(Voice Of America)
What’s the odds of you becoming famous while substituting at your alma mater? Kondwani Russell probably could answer that for you. What started off as just a regular day of substituting at Baltimore City College became a media frenzy, but for a very positive and valuable reason.
In Baltimore City, usually the substitute teachers aren’t as enthused to be in a classroom especially with teens who offer no cut cards and speak words that can pierce you like a butcher knife. 22 year old self-published poet, Kondwani, is no stranger to the Baltimore School System and the students that occupy it being as though he was once in their shoes. Russell came in and introduced himself to a class full of what seemed to be uninterested juniors. Once he mentioned that he was a poet, the class challenged him to sample his talent. Russell doubted that they genuinely wanted to hear the impromptu gift he was hesitant about unwrapping for them, but the students insisted.
Being a very known poet in Baltimore City, a big audience and being filmed is nothing foreign to him. He welcomed the energy with open arms.
“Memories can be beautiful, memories can be ugly…” started off the series of words that would reveal not only some dark and poignant moments in his life, but of the lives of some students in that classroom that may have sent them to school with no hope.
Russell touched on what’s plaguing the streets of Baltimore, drugs, violence and poverty. He applied those factors to his own life. Giving the class a reason to be relieved, he voiced to them in his own paraphrased method that he was not always the man he is today standing in front of them. The man that recites his poetry to big audiences , is known nationally, a college graduate, a self-published author and has connected with higher ups was once the boy who skipped school, sold weed, had an uncomfortable upbringing and was a product of his environment.
Spoken word that became a heart-felt moment throughout his class then became a heart-felt moment across the nation. All it took was one upload and millions of viewers poured in. Russell wasn’t expecting the national.attention, but most of us say it’s about time. Baltimore has been under a negative radar since April, some positivity was needed to rise above it.
Encouraging the students that no matter what their circumstances are, they can overcome them, Kondwani delivered the facts of life with a poetic twist. Lost, trapped, confused, and unwanted he was, but free he is. Thanks for sharing your ugly memories that made you beautiful today.