On May 25, 2016, nine students from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School (King) in Compton, CA, confidently took the stage and performed at the Turnaround Arts Talent Show, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House! Their powerful spoken word piece, “Flight,” was aptly titled, as many of the student performers had never been on an airplane before — it also spoke symbolically to the ways in which King’s entire school community has soared since becoming a Turnaround Arts: California partner school in 2014.

We’re so proud of our King family for their hard work and creativity, and we’re grateful to our friends at Get Lit – Words Ignite for giving students the tools to share their stories. Not only were the student performances representative of the Turnaround Arts program’s national reach — which will serve 68 schools across 15 states and the District of Columbia in the coming school year — they were as powerful to witness as they were undoubtedly transformative to enact.

In case you missed it, watch the full performance or read the transcript below:



Kalani: I’m living
Edward: I’m living
Kimberly: I’m standing on the earth
Alondra: Where was I before? I waited
Natalie: I think
Keniyah: One million years
Mathew: For this one
Hermann: single
Oscar: moment

Natalie: I want to be brave
And fly to the sky
These words I repeat in my mind
Now I can!
Before I couldn’t
I didn’t feel brave —
No matter what

Mathew: I was scared
Scared I was next to die
I heard the gunshot outside…
I’m always hearing ambulances
But one day– I want to save people.

Kimberly: I dream for my mother
She calls me “mi niña bonita”
When your parents separate sometimes you can’t decide where to go
I felt lost. The screaming, fighting, the nightmares
“Mi niña bonita” she says,
Leave it in the past and many things will come to you.

Alondra: The ladies in church whisper
and call me “ermitano”
It’s a Spanish word that means “not socializing”
But in my home I draw, dance, & read stories
I forget everything else
I’m in another world
I’m all by myself
People say I’m crazy

Natalie: But I’m just untamed
Kimberly: Untranslatable
Alondra: And not easily named
I want to keep going with the story
And stay in it forever, and never get to the end.

Oscar: My Mom is in El Salvador
Now I have two homes
In El Salvador my Dad was an architect
He designed and built the house he lived in
In Compton my Dad installs windshields. We’re both creative.
When I watch TV I build planes with materials like cardboard

Hermann: paper
Natalie: plastic
Mathew: and twine
Oscar: If I could I would build a plane to fly and see my mother in my other home.

Kalani: At my home, I have something called “me time”
Know my schedule people!
When I’m bored I put my earphones on
and sing

ALL: Ooo ooo la ta de da da da da

Kalani: This is MY song
If there’s something you don’t want to do

ALL: Ooo ooo la ta de da da da da

Kalani: See what happens to You –

Natalie: If can write it
Mathew: sing it
Alondra: dream it
Keniyah: I can be it

Keniyah: Every Tuesday at New Direction Church
Praise Dance gives me a second to talk to God
Because sometimes my feelings hurt and I need to vanish them
For taking my dad.

Hermann: Art saved me when I had to be in my school play
And wear a coconut bra and it wouldn’t stay
I did not want to wear it – but I remembered
I had talent!
I made people grin, smile, and laugh
Even my parents!

Edward: I only thought I was good at playing video games
My family moved to Compton
A good decision indeed
Because there were violins at
King Elementary
When I play the violin I feel free
I’m important and all eyes are on me.

Edward: We have to show them what we can do
Kalani: To make people see

Oscar:  But what if I fail?
Keniyah: But what if you fly?

ALL: Wake up and feel what it feels to be alive!

Natalie: We offer this poem
Because it’s what we can give

ALL: I am a Poet!

Kimberly: I create works that have heart

ALL: We grow our wings

Oscar & Hermann: with words,


A big thank you to Turnaround Arts: National for coordinating this inspiring event!

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