Re-Envisioning Our Lives through Literature - A Literary Program for HS Students in NYC

The Re-Envisioning Our Lives through Literature (ROLL) program is sponsored by the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College and continues to be supported with funding from various sources. A major goal of this program is to expand the canon of literature taught in high schools, and more specifically to include literature by writers of the African Diaspora. Students in the program have an opportunity to participate in a dramatic writing and performance workshop, a creative nonfiction workshop, a spoken-word workshop, and/or a defining manhood workshop. The participants use literature and the literary arts as a basis for re-seeing and reimagining their lives.

The premise of ROLL is that literature should be integrated into the English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum in creative ways that may include drama, poetry, the spoken word, and story. Using texts written by writers from the African Diaspora, students build their knowledge base about literature from another culture and improve their critical reading, writing, and communication skills.

Since 2004, ROLL students have come from the following schools:

  • Bedford Academy High School
  • Benjamin Banneker Academy High School
  • Boys and Girls High School
  • Brooklyn Collegiate High School
  • Clara Barton High School
  • Jackie Robinson Elementary School (PS 375)
  • Medgar Evers College Preparatory School



Workshops and Courses Offered


Dramatic Writing and Performance Workshop
The major goal of the “Dramatic Writing and Performance Workshop” is to provide students with opportunities to re-envision their lives through the reading, writing, and dramatization of a text. Another goal of this program is for students to see the ways in which independent theaters produce and bring stories representing the experiences, trials, and triumphs of people of color to life. Therefore, students in the program have an opportunity to see a live performance at a cultural arts institution. The culmination of the program is a dramatic production where students present various dramatic renditions of the text. Students also contribute to this production by working in areas such as stage setting, stage management, and producing posters.


Defining Manhood Workshop
The purpose of this workshop, “Using Lyrics and Letters to Define Manhood,” is to provide students with a holistic exploration into the social, economic, political, physical, and spiritual elements that shape modern urban manhood, especially within the African Diaspora. Using collaborative learning activities and hip-hop and spoken word as primary—but not exclusive teaching strategies—students develop critical thinking skills, learn personal responsibility, and acquire life-management skills designed to make their transition into manhood manageable and rewarding. Workshop topics include, but are not limited to, issues on masculinity, male-female relationships, HIV/AIDS awareness, financial literacy, career exploration, and mental and emotional health awareness. Students also develop critical thinking and positive self-expression skills through their reading, studying, and discussion of selected texts and through their written responses to these texts. The final product for this course/workshop is an anthology representing students’ essays, letters, and poems.


Spoken-Word Workshop
The purpose of this workshop, “Using Lyrics and Letters to Define Ourselves,” is to provide students with opportunities to explore and integrate contemporary and classical forms of spoken word, performance poetry, and hip-hop with acting. Through exploration, reading, and exposition of various works, students begin to discover their own voices and gain the skills necessary to develop their own creative ideas. Students then transform these ideas into creative writing, specifically into various forms of poetry. Finally, this workshop is designed to nurture and coach students toward performance mastery and take their writing from the “page to the stage” in a closing program. Students in this workshop also have an opportunity to attend a spoken- word performance, poetry slam, etc. In addition, spoken-word artists visit the classroom. The final product for this workshop is a chapbook that represents a compilation of poems from the students.


Creative Nonfiction Workshop
The purpose of the “Creative Nonfiction Workshop” is to provide students with opportunities to use literary techniques to construct narratives that are based on facts. Students in this workshop may read essays, letters, and memoirs and use these texts as a basis for creating their own essays, letters, and testimonies. At the end of the workshop, students compile an anthology and participate in a production that provides examples of the texts they have created.

(program description subject to change)

Contact Us

Center for Black Literature
at Medgar Evers College, CUNY (CBL)
1534 Bedford Avenue, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, New York 11216

Main Phone: (718) 804-8883
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To carry out our literary programs and special events, we depend on financial support from the public. Donations are welcome year-round. Click HERE to make a donation today. Thank you in advance!
The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College is supported in part by an American Rescue Plan Act grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support general operating expenses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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