March 25, 2019
The AC was on but the gym was still hot during KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate (KALC) High School’s Senior Signing Day. Once the final member of the class of 2018 proudly stepped off the stage, the floor was Hannah Parker’s. Hannah, a junior at the time, was calm. All was silent before Hannah, except the echo of the mic.
Looking at the sea of community members, she began.
But Black pain ain’t ever been anything sweet; The blues started in the plantations; where sadness sprouted; where strange fruit wilted and left a rotting scent; It is said we sung our way into survival; When they stripped us of our kin only voices sounded familiar; Moving chains created communities of choirs; In the ships shackles shaking brought conform to the decrepit; Art has always been in protest to our to the loss of our voice.
The crowd, full of her teachers and peers, gave her a standing ovation. This wasn’t the first time she had performed this verse but it remains the most memorable.
Hannah’s poem, titled “All of Me,” is an ode to Billie Holiday and is one of the many ways she goes about addressing and combating oppression. Her poetry touches upon myriad issues such as immigration, culture appropriation, the acknowledgement and promotion of Black beauty, motherhood and women’s rights. Hannah, a member of KIPP’s Indigo Society Poets, has been writing poetry since third grade and performing to a range of audiences at local community events, college campuses and national poetry slams for the past four years.
Almost immediately, Hannah started to notice the impact of her spoken-word poetry and the conversations they were sparking. She realized early on that she wanted to play a part in changing the world, and raising awareness through spoken-word was just the first step. Her passion for addressing social issues and sparking debate is what ultimately led her to take part in creating KALC’s first student-led Black Student Union in 2018.
Hannah felt that “there was a want and need for a more prominent Black community within the school. The Black Student Union was formed because the group wanted to enhance Black excellence, spread love and positivity and have the opportunity to create leaders.”
This past February marked the first Black History Month organized by KALC’s Black Student Union. Hannah and her peers assembled a number of powerful events including a series of Brother & Sister Strong meetings where KIPPsters across all grades gathered after school to discuss and address issues facing their community. During these open-group conversations which touched on topics such as racism, toxic masculinity and femininity, economic oppression and educational attainment, Hannah once again showcased true leadership by making it her focus to ensure that everyone’s voice was heard.
Hannah Parker has made a profound mark on the KIPP community, making it her mission to create conversation around the forces of oppression that students of color face everyday.
Next fall, Hannah plans to study international relations to learn about cultures affected by civil war trauma with the ultimate goal of starting her own nonprofit. Without a doubt, Hannah will continue to impact our world for the better.