Tag Archives: YouTube

‘Brown Brother’

2 Feb

Brown Brother‘ is an inspiring spoken word poem delivered by high school student Joshua Iosefo.  It is a profound and emotional examination (and later rejection) of stereotypes; a reminder that honouring one’s heritage and conforming to limiting stereotypes are not the same things.

This would be a great text to study as related material in Distinctive Voices, an elective that is part of the HSC Standard English Course.  Students could engage with the ways in which gestures, tone, occasion and audience enhance the distinctiveness of the voice.

It would also be interesting to include as part of a study about identity, or perhaps as a suite of poetry engaging with the construction and representation of self.  Students could even be challenged to write their own shorter-form spoken word poem about themselves, applicable stereotypes and responses to these.

Familiar environments

30 Jan

Alice Eather’s poem ‘My Story Is Your Story‘ is a powerful poem about the different ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous people view Aboriginal land.  Through a series of haunting contrasts Eather is able to communicate the tension between connection to land and destruction for profit.

This would be an interesting text to study as part of a unit about Australian identity as it highlights the fundamental disconnect between viewpoints and, in turn, flags the callous disregard corporations can have for established and entrenched cultural connections.

It would also be an interesting text to study in AOS Discovery for HSC.  Considered alongside The Tempest, for example, it could be used to highlight how perspectives shape discovery.  Considered alongside Go Back to Where You Came From, it could be used to enrich a discussion regarding discovery, Australian identity, racism and responsibility.

The text could also be used as part of a junior AOS with a focus on change, belonging or journeys.  Here, focus would need to be on the role of context in shaping representation and value.

Eather’s poem could also be studied alongside, or as part of a suite of poetry which includes, Selina Nwulu’s ‘Home is a Hostile Lover‘. Together, the poems offer interesting representations of connection to place and the role of corporations in threatening the physicality and sacredness of place.


‘Australia, I love you. But…’

20 Jun

While exploring Spoken Word poetry online I happened upon a collection of Spokhen Word performances gathered together under the heading ‘Australia, I love you.  But…’  As flagged in the title, the poetry flags issues that ordinary, culturally diverse Australians have with the nation.  Rather than complaints, these poems come across as pleas for the nation to do better.

In particular, I found Troy Wong’s contribution interesting.  In his poem, he explored the experience of being an Asian male in Australia.  I was also interested in the contributions of Sarah Saleh and Imran Etri.  Saleh and Etri spoke about their experiences of being Muslim women in Australia.  In doing so, they touched upon the idea of being doubly oppressed by gender and culture.

Further exploration of race and racism

23 May

One of my junior classes and I have spent a lot of time recently studying how racism and responses to racism are represented in poetic form.  As part of this unit, students have had opportunities to analyse poetry, engage critically with social issues, and to make connections to the realities of their own worlds.

I have been really impressed by how well my students have engaged with the ideas raised as part of this unit, and how willing they have been to present their opinions, engage with the views of others, and even revised their views when presented with particularly persuasive opinions by their peers.

Although the unit is almost over, and the poems have long been set, I cannot help but think about all the other amazing poems that could have been included.  For example, I would have loved to have taught Nate Marshall’s ‘When the Officer Caught Me‘ which begins with the quote “What is the age when a black boy learns he is scary?”  I think this would be a great companion poem to Maxine Beneba Clarke’s ‘Even if it gets to 104 degrees’ which explores the shooting of Tamir Rice by the police.  It would also have been interesting to allow students to explore Lia Incognita’s ‘Floodgates‘ – a poem about Australia’s refugee policy and governmental attitudes towards difference.  I think it would have been particularly interesting to study alongside newspaper articles on the subject

Poetry and social activism

13 Apr

I have written, on my previous occasions, about the role played by literature and poetry in particular in raising awareness and advocating for social change in regards to gender inequality and gendered violence.  I have also alluded to the role played by poetry in articulating individual and community discontent regarding responses to much publicised real world events, such as the Tamir Rice shooting.

When discussing with my students the idea that responses to real life events are often immortalised in poetry, thus rendering poetry a form of social commentary, many of my students expressed scepticism.  They simply could not fathom how poetry could facilitate social change or reach a sufficiently large audience to challenge perceptions.

This, of course, prompted a discussion about the power of language.  A perfect example of language being powerful is found in Bassey Ikpi’s poem ‘Diallo‘.  As suggested by the title, the poem is a response to the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, by the police.

In her poem, Ikpi speaks of the pain felt by mothers knowing that their children, their sons, are especially vulnerable.  She also speaks of the injustice when juries return verdicts that say “murder is justified,” and “cops win right to life when that brother is still without his.”  This sentence, in particular, is powerful in that is positions white men as entitled to rights and due process whereas black men, in contrast, are shot on sight.  Furthermore,  Ikpi strikingly juxtaposes the fates of blacks and whites, welcoming her audience “to the place where a black face asks ‘who will be next?’ and a white face answers ‘not I’.”  Here, the metonymic references to faces emphasises Ikpi’s view that individual identity is irrelevant; black men, by virtue of being black, are peculiarly vulnerable and white men, in contrast, by virtue of being white, are protected.

This text would be an interesting point of comparison to the ‘I Could Be the Next Tamir Rice’ article discussed yesterday, and also to Maxine Beneba Clark’s poem ‘104 Degrees’.


Voicing concerns about the environment

15 Mar

Selina Nwulu is London’s newest Young Poet Laureate and contributes a powerful voice to conversations about the relationship between climate change and race.

Of particular interest is Nwulu’s poem ‘Home is a Hostile Lover‘ which engages with the consequences of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta.

The first stanza, entitled ‘Remember’, includes a series of rhetorical questions, each reflecting upon the Delta waters prior to the discovery of oil; “Remember when our Delta waters were clean? / How we watched our faces in rivers / And chased fish with our bare hands?”  The stanza continues by personifying the Delta; “Remember before Delta had its throat slit / And bled its oily pipes into soil, / When we hummed words into the water / And it would laugh and sing back?”  In doing so, Nwulu renders the environment human and, in turn, characterises the oil companies as monstrous.

The poem is a haunting and evocative depiction of the scars – personal, social and environmental – caused by the actions of oil companies and, implicitly, those who rely on the oil without considering how the oil is sourced and produced.



Gender and violence

18 Jan

The 7 – 10 English syllabus offers opportunities for teachers to select texts that encourage students to better understand upon their world and discuss issues that matter. Indeed, literature enables us to walk in the shoes of others without having to actually experience that trauma ourselves.

With this in mind, I think it is important that we do build discussion of these big issues into our lessons.  After all, without this exposure and discussion, how are students meant to develop their knowledge and calibrate their morals and ethics?

One issue that I think is hugely important to discuss is domestic and sexual violence.  Abe Nouk’s poem entitled ‘Black Eye‘ offers a way to kick-start this discussion.  Particularly, the poem touches upon the role of bystanders, physical violence, the psychological hold an abuser can have over his victim, the victim’s belief that the abuser will change and the victim’s belief that the actions are somehow her fault.

Another interesting text is Elizabeth Acevedo’s poem entitled ‘Spear‘.  In this text, Acevedo posits the existence of a hypothetical daughter and discusses how she will have to raise that daughter in order to withstand the realities of a world in which “we women must practise how to lose our daughters” to violence and exploitation.

Unaware of these two poems (and realistic about my students’ abilities to appreciate the second), I have broached gender and gendered violence through the study of Craig Silvey’s The Amber Amulet with a junior class.   In that text, domestic violence is implied rather than explicitly discussed.  Nonetheless, I took the opportunity to have a discussion with my students about how experiences were represented and how people could respond.

Yet another option for exploring issues of social significance is through the examination of public service announcements.  One example of this is CARE Norway’s ‘Not All Men Are Men‘ campaign.  Here, the message is that men who hit women are not really men.  This is cleverly captured by re-labelling each man as the item of furniture which the abused women have lied about bumping into.

Pride and Prejudice for the modern generation!

5 Nov

I know I am coming ridiculously late to the party, but I have just discovered The Lizzie Bennet Diaries  For the uninitiated, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are a series of webisodes which reimagine the protagonist of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a 24-year-old grad student vlogger.

I would love to study this text with a Year 10 class in conjunction with Austen’s original novel, exploring the ways in which a classic text can be reinvented for a new generation.

Disney Films and Gender Stereotypes

21 Oct

As part of our ‘Heroes’ unit I want my Year 7 students to engage with the often gendered nature of narratives about heroes.

In order to illustrate these ideas, I want to show my students a YouTube clip which highlights the stereotypes engaged with in some Disney films.

After viewing and discussing, I will ask students to complete a graphic organiser in which they identify other narratives which feature heroes and then ascertain how male and female characters are represented in these texts.

Popular Superheroes

20 Oct

A recent discussion with one of my Year 7 students made me realise that my students might not be familiar with comic book superheroes.  To help them develop the requisite background, I found two YouTube clips (here and here) which introduce them to a number of popular superheroes.

The plan is to show my students these clips and have them construct a table identifying key superheroes and their special powers.