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While studying the Harlem Renaissance, students at a Bronx high school read aloud poems they've written, revealing their innermost thoughts and fears to their formerly clueless classmates.
Wesley “Bad Boy” Boone
I ain’t particular about doing homework, you understand. My teachers practically faint whenever I turn something in. Matter of fact, I probably got the longest list of excuses for missing homework of anyone alive. Except for my homey Tyrone. He tries to act like he’s not even interested in school, like there’s no point in studying hard, or dreaming about tomorrow, or bothering to graduate. He’s got his reasons. I keep on him about going to school, though, saying I need the company. Besides, I tell him, if he drops out and gets a J.O.B., he won’t have any time to work on his songs. That always gets to him. Tyrone might convince everybody else that he’s all through with dreaming, but I know he wants to be a big hip-hop star. He’s just afraid he won’t live long enough to do it. Me, I hardly ever think about checking out. I’m more worried about figuring what I want to do if I live.
Anyway, I haven’t had to drag Tyrone off to school lately, or make excuses for not having my homework done, because I’ve been doing it. It’s the Harlem Renaissance stuff that’s got us both going.
We spent a month reading poetry from the Harlem Renaissance in our English class. Then Mr. Ward—that’s our teacher—asked us to write an essay about it. Make sense to you? Me neither. I mean, what’s the point of studying poetry and then writing essays? So I wrote a bunch of poems instead. They weren’t too shabby, considering I’d only done a few rap pieces before. My favorite was about Langston Hughes. How was I to know Teach would ask me to read it out loud? But I did. Knees knocking like a skeleton on Halloween, embarrassment bleaching my black cheeks red, eyes stapled to the page in front of me. But I did it, I read my poem.
Guess what. Nobody laughed. In fact, everybody thought it was cool. By the time I got back to my seat, other kids were shouting: “Mr. Ward, I got a poem too. Can I bring it in to read?”
Teach cocked his head to the side, like he was hearing something nobody else did. “How many people here have poems they’d like to read?” he asked. Three hands shot up. Mr. Ward rubbed his chin for a minute. “Okay,” he said. “Bring them with you tomorrow.”
After class Teach came over to my desk. “Great poem,” said Mr. Ward. “But I still expect to see an essay from you. I’ll give you another week.” So much for creative expression.
Long Live Langston by Wesley Boone
Trumpeter of Lenox and 7th through Jesse B. Semple,
you simply celebrated Blues and Be-bop and being Black before it was considered hip.
You dipped into the muddy waters of the Harlem River and shouted “taste and see”
that we Black folk be good at fanning hope and stoking the fires of dreams deferred.
You made sure the world heard about the beauty of maple sugar children, and the artfully tattooed backs of Black sailors venturing out to foreign places.
Your “Sweet Flypaper of Life”
led us past the Apollo and on through 125th and all the other Harlem streets you knew like the black of your hand.
You were a pied-piper, brother man with poetry as your flute.
It’s my honor and pleasure to salute You, a true Renaissance man of Harlem.
School ain’t nothin’ but a joke. My moms don’t want to hear that, but if it weren’t for Wesley and my other homeys, I wouldn’t even be here, aiight? These white folk talking ’bout some future, telling me I need to be planning for some future—like I got one! And Raynard agreeing, like he’s smart enough to know. From what I hear, that boy can’t hardly read! Anyway, it’s them white folk that get me with all this future mess. Like Steve, all hopped up about working on Broadway and telling me I should think about getting with it too. Asked me if I ever thought about writing plays. “Fool! What kinda question is that?” I said. He threw his hands up and backed off a few steps. “All I’m saying is, you’re a walking drama, man. You got that down pat, so maybe you should think about putting it on paper.” When that boy dyed his hair, I b’lieve some of that bleach must’ve seeped right into his brain. I grind my teeth and lower my voice. “Boy, get out my face,” I tell him. He finally gets the message and splits. I’m ticked off that he even got me thinking about such nonsense as Broadway.
White folk! Who they think they kidding? They might as well go blow smoke up somebody else’s you-know-what, ’cause a Black man’s got no chance in this country. I be lucky if I make it to twenty-one with all these fools running round with AK-47s. Here I am one of the few kids I know whose daddy didn’t skip out on him, and he didn’t even make it to thirty. He was doing okay ’til he got blown away on a Saturday. Blam! Another statistic in a long line of drive-bys. Life is cold. Future? What I got is right now, right here, spending time with my homeys. Wish there was some future to talk about. I could use me some future.
I’m just about ready to sleep off the whole year when this teacher starts talking about poetry. And he rattles off a poem by some white guy named Dylan Thomas that sounds an awful lot like rap. Now I know me some rap, and I start to thinking I should show Mr. Ward what rap is really all about. So I tell him I’ve got a poem I’d like to read. “Bring it on Friday,” he says. “As a matter of fact, from now on, I’ll leave time for poetry readings at the end of every month. We’ll call them Open Mike Fridays.” Next thing I know, I’m digging my old rap poems out of my dresser drawer and bringing them to school. I’m thinking it can’t hurt to share them, even if there’s no chance I’ll ever get to be a songwriter. After all, it’s the one thing I could see myself doing if there really was a future. And I’m thinking that maybe there could be if I wanted it bad enough. And all of a sudden, I realize I do.
Attendance by Tyrone Bittings
We are all here Leslie and Bad Boy, Lupe and Raul,
Here, here and here.
Dear Mr. Ward with his wards and wardettes.
Let’s have a show of hands today.
Is Porscha here? Is Diondra here?
Where oh where is Sheila?
It’s me, Tyrone,
up here all alone rapping into a microphone
’cause I’ve got something to say:
MTV is here, Mir and morning space-walks are here,
Terrorism is here lurking at the bus stop can’t hop on the subway without thinkin’ of Tokyo—
we all know poison gas does not discriminate.
It’s too late to worry about my innocence since fear is here.
Why is it a weekend visit to your local Mickey D’s may be deadly?
Why hasn’t somebody censored death?
Don’t hold your breath waiting.
Still you can chill and celebrate all that’s great about life, like music and the tick-tick-tick of time which is equal parts yours and mine to make of the world what we will.
But first, say no to coke, and smoke.
Say no to police brutality and causing fatality.
Say no to race hate.
Don’t underestimate the power of love.
But most of all take two poems and call me in the morning.
This is the first book of Nikki Grimes' that I have ever read and I loved it. "Bronx Masquerade" gives teens like me, a whole new perspective on not only the importance and enjoyment of literature and poetry but also the identities of individuals in a diverse society. The fact that this book is writen by teen's thoughts about themselves and others and the pomes they create in response to these thoughts really capture your attention. Each of the 18 students learns something about himself that changes his perspective about his future. A young black teenager who sees no future for himself in a community where guns and violence have taken over suddenly realizes he has a passion for words. A chubby teenage girl notices that her friends no long pay attention to the way she looks because they have become so immersed in her beautiful poetry. All of this comes from writing poems and reading them in front of the class on what their teacher calls Open Mike Friday. The poems these students "write" are so creative and really make this book quite unique. I could not put it down because I was so eager to read how these people living their everyday lives in the slums, were going to write about their lives in the ghetto. This book shows us that they are allowed to different and they are allowed to be smart. It's ok to want to read and do well in school. I think that any teen that is interested in poetry, or rap for that matter, even in the slightest should read this book. I am truly inspired.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 6, 2013
The story is pointless.i had to read this for a class assignment and really its about kids with problems telling to the class through some of the most fake and uninpiring poems
DONT get this book please
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This book was different from most books I read because its written in different pov's and poetry. But I enjoyed it because it was about how you can rise above your problems, even if your problems are serious ones, and change your circumstances and your life.
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Posted September 21, 2014
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Posted January 7, 2014
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Posted April 11, 2013
This book is about students writting poems and reading them on open mike Fridays. Tyrone tells his feelings about other students when they're done reading their poems. My favorite episode is when tyrone speaks his mind about everything. Tyrone tells his feelings about every person that makes a poem.
(If you like this book you will like, Planet Middle School).
Posted April 11, 2013
Bronx Masquerade has all different things to make a teen book like good details and explains what characters look like. Everyone in this book has problems from parent problems to school bullies. They tell about their life then follow up by reading a poem. Sterling S. Hughes hugs a bully then the bully goes off. Sterling is a part of Mr.Wards English class. If you like Miracles Boys, you will like this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 28, 2013
Posted March 7, 2013
This book was not what I had expected. I thought that this book would be about drugs and violence. And im glad that it wasnt, I actually enjoyed certain things about the book. And the book taught me a couple of things about myself, I should be more accepting and open to hearing about other peoples lives. Because sometimes I can be closed off, I did like this book and I highly recommend it for others as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 15, 2013
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Posted October 22, 2012
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Posted February 11, 2012
I loved this book. It was very interesting. I liked how i could lmost connect with the characters. I also liked how tyrone shared his thoughts about each persons poem. The book was emotional i felt mad when chankara talked about her boyfriend beatting her up and i felt angry with the boyfriend for doing this even thiugh he is not real. I was sad when i read lupes story. And when i read glorias i felt lucky for my life. Thank you karen for making us read this!!!!!!!!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 7, 2012
Posted December 8, 2011
This book opens your eyes to the children living in the Bronx. It tells the story in a form of poetry. the characters make you laugh,cry,and think. IT is suprisingly realistic and tells an amazing story. I would recommend this to absolutely ANYONE.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 26, 2010
I absolutely love this book. I enjoyed reading it. This book showed me a completely different culture. Almost every character in this book has some major struggle in their life. Most struggle to pay the bills at home. The characters, especially Tyrone use a lot more slang then I've ever heard. I had to re-read some lines just to make sure I got what he was saying. This is an amazing book though. I've read it over 10 times.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 10, 2010
This book is a great read! Each of the characters is very nicely developed. You can really hear each of their voices shining through in the story, especially Tyrone. I especially like how he tells what he thinks of everyone's poems. It's a very creative way to write a book. The poems are nicely spread out among the narratives, and you really grow attatched to some of the characters.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.