New Design High School

Poetry and Turntablism

‘My New York

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spoken Word & Turntablism Afterschool February Update

Currently we're working on our first mixtape, which is a blend of recorded poems, dug records and popular music.
We also just DJ'd our first in-school event: The Labor of Love Dance Party.

Here are some pics from a rehearsal, and a poem from our very own Denise Pascal, entitled "Of Color and Youth."

Of Color and Youth

by Denise Pascal


Walk these streets
Streets of talk and
all that jazz
A fine line between
the smooth black road
and the crippled stone
of old time seaport

Smells of
smoke the pipe cigarettes and pollution
new york new york and rainydays
down drop
drip drip
drops of

The Italians Asians the Hispanics
come to form strands of life
Bread and street fairs Saturdays
unlike those of the Jews that pray weekend nites
till the sun comes down
Peaking ducks hangdown street windows
letting their juice run down
Hora santas their spirits around when
dancing salsa they pray on the altar


Walk these streets
Streets of el Bronx and
all that bachata
A fine line between
the Bienveniedo Rodriguez
of my mother
and Mariah Carey

My parents and me
We don’t like the same music
They stay stuck in the oldies:

Speaking Spanish
Eating Arepas
Running their house
Dancing salsa
Drawing and
Dating younger men

Wetting tips of old newspapers
replaces the dustpan to sweep up dirt
An old rag
on top of the broom
used for mopping up the floors


Sweet taste of honey melts me
Feel the beats of my ride to school
midway it skips
train stops midway
Bumpin “watchu gonna do when get outta jail
watchu gonna do when you outta jail”
Public staring as if they never heard music before

It’s a brand new day
Where everyone knows
Feel it
Dance around in your underwear
No matter how old you are
2 yrs
6 yrs
34 yrs it don’t really matter

Feel the freedom
For it to feel you

Dull were the walls once
Standing on the sidewalks
Still tall and cold
Burst of color sprayed upon their faces
Call it graffiti
Some change is for the better

No more arrogance upon these words
All said all done
True be these lyrics
Of color and

Intersession at New Design High School

From January 30 to February 1, 2008, the teachers, students and resident artists participated in "Intersession;" a 3-day teach-in that focused on a single topic and project. Working Playground artist Sam Sellers and NDHS teacher Laura Rubin co-taught a class entitled "Writing Yourself Into History: The Art of Storytelling." Over the course of 3 days, we worked with the same 15 students to explore the history of oral storytelling and document our own tales.
From the Western African Griot to the Hip Hop MC, we examined this millenium old art form with the goal of recording our own stories.

We visited the Bowery Poetry Club and saw Gambian griot Papa Susso, who blessed us with ancient tales from the Kingdom of Mali while playing the Kora. We had the chance to engage Papa Susso in a Q&A afterwards. And eat some pizza.

Students kept a journal over the 3 days. While at the Bowery Poetry Club, they took notes on their experience with the Griot and did a freewrite to reflect on the morning.

The day concluded with students writing a comprehensive essay interpreting the following quote:
"Until the lions tell their story, the hunters wll always be the hero."

We looked at different forms of documenting personal narratives, from the comedy of John Leguizamo to the work of Story Corps. We spent the day experimenting with the roles of interviewer and interviewee.

As a class, we then brainstormed possible interview topics to generate a common topic.

We ended the day by focusing on the artistic component that would accompany our oral narratives: either a piece of representative visual art or a poem. Students sketched these ideas out in their trusty journals.

The final day of Intersession was the day to turn out the two-fold finished product:
1) Students would interview each on the topic of "Childhood Memory." These interviews were to be recorded digitally.
2) As a class, we would construct a mural collage of their personal artwork, both visual and literary.

Students paired up into teams of interviewer/interviewee. After rehearsing and reflecting on the process the previous day, they were ready to record their stories.

While pairs of students interviews each other, the rest of the class continued work on the amazing mural.

In the end, we recorded each student recorded their own story and interview an Intersession classmate. We spent our final afternoon together at the Lower East Side Girls Club, where we shared our own experience and heard about their correspondence work with a sister Girls Club in Guadelahara, Mexico.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Turntables in the Building!

New Design High School is now the proud host of Working Playground turntables! The afterschool class is taking a turn for the cut and scratch, evolving into a performance hybrid of poetry, rap and live DJing. Were about to begin our journey into the dusty stacks of Lower East Side record stores, digging for gems that will help us create a "remixed" vision of NYC.

Stay tuned for updates...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Welcome to one of Working Playground's Network Artspace blogs!

This blog is part of Remix NYC: a Turntablism Spoken Word Poetry My New York Model Program at New Design High School, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The program is guided by a Foundation Statement, which guides our artistic work as we explore Essential Questions.

In 1811, the destiny of Manhattan Island was laid out on a grid, literally. The potential for growth was programmed to rise vertically, to build on itself, to swallow it’s own nature in the name of commerce and progress. At the same time, as New York City ages, it renews itself in ways that are unmistakably repetitive. Innovation births destruction, trends and phenomenon are recycled, and the paper chase shows no mercy on the working class.
Based on the Hip Hop idea of Sampling, Turntablism and the Spoken Word, we will re-envision our New York by looking at the ways that NYC has been remixed over the last 200 years.
We will consider the cost of progress, the struggle to preserve tradition and the price tag put on nostalgia. We will consider the idea of ownership, co-option, and “the mix.” Ultimately, we will write performance pieces that sample and remix NYC in our present and future vision.