Ballou High School
The Ballou Story Project Series
Frank W. Ballou High School is located in Ward 8, SE Washington, DC. Locals may say it's "East of the River," meaning it's on the other side of the Anacostia River from the part of Washington that tourists generally come to visit: the National Mall, the White House, the Capitol, the Zoo. This part of town is all too often characterized as monolithic "Anacostia" and is known for being predominantly black, with widespread poverty and a high crime rate. The river often acts not only as a literal boundary but as metaphorical one, too, and that bridge that should connect these two Washingtons is all too rarely crossed.
Ballou doesn't (yet) have a newspaper or literary magazine, and all too often its narrative is shaped by stories told by outsiders. With the Ballou Story Project, we're happy to hand that mic to the students themselves. They tell stories of struggle, certainly, but they also talk about a community of educators, administrators, and fellow students working hard, overcoming, and believing in each other. Ballou is a real and necessary home for many students.
When we do this work with these writers, we think about the power of framing. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are make all the difference.
Ballou Story Project (BSP) took the stage for the first time a few weeks ago and we could not be more proud of the work of these young writers.The performance, directed and produced by our partners at Young Playwrights’ Theatre and featuring five talented professional actors, tenderly handled sensitive topics of abuse, cancer, and loss.
Did you hear the news? This year, 100 percent of Ballou High School’s senior class applied to college! We could not be more proud of the graduating class of 2017. Wow!
This winter has been a busy one! This is what we’ve been up to.
We’re thrilled to announce that thanks to a generous grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, we will be able expand and innovate the Ballou Story Project this year through a cool new partnership with Young Playwrights' Theater. We’re taking these stories to the stage! Stay tuned for updates about the performance this spring.
This month, Shout Mouse went on a book tour to Granville, Ohio. We were honored to be invited by Denison University to speak on campus as part of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program’s Laura C. Harris Symposium.
Here at Shout Mouse, we’re excited to celebrate September as National Literacy Month. Literacy is not only dear to our hearts, but central to our mission. To us, literacy is not only about ability to read, but also the capacity to love stories and to value one’s own voice. Find out our authors are encouraging literacy.
We’re going to Orlando, because that's where the important work of our authors is being celebrated. Their stories of dignity and empowerment and overcoming are the messages being touted, being shouted, from the stage. These are the values that drown out all the rest. We’re going to hold up their books as refutations, books that change the story--about who can make a difference, who can be a hero, who can sow love and hope and change against all odds--because changing the story is the first step in changing the heart.
Guess what we just learned? 3 Shout Mouse Press books have been named as FINALISTS for 4 awards in 2 categories in a nation-wide book contest for independent presses!
The best thing about getting our authors' stories out into the world is hearing about all the ways that their voices can be used to educate, activate, and open hearts and minds. Recently we sat down with the good folks at Turning the Page, a DC-based organization that works to improve public school education, and we discovered a brand new use for one of our books: as a training resource for new community educators.
You’ve heard about the incredible #1000blackgirlbooks campaign, right?
If not, here’s the scoop:
Marley Dias, age 11, decided she was sick of always reading about “white boys and dogs.” She asked, where are the characters who look like me? Those books about strong proud funny beautiful black girls were not showing up in her school curriculum, so she decided to do something about it: she started the #1000blackgirlbooks campaign.
On October 24, the authors of Shout Mouse took part in the second annual DC Public Library Author Fest. While we were selling books at our table, an excited Shout Mouse reader came up to meet our authors and share how she has already been using their words in her college classroom at the University of Maryland, College Park.
On Wednesday, August 12th, we had the incredible opportunity to meet leaders working with at-risk youth from all over the world and to share with them our books! Through a program called the IVLP which is run by the State Department, we met with folks from: Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Belize, Congo, Egypt, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, and Ukraine.
In one night this past weekend, two young men from the communities served by Shout Mouse were shot and killed in senseless acts of violence...
I cannot help thinking of our authors when I hear this news, and of the weight of growing up in such a world where life is taken so carelessly outside your front door. I'm thinking about the psychic pain of not feeling safe at home. It sticks with me.
Woohoo! Shout Mouse books on national radio and Kojo Nnamdi's 2015 Summer Reading List!
Mark Hecker of Reach, Inc. knocked it out of the soundbooth today on The Kojo Nnamdi Show's Kids and YA Summer Reading program. He was an incredible ambassador not only for Reach's teen authors but also for the authors of Ballou Senior High School, and Beacon House.
"Buy this book," says poet/activist/educator Kyle Dargan. "Share it with other young people and use it as a tool to educate yourselves and initiate conversations with others."
We are grateful to Kyle for his incisive foreword, for his call to action on behalf of these authors, and most importantly for his commitment to voicing hard and necessary truths in the name of justice. Read his blog post and smart foreword below, and SHARE WITH EDUCATORS EVERYWHERE.
We did it! The authors of Ballou Senior High School launched their beautiful new book into the world: Our Lives Matter. Incredible day yesterday of readings, autographs, hugs, and lots and lots of applause. Thank you to everyone who made this happen and was there to cheer on these authors! And thank you most importantly to the authors themselves. We are so proud!
We started writing a week before the decision came down in Ferguson. We finished two days after protestors took to the streets in Baltimore.
Through the course of a historic year in our country's ongoing Civil Rights Movement, 30 students from Ballou Senior High School came together to add something powerful to the national conversation about race, inequality, violence, and justice.
On Tuesday, May 12, 2015, I was given an incredible opportunity: to meet President Obama and put our authors' stories in his hands.
WHAT?!! That's how I felt. Here's how it happened:
One of Miss Ramble's 8th grade reading students at Hardy Middle School in NW DC picked up Ballou Story Project's "How to Grow Up Like Me" from his school library and couldn't put it down. He showed his teacher and neither could she. Now he and his fellow students are reading, discussing, and responding to these memoirs for the rest of the school year. Says Miss Ramble, "They can't wait to come to class." They want to meet these authors. They have so many questions. They have so much to say.
We're not just shouting today at Shout Mouse, we're doing a little jig. Why, you ask? Because in partnership with the good folks at Reach, Inc. we just delivered nearly 1,000 Shout Mouse and Reach teen-authored books to DCPS Libraries, who want every one of our titles in every one of their schools.
Every Shout Mouse book in every public school in DC. !!!
One of the many delights was seeing our new authors meeting, so to speak, our already published authors from Reach Inc and Ballou High School: the girls loved reading the high-flying adventures from Reach and the bravely vulnerable essays from Ballou.
We are so proud of Dreonna Richardson, one of the essayists in How To Grow Up Like Me, who was featured in WAMU 88.5's series Beating the Odds, in which education reporter Kavitha Cardoza profiles students in the Washington, D.C. area who have overcome struggles and found ways to thrive academically and socially.
It's been a while since I was moved to tears at a reading, but on Thursday, May 29, 2014, three Ballou Story Project authors brought me there. These three writers--M.H. Jordan, Christopher Allen, and Gerald McBrayer--were being celebrated at the awards ceremony for the Global Harmony Through Personal Excellence essay competition, a citywide contest for DCPS students that called for essays about daily acts of courage.