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The WORK of Art

Heritage & Literacy Day: We Are Who We Are

Artist and Breathitt Co. native Theo Edmonds of University of Louisville’s Center for Creative Placehealing works with students at LBJ Elementary School.

Artist and Breathitt Co. native Theo Edmonds of University of Louisville’s Center for Creative Placehealing works with students at LBJ Elementary School.

As part of Breathitt County School’s Literacy & Heritage Day on August 31, 2018, HEAL Jackson brought together five artists to lead writing workshops with k-12 students, who were engaged to write poetry, a short film script, song lyrics and more — all rooted in hope and heritage — taught by artists including Pauletta Hansel, Theo “Alan” Edmonds, Rae Goodwin, Scott Allen, and Jay McCoy.

Engagements included Hansel working with students at Breathitt Co. High School to write their own poems, while Edmonds had students imagine and author movie-scene scenarios at LBJ Elementary School, and Allen incorporated music and singing into his lesson at Marie Roberts-Caney Elementary.

Goodwin of University of Kentucky organized the engagement in partnership with Breathitt Co. Schools, as part of the broader HEAL Jackson initiative created by Louisville-based IDEAS xLab. Edmonds — the co-founder of IDEAS xLab, grew up in Breathitt Co, something he reminded students of throughout the day, because, as he said, “Our people from Breathitt can achieve amazing things.”

HEAL Jackson is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Artist and Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel, originally from Breathitt Co. engaged students at Breathitt Co. High School.

Artist and Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel, originally from Breathitt Co. engaged students at Breathitt Co. High School.

We Are Who We Are

— Co-authored by Hope Rudd, Hayley (Bri) Oaks, Kayla Barnett, Destiny Baker, Kendra Baker, Maddie Smith and Pauletta Hansel during the workshop.

I am I am the evening mocha scent
when you walk into my home
in Breathitt County.
I’m a sixteen year old girl
who stands tall as a tree.
I am who I am; every piece of me
was formed by a small town.
I have so many dreams,
you may say I am a dream.
I am a mystery not many can crack all the way.
I am the one knowing a secret
without telling a soul.
I am the girl who left.
I could have been the girl who stayed.
I am the leaves on an oak tree,
falling gracefully and growing back with a vengeance.
Though I’m not perfect and I’ve made many mistakes,
I know I can come home whenever I break.
I am exactly and precisely the old truck my grandfather drives
and the wrinkled skin of my grandmother’s hands.
I am the hoops I jump through,
the first daughter of a generation.
I am the girl who’s scared but no one would know.
I am the kid to exceed beyond my siblings
to make my father proud.
I am a believer who is nothing more than a leader.
I am the girl with secrets and no one to tell them to.
I am the roots of grass waiting to grow back.
But I am also fire, forceful spirits igniting our Friday nights.
I am the girl who refuses to change for anyone,
except myself.
I love who I am.
This is not done yet,
but neither is my story.
I am what I am…plus more!


Artist Jay McCoy from Lexington, KY works with students at Breathitt Co. High School.

Artist Jay McCoy from Lexington, KY works with students at Breathitt Co. High School.

Photos by Josh Miller of IDEAS xLab.