Poetry and Social Justice (ENGL3240) is a class offered at Graceland University for students every fall semester. In the class, students read and listen to written and performed pieces of poetry and criticism. The pieces are then discussed in relation to social issues across the globe. Such examples include racism, sexism, and body image. This class allows for students to use pieces of poetry (including slam poetry) to help encourage students to voice their opinions in such issues. Therefore, a main goal of the class is to help encourage students to voice their opinions and listen to other people’s opinions with varying backgrounds to become more rounded and diverse individuals.
At the end of the semester, as part of the class, students have completed a mural project located in Briggs in the Humanity wing. This project puts two pieces of poetry together: one from the classical poet Walt Whitman and one from the modern slam poet Nate Marshall. The process of this project has had a large impact on the structure of the course. Students were split into three teams: literary, art, and performance. On each team, students participated in different ways to the process of the mural. The art team worked on the mural painting and designing, the literary team ran a blog and worked on a writing for the article, and the performance team worked to design a performance for the revealing of the mural. By doing so, the mural worked to bring out the goals and thoughts of the class, showing that poetry can be used to discuss social issues around the globe and represent a way for people of varying and diverse backgrounds to come together in a world where many things work to separate people. Overall, this mural project, made by students in Poetry and Social Justice class 2018 offered at Graceland University, demonstrates the concepts and goals of the class by engaging with varying forms of poetry in a way to demonstrate a message and voice to the public about social justice.