Park University, Poetry Group The Symphony To Present Community Engagement Events

The Symphony, a group of four African-American poets, will read excerpts of their poetry as part of a grant-supported community engagement event on Thursday, Feb. 28. The reading, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the American Jazz Museum, 1616 E. 18th St. in Kansas City, Mo., starting at 7 p.m.

The next morning (Friday, March 1), The Symphony will conduct a creative writing workshop for about 75 students from three Kansas City area high schools on Park University’s Parkville Campus. That evening, selected students, nominated by their peers during the workshop, will represent their respective schools during a Poetry Jam event to be held at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, 4747 Flora in Kansas City, Mo., starting at 7 p.m. This event is also free and open to the public.

This series of events was made possible through grants the University received from the Mid-America Arts Alliance and the Francis Family Foundation to support activities for Kansas City area high school students that celebrate the power of poetry. According to Virginia Brackett, Ph.D., associate professor of English and assistant dean of Park’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the funding supports collaboration with the Kansas City, Mo., School District, Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools, Prep-KC (Kansas City’s Partnership for Regional Educational Preparation) and the American Jazz Museum that will allow students to work both online and at the University’s Parkville Campus with the poetry group. The Symphony has appeared as a part of Park’s Ethnic Voices Poetry Series in recent years.

Earlier this month, as part of the creative writing workshop, students at Grandview (Mo.) High School, J.C. Harmon High School in Kansas City, Kan., and Paseo Academy received copies of a poetry anthology selected by The Symphony and purchased with funds from the grants. Guided by their creative writing teachers, the students have been discussing the anthology selections through an online discussion with members of The Symphony. During the workshop, The Symphony members will help students create poetry and evaluate poems submitted for inclusion in an electronic journal that will be compiled and edited by Park staff to be posted on each school’s respective website. Park faculty and creative writing students will help facilitate the workshop.

The Symphony — composed of R. Dwayne Betts, Randall Horton, Marcus Jackson and John Murillo — combines their voices into four movements that form one song using multiple stories of love, prison, fatherhood and the denizens of cities sometimes absent from American verse. The Symphony has put together its homage to the work and memory of Etheridge Knight, The House that Etheridge Built, a work that is part lecture, part poetic suite, and is an introduction to the work of Knight and the voices of his literary descendants.

For more information about this series of community engagement events hosted by Park University, contact Brackett at or (816) 584-6818.

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