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Black Ink Monks return to Hebrew Academy; influence students through Spoken Word

The Black Ink Monks, Johnson C. Smith University’s oldest non-greek organization, returned to the American Hebrew Academy (AHA) in Greensboro, N.C. this year. Their annual trip educates AHA students about spoken word – using oratory skills for self-expression, anger management, and education.

Monks spent the weekend participating in Shabbat, immersing themselves in the Academy and rekindling bonds with AHA students.

“I have been doing this for a while, so I sometimes don't realize the impact it has on me and other people. But seeing these kids use writing as a medium to express themselves inspires me and always teaches me this is beyond just being a good poet or writer. It's about the influence you have as a writer; the responsibility you have to tell your audience they are going to be okay, said Tawnada Nyahasha ’20.

JCSU alum, Andrew Smith ’15, supported Nyahasha’s point, adding “Each year I go to AHA, I am amazed at the impact that not only the [Black Ink Monks] has on the kids, but the impact the kids leave on us.”

That impact, influencing the monks to induct three honorary members. AHA students, Leo Kramer, Adeena Seltzer and Brian Brandwein were given poet names, a tradition each new Monk experience when he or she is inducted into the group. These three students have been participating in and performing with the Black Ink Monks since their first visit.

“Leaving with three new honorary Monks reflects all that this organization is about: leadership, compassion, and poetry,” said Smith.

Smith, a former JCSU VPA-Film major, is so inspired by these annual trips; he is working on a documentary about the relationship he is developed over the years. 

“The way the kids come together during Shabbat, the Coffee House, their free time, and their willingness to be unapologetically themselves are constant reminders that, as adults, we sometimes lose sight of the importance of just slowing down and taking life in,” Smith added.

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