City High students celebrate MLK Day with speakers

HS journalism: Akwi Nji inspired students to tell their stories

Akwi Nji of Cedar Rapids spoke at City High last week. (The Little Hawk photo)
Akwi Nji of Cedar Rapids spoke at City High last week. (The Little Hawk photo)

IOWA CITY — Gathered in the Little Theater and Opstad Auditorium, students listen to speakers talk about their life and how it relates to Martin Luther King Jr. as everyone prepares to celebrate MLK day on Monday,

On Jan. 15 at City High, s speakers joined together to give input on poetry and storytelling. Topics ranged from being an adult to parenting, all relating to the problems we face in modern society.

Akwi Nji — a writer, artist, producer and poet from Cedar Rapids — spoke during first period in storytelling fashion about her struggles being a person of color surrounded by Caucasians as a child.

“Everybody is creative and I think that there is a lot of power to be explored in the context of art,” Nji said, “I think it’s important that we share the personal stories that are within us and shape who we are. I think the only way to build a stronger more positive community is if we do more of that.”

Nji invited students to come up to the stage to say what they stand for to promote sharing their stories. Responses ranged from family to fashion, showing the diversity held within the halls of City High. Students also were invited to share any stories they wrote and wanted to share.

Sophomore Destinie Gibson shared her poem about stereotypes in the African-American community as well as the superiority of whites and the struggle of police brutality.

“I was inspired to go up there because she inspired me,” Gibson said. “She is a woman of color and women of color inspire me.”


During second period, Raquisha Harrington expanded on the idea of finding your own path and not giving up on yourself. Harrington, at the age of 15, was a teen parent but persisted through the stereotypes of young mothers and people of color. She repeated the phrase “I want to be the author of my own story” to show her desire to step away from what was bringing her down, and not fitting the failing figure of young parents all while showing pictures of her happy family.

“When you are faced with challenges, or when people tell you that you can’t accomplish things, or you want to reach certain goals and you’re faced with a lot of challenges, you should never give up.” Harrington said, “Continue to be the first version of yourself and not the second version of somebody else.”

Harrington also was part of a MLK day celebration on Saturday. Students listened to speakers, participated in group activities and bonded over food.

In Opstad, hundreds of students filed in to listen to City High’s Student Advisory Director, Fred Newel. Growing up without a supportive father in his life, he shared his goals on making City High more of a community and creating safe places to turn to in the community. Focusing on how “failure is not final unless you quit,” he shared outlets in Iowa City for people in need of support.

“There were many times (Martin Luther King Jr.) ran into obstacles but, the reason why he became such a big influence in our community is because he didn’t allow those failures to stop him,” Newel said. “He used it as fuel to help us to get to where we are now.”


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