Arts and Entertainment

Students voice tales of struggle and hope

“The Colors of My Past” features poetry written by Tukwila high schoolers under the guidance of Merna Hecht.  - File Photo
“The Colors of My Past” features poetry written by Tukwila high schoolers under the guidance of Merna Hecht.
— image credit: File Photo

As a storyteller, creative writer and teacher Merna Hecht knows firsthand the power of the written word. Among her many projects is a poetry program she established five years ago for the students at Foster High School in Tukwila, which is recognized as the most language diverse high school in the country. A poetry anthology created by students this year is called “The Colors of My Past: Immigrant and Refugee Voices of Struggle, Migration and Hope.” Next week, Hecht will showcase the project at the Vashon Bookshop, reading student poems and inviting audience members to experience several of the writing prompts she used for the project.

The students’ poems give voice to some of the difficult circumstances they have faced through forced migration and from years of living in refugee camps, experiences brought on by war and violent conflict. Hecht helps these immigrant students tell their stories — in the form of poetry — about what it was like to leave their homes and arrive in another country to begin a new life.

In honor of April as National Poetry Month, poems from “The Color of My Past” will also be broadcast each weekday at 6:55 p.m. on KBCS, 91.3 FM. The students recorded their poems at Seattle’s Jack Straw Cultural Center, which is a partner and major funder for this project. Other support comes from the Washington State Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts and other donors.

Copies of “The Colors of My Past” include a CD with each poet reading his or her poem. Proceeds from the sale of the anthology — available on a sliding scale between $15 and $25 — will be donated to a college scholarship for two student contributors who show exceptional merit. The scholarship is in honor of the late Abdi Sami, a poet and peacemaker whom Hecht said was a friend to the project.

Merna Hecht will discuss and read from “The Colors of My Past” at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at the Vashon Bookshop.

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