As part of the Social Justice curriculum at City Springs Elementary / Middle School, a unique Honors program created by Wyatt Oroke, City Springs teacher, the 8th graders enjoyed a powerful performance by Black Chakra on September 14, 2023.
Black Chakra, a Baltimore-based spoken word and hip-hop artist, is a national poetry slam champion and youth poetry teacher for DewMore Baltimore. In anticipation of reading Long Way Down by Jason Reynolods, the 8th grade read the poems of several Baltimore poets. They voted Black Chakra as their favorite poet, and Mr. Oroke (known as Mr. “O” to the City Springs community) arranged Black Chakra’s visit to City Springs.
Long Way Down is an intense, free-verse novel about youth gun violence. The title refers to the long elevator ride descending an eight-floor apartment as the protagonist goes to kill his brother’s killer. Each floor brings a new character or ghost to tell the tale of their death and of the tragic chain reactions caused by the cycle of violence.
“The curriculum was intentionally designed to try and break down the walls of our classroom and show the connections between what we are learning and what is going on in our community,” says Mr. O, who was named Maryland State Teacher of the Year in 2021. “Black Chakra’s performance was a critical and powerful step in making that happen.”
Mr. O has received recognition for his teaching from Johns Hopkins University, the Maryland State Senate, the Baltimore Orioles, and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres who gave CIty Springs $25,000 as a result of his appearance on her show.
Watch the video of Black Chakra’s performance at City Springs.
About Mr. Oroke
- Has taught English 7th and 8th at City Springs since 2015
- Teach for America, 2013 Corps Member
- B.A., History, Minor in Women and Gender Studies, California Polytechnic State University
- M.Ed., Johns Hopkins University School of Education
City Springs’ Honors Social Justice Curriculum