Reclaiming the Ground for Our Children
The Baltimore Times recently featured Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises and the district’s blueprint for success. The following poem was inspired by her powerful opening address at the start of the school year and the work of educators in Baltimore and beyond who are reclaiming the ground for students.
She said we are reclaiming the ground.
We are taking it all back
For our children.
Picking up the empty vials and broken glass
And shell casings.
Soaking up children’s blood and mothers’ tears
And the hope that fell somewhere along the way.
Lifting feet and marching forward with watering cans
Brimming with hope
Because there’s a garden growing here.
Seeds and saplings cradled with care
By mothers and fathers, grandparents and siblings
Out of apartment buildings and aging row houses
Over cracked concrete
And rusting train tracks
Across roiling rivers and bone-dry borders
To the school house doors
Where bright green vines grow up the metal legs of classroom chairs
And curl around the edges of books and microscopes
And pencils filled with a million graphite words and stories
Waiting to be written.
Where sprouting leaves and buds
Reach toward the light beyond the crank-out windows
And the thousands of destinies that await
Now hung like wishes on stars
Above fire escapes.
There’s a garden growing here.
Filled with giggles and pluck
And dreams of mothers and fathers
Who wanted something more for their seedlings
Than they were afforded.
And a chance to thrive.
There’s a garden growing here, she said
And we are peeling back the layers of concrete
And we are taking back the ground for planting.
The mural is located in West Baltimore along the wall of what is called the “Road to Nowhere,” which divides the West Baltimore community. Muralists used their art in protest of the division and walling off of the community.
Santelises is the former vice president of K-12 policy and practice at The Education Trust.