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JCSU Poets Conduct Workshops at the American Hebrew Academy

Charlotte, N.C. (May 17, 2013) — A recent trip to the American Hebrew Academy (AHA) in Greensboro, N.C., allowed five Johnson C. Smith University students the rare opportunity to merge creative arts with teaching skills. Dr. Cindy J. Kistenberg, associate professor of visual, performing and communications arts at JCSU and faculty advisor for the Black Ink Monks, arranged the April 24-27 trip with her former high school English teacher—now the chair of the AHA’s English Department.

Tyran Greene, Jamie Hendricks, DiaShanna Logan, Sarah Jackson, and Nyquan Johnson, members of JCSU’s Black Ink Monks, performed spoken-word and conducted poetry workshops for students during their visit. The sprawling 100-acre AHA campus is the only pluralistic Jewish boarding school in the U.S., serving approximately 150 students from around the world. The Black Ink Monks, a poetry slam group, is JCSU’s oldest student organization.

The students gained valuable, enriching cultural experiences during the trip. For Jackson, the environment was pleasantly new. Jackson commented, “AHA was like a poetry retreat for me. Everything was so fresh and refreshing. Great talent, good food, and good people made me want to come back for years to come. I enjoyed the cultural experiences that I had never had before.”

For other students, working with the high school students proved rewarding. Greene shared his experience saying, “I enjoyed my time at AHA. I found working with the kids and the opportunity to participate in a different culture than mine to be life enhancing. I really enjoyed how welcoming the staff and students were.” Greene graduates on May 16, 2013, at JCSU’s 141st commencement ceremony.

David Press, director of programming at the AHA, praised the poets for their contributions. Press said, “While we were certainly hopeful that the workshop and poetry slam would have a positive impact, we were most definitely surprised by the incredible creativity and passion that was on display throughout the program.”

In addition to their workshops and performances, the Monks participated in the Jewish Sabbath. A traditional Jewish Sabbath includes kosher meals and Havdalah service (the ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath). Press continued with praises, “The Black Ink Monks were far more powerful and seemed to have had a far greater impact on our students than I could have ever envisioned when we first began imagining this program.”

The weekend culminated with a Saturday night performance where several AHA students and Monks performed for an audience of 20 students, faculty, staff and guests.

Founded in 1867, Johnson C. Smith University is an independent, close-knit urban university located in Charlotte, N.C. It has a growing national reputation for integrating the liberal arts with business, the sciences and technology in ways that empower tomorrow’s diverse entrepreneurial citizens and leaders. Offering 23 fields of study to more than 1,600 students from a variety of ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds, the university’s excellent academic programs focus on servant leadership, civic engagement and global responsibility. For more information about JCSU, visit or follow the university on social media sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

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