May is an exciting time of year. The spring thaw and new green buds on the trees are welcomed by the mass exodus of Minnesotans leaving their homes for afternoons in the park, bike rides, and activities across the Twin Cities. At MOI, we’re celebrating the publication of two new anthologies: Indigenous Originated: Walking in Two Worlds— by ninth- and tenth-grade All Nations students at South High School involved in the Young Authors’ Book Project—and Like a Forest Growing, by the young authors from After-School Homework Help. Both of these programs are entirely free for the families and schools MOI works with, and they produce some pretty fin-tastic results.
On May 10th, South High and the All Nations program held their annual end of the year powwow. There, Ava Keezer read “Ghost Dances” and Amahpiya Wi read “My Family and Ancestors” from Indigenous Originated. Tommy Orange, the critically acclaimed author of There There, visited the powwow and asked Ava and Amahpiya to sign his copy of Indigenous Originated.
“My Family and ancestors have pride
My family and ancestors have resisted oppression
My family and ancestors have survived genocide
My family and ancestors have grown into strong Native people”
- Amahpiya Wi, Tenth-grade author
On May 15, MOI celebrated the release of Indigenous Originated: Walking in Two Worlds with the All Nations community and our family, friends, and fellow Minnesotans at Moon Palace Books. These days were truly celebrations to remember for MOI and our students.
We ate pizza and pies for dessert donated by Turtle Bread Company. Tall Paul performed "Prayers in a Song", blessing our young authors and the evening. Then students read their pieces to the crowd of almost fifty relatives, friends of MOI, and other community members receiving applause for their brilliance, creativity, and courage. After the readings, the audience approached the authors of the anthology for autographs, continuing to sing their praises. One community member, Julia Dinsmore—author of My Name is Not Those People, posted on Facebook after the event,
“My worlds collided so wonderfully! Our first family literary event, with Native youth from South High at the mic. Grands [Grandchildren] got to get autographs from poets and Tall Paul performed. So much joy… Good memories made.”
On May 20, MOI celebrated the release of another book: Like a Forest Growing. Our After-School Homework Help students’ anthology showcases our young authors’ writing as they bloomed this spring. The book features stories of the Earth, dreams of new worlds, and poems describing how we want to be remembered. At the celebration, students read their pieces to an intimate crowd of family and community members. We ate delicious desserts donated by Butter Bakery and Cub Foods. Finally, audience members had the opportunity to get copies of the book signed by the young authors themselves.
Over the course of these two release parties, we heard tenth-grader Ava Keezer read a new poem, written only a few days before. We heard fifth-grader Selama read her poem “In my World,” a verbal illustration of a world where people have freedom of speech and people respect each other, a world complete with many magical things. We heard a story of a candy celebration by first-grade author Ilwad H. Through a creative and supportive community of caring writers, artists, rappers, teachers, and volunteers, MOI’s programs guide students through cultivating their own voice and sharing genuine pieces of themselves with the world.
“Joy smells like spicy food.” - Ibrahim, Sixth-grade author
MOI’s goal in these projects is not simply to produce a professional volume of students’ work. Our goal is to elevate their words to the same level as other published authors. That’s why MOI plans release parties for young authors complete with food, a microphone, and audiences excited to meet the authors of these books.
As an organization built on the powerful words and ideas of the youth in our community, we believe that our students can lead the way to a brighter future and that amplifying their voices to the greater community creates the opportunity for strong cross-cultural learning. We want students to know that their voice matters and that people want to hear it—now.
Thank you to everyone who made these two books possible. A special thank you to the Graves Foundation, the South High Foundation, the Mithun Family Foundation, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and MOI’s individual donors for supporting student writing. You too can support MOI’s mission of empowering underserved Twin Cities youth by donating to MOI or purchasing a copy of our students’ work today!