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Summer 2015

A Haiku Project

After the non-indictments in the Ferguson and Staten Island cases, Jessica Lander, Ed.M.'15, took part in the student-sponsored die-in and participated in conversations that were happening around campus on race, justice, and equality. But Lander wanted to do more — she wanted to, as she says, take action.

Using an HGSE Dean's Equity Fellowship grant, she teamed up with Jean Dany Joachim, a former poet populist in Cambridge, to create a poetry reflection project called the Many Voices Project.

"We asked people all across Cambridge to write their reflections in the form of haiku poems, challenging them to condense their thoughts, feelings, questions, and ideas into 17 syllables," Lander says. They held poetry workshops in schools, senior centers, and at gatherings like the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service in neighboring Central Square. They also created a website so that people could add haikus online and then compiled them into a chapbook, which they distributed across the city, including to Cambridge Mayor David Maher and members of the Cambridge City Council at a meeting in January.

When they first launched the project, Lander says she hoped people would respond. When so many did — more than 200 in the first couple of weeks, including many of her classmates at the Ed School — she was touched. "I have been moved by how many people wanted to share their voice, their worries, and their hopes," she says, "and I have been struck by the power that can be captured in 17 syllables."