Spoken Word

Division ÷

 

Arts & Faith St. Louis commissioned a poem by Rachel Aaliyah Jackson, which was choreographed to an original dance by Arica Brown and the dancers of Consuming Kinetics Dance Company. The work was performed in November 2021 at The Marcelle in Grand Center. 

 

Jackson’s poem “÷” (“Division”) examines the literal and figurative divides of race and class as symbolized by the Delmar divide. As a native of St. Louis, she states that she has grown up witnessing segregation and the poem is a call to embrace differences. Jackson is a student at Webster University majoring in Music and Audio Engineering. The recent graduate of Metro High School was a finalist in the Teen Talent Competition, held each year at the Fox Theatre.

 

“I want people to hear my voice not just as a black woman, but as a daughter, a mental health advocate, a leader, and poet,” says Jackson. The commission was made possible by an anonymous donor. 

Choreography by  Arica Brown in collaboration with dancers Cyrus Coble, Nadani Dixon, Coralie-Michele Francois, Kevin Lee, Carly Lucas, Ana Nishioka, Izzy Perry, Josephine Starr, Jazzmon Thomas and Kaitlyn Whiteman. Poem by Rachel Aaliyah Jackson. 

÷ Division

By Rachel Aaliyah Jackson

 

Division.

 

Makes me think about separate but equal.

Look it up.

Even its sign resembles some type of hierarchy.

Draw it up.

It’s repeatedly subtracting black bodies from my city.

‘Cause ever since Micheal Brown STL ain’t been too pretty.

 It why you won’t listen to this young black woman’s voice

These words fall from my lips I call it music you call it noise.

But don’t pity me

‘Cause I am the epitome

Of a life doing a 360

Division

 

But life taught me about hope

Life taught me that St. Louis ain’t gotta struggle no moe

Once I gave my heart to Yahweh

He gave me new opportunities

I’m no longer following Yall’s Way

Gods’ Way

Is what separated a sinner (center) from a point guard you see

The ball is in His hand

I’m posted up

So He can dish it to me.

Listen to me

Helping my city is a mission to me

In addition to thee

Transition to be

The better me

Expeditiously

Focusing on expanding unity

In my community you see

Division

 

 

To be honest, we’re more divided than ever

Different religions and race

Hating is what’s bringing us together

But I got faith in us

The first step to building a new foundation is trust

Hand in Hand one step at a time we must

Learn how to love ourselves and forgive the past

Let’s recycle positive energy and throw negativity in the trash

At last, I must ask

 Where do you see yourself in five years?

Will you still be the same or have you overcome your fears?

 Division

 

Unity

I know you hear the repetition in my poem

But sometimes it’s hard not to get violent like Malcolm

X-MAn here comes the Storm

Ing the capital

After that, I had to take a sabbatical

Tryna register all this collateral

Damage to my country

While I was trying to focus on school

Some of my peers thought it was funny

But I’m not here to talk about politics

I’m here to talk about harmony

Like the time I fell in love with music at the Powell symphony

I watched as the conductor lifted his hands

before the music began

I felt at peace

His right hand danced leading the beat of the orchestra

But it was something about the left hand that made me feel free.

 Like Leonard Bernstein

The music moved me

It was magical like Carlos Kleiber

I listened to the harmonies, the unison, the love,

Even though each instrument was different it sounded beautiful

Unity

 

With my poetry, I want to be the conductor

I understand that each one of you is different

But all you have to do is take a second and listen

Listen to the words that fall from my lips

Listen to my words that I call music

Listen to the voices that were once quiet

Listen to the people and listen to the riots

Listen

Listen

Listen

And try to understand each other.

Unity is about accepting our differences

That’s what make orchestras and symphonies so beautiful

Despite the division, they manage to come together

When we come together we can create harmony

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Poet Rachel Aaliyah Jackson was a finalist in the St. Louis

Teen Talent competition

Rachel Aaliyah Jackson
Rachel on stage.jpg
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Stories of Hope

On May 2, 2021, Arts & Faith St. Louis presented "Stories of Hope" to a virtual audience in the St. Louis Storytelling Festival. The four stories were inspiring accounts of moments in history when the arts united people of differing faiths and cultures.

 

Timothy O’Leary, former General Director of Opera Theatre St. Louis, now head of the Washington National Opera, describes the dialogue between the Jewish and Muslim communities that preceded a controversial Opera Theatre production of "The Death of Klinghoffer."

Duane Foster, professional singer and teacher at Normandy High school, tells the story of how music brought the St. Louis community together in the immediate aftermath of Ferguson.

Carole Shelton, retired educator and author, tells a Missouri slave narrative based on an

actual interview from the W.P.A. Federal Writers Project.

Chris Sutton, storyteller and actor, portrays in costume a St. Louis-born Union soldier who witnesses the creation of a new bugle call that became the anthem "Taps."