledge to the writing. Of course it depends on who you talk to, but writing can be an interactive experience. Yes, us holed-up writers who are said to spend our time staring at our screens and have a permanent indent in our hands where a pen should be and who develop carpal tunnel at the age of twenty, can create an interactive experience.

Solange Baker, class of 2019

Zine, Umlaut Zine by Solange Baker

Being a freshman, this entire “Umlaut” making process is new to me. Well, this year it’s new to everyone because we’re trying something new: we’re making it a zine. For those who don’t know what Umlaut or a zine is, let me explain. Umlaut is SOTA’s literary journal. The Creative Writing department is the staff, meaning that we review submissions, edit, lay it out, etc. But the submissions come from all over the school. Normally it is professionally printed, but for this issue we’re making a zine.

A zine is a small, handmade, more free-style magazine. In fact we’re making not one, not two, not three, but FIVE mini zines that will be (literally) tied together to make a set. Each of the mini zines have a theme. They are as follows: Symbiosis, Abandoned Homes, Apocalypse WOW, Guilty Pleasures, and Complaints. The problem with the old Umlaut was that because it looked so professional, it was expensive to make and therefore expensive for people to buy. Now with us making our little heartfelt school literary journals by hand, they’re FREE!

It’s pretty interesting to watch and be a part of the Umlaut process. I remember how when I toured I bought a copy of the latest journal. I still have it, I re read it from time to time. All the work in it is very high quality and intriguing, and it’s even cooler to connect the names to the faces. When getting accepted into the department was still only a dream and not a reality I (obviously) didn’t know the writers published in the journal. I remember reading Umlaut and thinking “God, they’re really talented.” Now that I’m a part of this department, I know and work with many of those incredibly talented people. These amazing people who were once only a name on a page are now my friends, supporters, and most of all, my Creative Writing family. And I have the honor of seeing them every day.

Solange Baker, class of 2019

Creative Writing Butterflies by Solange Baker

With our first show of the year coming up, this week has been a rush of preparing and excitement. As I am a freshman, this is my first show in creative writing. During my eighth grade year, I came to “Rebel Rebel”, the fall showcase last year. To put it simply, it was one of the best shows that I’ve been to. It’s interesting though, to know see the mechanics and behind the scenes of the making a writing show.

Putting on a performance takes a lot of work. I’ve been in enough plays and such to know this, but this is a new experience for me. There’s a certain feeling of nervousness that comes with reading your work that’s different than being in a play. Writing is very personal and difficult to share. So of course we all get nervous about the show. But the community that we’ve built makes it easier. We’re definitely one of the top three most close knit departments. It’s nice to be able to walk up to someone who’s older than you and have them help edit a piece or get rid of jitters without feeling too intimidated.

Everyday this week we stay from 1:10 to 5 (sometimes later) rehearsing. We have the theater for a week. So while the first act is practicing on stage , the second is outside practicing by themselves. The more I revise my piece the more I stand on that dusty black stage, the more real this seems. It’s weird knowing people who performed in a show that you loved. It’s like meeting a celebrity, being starstruck at first, and then getting to know them and forgetting about that feeling like they were godly. In a way it’s even weirder seeing my fellow C-dubs in rehearsal. They’re all incredibly talented and it makes me proud in a happy way to be part of their creative writing family. I can’t help but wonder if someone in the audience will feel the same start-struck  feeling I did– that I do. All I can hope is that as I walk onto the stage, shaking and nervous, that someone in the audience will feel inspired, changed at least for a moment. But in the end, isn’t that what we all want?

Solange Baker, class of 2019

A Trip to the De Young by Solange Baker

Each marking period we are required to attend a certain number of art related events. Most of the freshman, having never done any of it before, were confused and frazzled. But we all filed into the museum, excited for the exhibit we were about to see. The paintings that were on display was the magnificent work of J. M. W. Turner. Just to give some background on who he is, he is arguably one of the best painters of the 19th century and he liked to paint light. You could see each swirling brush stroke that he had made so long ago.

There was so much emotion and depth in his paintings. They ranged from beautiful light filled landscapes and shining rolling crystal water to dark sea storms tossing ships about and sea monsters to radiant angels. It was wonderful to be able to experience and observe his paintings with such wonderful people who all appreciate all forms of art as much as I do. Even after we left we all talked about his paintings and his life.

We then traveled to an art gallery filled with photos of artists in their work spaces, and even a photo of the twin towers before the tragic events of September 11th. We all walked around the gallery as we exchanged comments on the photos. After we left, we walked over to The Grove to have lunch (which was paid for). As we ate our amazing meal and waited for our parents to arrive to pick us up, we talked about the day we had had together and about how glad we are to have met each other. We all said our goodbyes for the day and went our separate ways, but I kept thinking about how happy I am to get to be around them. And how one small decision had brought us all together. And for once in my life, I actually find myself looking forward to school.