After leading applause for a group of high school students who stood and recited an original poem, a Broadway star spoke about how thoughts become dreams which, in turn, become things.

Nine student members of Wayne County Writers recited a poem they had written as a group after reading and discussing the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Their performance garnered a standing ovation from those gathered for Ivy Tech Community College’s annual Living the Dream breakfast on Jan. 16.

Broadway, TV and movie actor Bryan Terrell Clark spoke at the Living the Dream breakfast. Photo by Bob Hansen

The guest speaker, Broadway, TV and movie actor Bryan Terrell Clark, prefaced his remarks by commending their work and leading a second standing ovation in honor of the fortitude it took for them to recite original poetry in front of an audience they did not know.

Thoughts like the students expressed in their poem become things, he said. Thoughts become reality, like the third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which refers to the killing of enslaved people who had sought freedom by joining with the British during the War of 1812. Those people held as property would never be free until they died, the National Anthem says.

Clark, most known for his role as George Washington in the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” said that show is an example of how even the unlikeliest thoughts can become dreams and then reality.

“Nothing about ‘Hamilton’ should have worked. George Washington rapping? That’s weird,” he said, contrasting it with traditional musicals such as “Sound of Music.”

Yet the kind of vision that brought renown to “Hamilton” is the same kind that brought success to Washington and Martin Luther King Jr., he said. Washington and King each realized their lives didn’t match the reality they wanted.

“It takes a rebel to stand in their dreams and say ‘I will not live in that reality,’” he said.

Washington, born and raised in a nation ruled by a king from across the ocean, created a whole new nation.

King, born in 1929, lived in a nation where everyone was supposedly equal, but Black people and other people in various minority groups didn’t enjoy the same rights and treatment as white people. Dr. King’s use of his gifts as a preacher led others to believe, as he did, that, “We don’t just live for survival, you live for your dreams,” Clark said.

He encouraged the crowd to pursue their own dreams.

“Whatever it is,” he said, “it will never be more strange than people of color rapping on Broadway.”

Students collaborated on poem

Wayne County Writers recite their group poem, “We Want A Dream,” at the Living the Dream breakfast on Jan. 16. They include Kiarra E. Handey, with microphone, and Jaelyn Parker, Jaiden Holland, Kevin L. Handley Jr., Avril Newsome, Xavier Ogle, Yuvraj Prajapati and Michael-Allen Gaberiel Lynch-Seda. Club member Landon Woehrman introduced them. Photo by Bob Hansen

Rousing poetry by local high school students launched a celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Landon Woerhrman introduced eight fellow members of the Wayne County Writers who then recited a poem they had written as a group called “We Want A Dream.” Some paused to remember their parts and others grew forceful as they used Dr. King’s themes. Their recitation netted two standing ovations at Ivy Tech’s Living the Dream breakfast.

Yuvraj Prajapati, one of the students, admitted to having been nervous. “My hands were shaking.”

But, he said, helping the group write the poem about King’s struggles, “really helped me think more.”

Their adult leader, Kevin L. Handley Sr., said, “All students read Dr. King’s (“I Had a Dream”) speech and watched it on video. Then over a three-to-four-week period, students developed their portion of the collaborative poem.” Five more members who collaborated couldn’t make the event for personal reasons.

Handley said Wayne County Writers is a poetry group for students. They meet on Sunday evenings at the Impact Youth Center, a new teen center on South Fifth Street. In meetings, they practice writing, oration, performance, competition and how to get audience participation.

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Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.