Poetry slam attracts hundreds as political science club wraps up first year
DEARBORN – At most high schools, sporting events and the
occasional talent show are the only events capable of packing an auditorium
full of people on a weekday night.
Fordson COPS members Mohamad B. Idriss, Rami Faraj, and Husain Bazzi prepare backstage for last Thursday's poetry slam event at Fordson High School. Faraj and Idriss helped found the group and said they wanted to leave a legacy after graduating this year.
But at Fordson High School on Thursday, June 2, hundreds came out for the First Annual Fordson Club of Political Science's Gala, which centered around the school's first ever poetry slam event.
Titled "Louder than a Bomb," a reference in the same vein as the axiom "the pen is mightier than the sword," and designed as an effort to reverse false stereotypes of Fordson, its students, and the community, the event was a major hit for the organization, which boasts about 40 members and began in 2010.
"The idea was that we wanted to showcase all we've done over the year and to bring a poetry slam to Dearborn because it's a very powerful way to send a message," said organizer Mohamad B. Idriss, who recently graduated but participated in the event.
"We wanted to start that, bring it to Fordson and make it a tradition."
Slam poetry, a high-energy verbal art form used to speak out on political and social justice issues, is more commonly found at colleges or in cafes and clubs, but the FCOPS organizers knew it would be perfect for Fordson students.
Students spoke out about topics such as the challenges women face and their many accomplishments, the perils and vast sacrifices of war from both a soldier's perspective and a victim's perspective, and stereotypes they've dealt with in their lives, particularly as Arab Americans or American Muslims in today's often unwelcoming political climate.
The roster of performers as well as the club itself is diverse. Sponsor and Fordson history teacher Chuck Wesserling, who also teaches English as a Second Language at Henry Ford Community College, said that the group is rife with open exchanges from students with varying perspectives on important issues and that its motto is "It's amazing what can be accomplished when it doesn't matter who gets the credit."
Aside from the year-end gala and poetry slam, the group was active in numerous events in the past year. FCOPS staged protests such as a counter-demonstration to the widely condemned Kansas-based extremist Westboro Baptist Church group, raised funds for relief for the struggling population of the Gaza Strip, presented legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas with a lifetime achievement award in her name at a fund raising dinner, and also visited Washington, D.C., among other stops. Other causes supported included the Generation of Promise leadership program based in Inkster, rallies in support of the Egyptian revolution, and a large interfaith rally in response to a visit from extremist Pastor Terry Jones.
Before the poetry slam, students worked with Arab American poet Remi Kanazi, who helped them learn the intricacies of the craft. After the slam finished, Wesserling said that he received numerous comments on how impressive the performers were. Membership applicants have spiked following the event according to group organizers.
After working hard to leave a legacy on campus before they move on to college, Idriss and fellow group founder Rami Faraj appear to have made it happen.
"Last summer I was looking forward to my final year in high school and I wanted to leave a mark, so we founded this club to get people active and informed," he said. "This club is going to get really far and will be one of the centerpieces of the school that will last a long time, hopefully."
The FCOPS students, especially the large Arab American contingent, hope to become leaders and to get involved in important community events. Idriss, Bazzi and Faraj specifically mentioned their desire to help organizations such as the Arab American Political Action Committee in their quest to rally more voters in the area.
"We want people to look at the youth of the community, not the ones at home on their Xbox's, to see that we want to be involved, to serve our communities and fight for what's right," Bazzi said.
"If you're not turned on to politics then politics will turn on you...Apathy is the single most destructive force in the universe," Idriss said, speaking two well known quotes from former U.S. presidential candidate, consumer advocate and former Time Magazine Man of the Year Ralph Nader.
"We want to leave a mark and help kids grow socially so they can be leaders in this community."