In Song and Poetry, Luke C. Moore Students Make Their Voices Heard 

May 9, 2012: New CD provides teenagers a positive outlet to express complex, painful thoughts and emotions

Photo by Andy Le
Joseph Purcell, 17, a December graduate of Luke C. Moore High School, reviews music tracks on a computer inside the school’s makeshift recording studio. Students used iMacs, an iPad and the GarageBand app to produce a music/poetry CD, titled, “Loud! But Not Heard.”
Photo by Andy Le
Luke C. Moore High School art teacher Catherine Hutchinson and music teacher Roger Jackson helped students produce an original music/poetry CD, titled, “Loud! But Not Heard.”
Photo by Andy Le
Khadijah Wilson, a 17-year-old Luke C. Moore High School junior, came up with the idea for the “Loud! But Not Heard” project and contributed stunning visual designs for the CD artwork. “We’re at a stage where we need to be heard,” she said.
Photo by Andy Le
Abednego Mills, 18, a student at Luke C. Moore High School, said music has been his passion ever since he was a little boy and would sing for his mother. The lyrics he wrote for Luke C. Moore’s music/poetry CD, titled, “Loud! But Not Heard,” reflect his life experiences and relationships.
Photo by Andy Le
Janeé Wall, an 18-year-old senior at Luke C. Moore High School, composed a poem about slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin for the school’s first music/poetry CD, titled, “Loud! But Not Heard.”

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Teenagers have a lot to say about their lives: the tragedy and triumph, angst and passion, confusion and clarity, love and hate. But expressing those emotions doesn’t always come easily, especially if you believe no one cares enough to listen.

At Luke C. Moore High School, a group of students have found a way to express themselves through music, poetry and art. And tonight, their voices will be heard.

In live performances by students and staff, Luke C. Moore will officially release its own CD, titled “Loud! But Not Heard,” a nine-track album of music, rap and spoken word conceived, compiled and produced by more than 30 teens and adults at the Ward 5 alternative school.

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The CD release party, held from 6-8 p.m. at the school, 1001 Monroe St. NE, also will include a silent art auction and refreshments. Copies of the CD will be on sale as well.

“Most teens are looked at as not wanting to be heard,” said Khadijah Wilson, a 17-year-old Luke C. Moore junior who came up with the idea for the project and contributed stunning visual designs for the CD artwork. “We’re at a stage where we need to be heard.”

Luke C. Moore serves disengaged youth ages 17-20 who have dropped out of high school, may have adjudication issues, or have had difficulties in traditional school settings. Most students at the school – about 95 percent, according to a school administrator – have witnessed or endured violence in their lives (two classmates were slain this school year over a period of three months). And all struggle with the complexities of being a teenager. 

The school seeks to provide each student with an individualized program that addresses both their academic and socio-emotional needs. Producing a CD gave students a chance to reflect on their experiences and express their emotions, and it showed them that they are not alone: Others – their teenage and adult peers – share those experiences and feelings as well.

“I felt like I wasn’t alone with the problems I face,” said Joseph Purcell, 17, who graduated from Luke C. Moore in December and performs as “Blue,” his stage name, on the CD. “Putting your stuff out there is scary but constructive and makes you better.”

Using an iMac, iPad and the GarageBand app, a group of seven students began working in February with Luke C. Moore music teacher Roger Jackson to create beats and music for the CD, and contributed lyrics and poems. About 25 others worked with art teacher Catherine Hutchinson to create designs for the CD cover and jacket. Wilson, whose work will be featured in the upcoming Congressional Art Competition, created art for the CD itself as well as handbills for tonight’s CD release party.

“Students wrote about life – how they’re living and what they come across,” said Jackson, who plays trumpet on one of the CD tracks and turned a closet at the school into a makeshift recording studio where students would pop in throughout the school day to record rap lyrics or poems. “The idea is to expose that, release their frustration and tell a story.”

Assistant Principal Rinaldo Murray said “Loud! But Not Heard” provides a positive outlet for students to express themselves, which is critical for the students Luke C. Moore serves.

“All the angst, anger and frustration has to come out some way,” he said. “Art and music gives them two ways of expressing without being judged. It’s therapeutic. If these emotions are not released in a positive, productive way, I shudder to think what would happen.”

In one poem on the CD, 18-year-old Luke C. Moore senior Janeé Wall reflected on the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

“I felt like justice needed to be done and felt his voice wasn’t being heard or his case wasn’t, which fits with the title and theme of the CD,” she said.

Abednego Mills, 18, said music has been his passion ever since he was a little boy and would sing for his mother. His lyrics reflect his life experiences and relationships.

“I just sing from the heart,” he said, noting that his song delves into the emotions of being in foster care and crying for his mother because she wanted him back. 

Azalia Hunt-Speight, Luke C. Moore principal, said her students “have a sense of resiliency that will rock you to the core.”

The message of the CD, she said, is, “I’ve struggled through a lot and failed many times. I’m disaffected, disengaged and really struggling – but I’m not using that as an excuse but as stepping stones to get me where I want to be. They’re using these stories not for sympathy but to build strength.”

The “Loud! But Not Heard” experience has brought students together as peers and artists, strengthening their resolve, giving them a sense of what’s possible in their lives, and showing the city, nation and world who Luke C. Moore students really are.

“Some people who go here might think we have a bad reputation,” Wilson said. “We are young and we have had obstacles to overcome, but we don’t have to let the circumstances of our lives define us as people.” 

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