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Poetry, music mixed for JMS program

Artist Sharrif Simmons speaks to Jemison Middle School students for the school's Black History Month program.

Sharrif Simmons on Friday took Jemison Middle School students “from the page to the stage.”

Simmons used that phrase, meaning taking education learned in the classroom to produce a performance, to both describe his career and tell students what they should aspire for.

JMS students combined to create a "Freedom Quilt" in honor of Black History Month.

Using a blend of music and poetry, Simmons entertained and instructed about 575 kids in the JMS cafetorium for the school’s Black History Month program.

Simmons asked attendees if they listened to music, and then what genre of music. The students seemed partial to hip hop, and Simmons compared hip hop lyrics to poetry.

He read one of his poems to the rhythm created by an acoustic guitar.

“There were a lot of images in there, a lot of words,” Simmons said. “That poem is about how music changes. When you’re writing poetry, focus on images. It’s like painting.”

Simmons performed a second poem, to a slower musical beat, and stressed the emotions invoked.

“A lot of it is how you feel,” he said. “How you feel is part of you being unique when you’re writing your poem.”

A third poem was written in French—Simmons has lived in New York, Paris and Ethiopia—and a final one discussed the importance of protecting the environment.

“Be unique in everything you do,” he concluded. “The experiences you go through are important.”