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Lake Oswego students host a poetry event at Starbucks that captures parts of their identity and culture. 

Mixed in with the whirls of an espresso machine, Lake Oswego High School students shared a piece of their identity with a crowded coffee shop.

"I'm walking a fine line, between two cultures that cannot co-aside with one another," said Samantha Jarquin, reading from a poem.

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - The students set up a performance platform in the middle of a local Starbucks, decorating the space with educational poster boards that displayed facts about Black history and culture.

On Saturday, Feb. 26, local high school students and members of Respond to Racism's Youth Empowerment Committee hosted and recited poetry that centered on the theme of identity. The students set up a performing platform in the middle of a local Starbucks, decorating the space with educational poster boards that displayed facts about Black history and culture.

The students said they left the theme pretty broad so that community members who wanted to participate in the event could decide for themselves what part of their identity they wanted to share. The YEC members all ended up reciting poetry about their experiences as children of immigrants and their ethnicities.

And while other community members quietly studied or ordered coffee, the students took turns on the microphone to share little bits of themselves. Jarquin read the poem "I am Chicana", which highlights the experiences of being a Mexican American and the feeling of drifting between the two identities.

Karuna Miller and Jiexi Qiao, juniors at LOHS, both read poems about being Asian Americans.

Qiao used the poem "American Syntax" by Ching-In Chen to share her experience as an Asian American. Miller, meanwhile, selected a poem that talked about someone feeling like they need to separate parts of their identity.

"As a child, I was a fussy eater and I would separate the yolk from the egg white as I now try to sort out what is Asian in me from what is American," Miller said to the crowd, reading from the poem "Notes for a Poem on Being Asian American" by Dwight Okita.

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Students took turns on the microphone to share little bits of themselves. They all read poems about being caught between two identities.

Miller said that she is a fan of poetry not only for the opportunity to share her experience, but to better understand other people's worldview and perspective on certain topics.

"I feel like in a place like Lake Oswego, it's great to hear from people that don't always get the chance to speak," she said.

The event was the second poetry slam the students hosted, with plans to put on many more. The student said poetry events are a way to not only share pieces of themselves with others but create a sense of community. They hope that people who attend these events will join the youth committee and continue the conversation.

"Poems are a great way to express yourself," said Nandita Kumar, one of the youth organizers. "I feel like living in Lake Oswego, it's really hard for some to feel there you have a community and events like these, regardless of the turnout, can help someone feel a little bit safer in our community."


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