When your 12-year-old son comes home and volunteers that he was moved to tears at school, as a parent, you take notice. When this athletic, smart, quiet son, who is African American in a school and a city that, for the most part, do not look like him, reports that a peer read a poem at the school talent show that captured his experience of fear, anger and caution living in a young black body today – as a parent, you, too, are shaken.

You notice the temporary loosening of the grip of fear you constantly carry for his young body navigating his blackness so often alone in the halls and streets of Portland. You feel deeply thankful for the work the teachers are doing to create a race-positive environment for all students to share their experience. You might temporarily forget the last time he was called the N-word walking home and made it to the YMCA to call to tell you he was OK.

As director of Ovations Offstage, I hear often how important it is that all Portland residents feel invited to share their unique life stories, and the role of the performing arts in facilitating these conversations. Deb Simmons and colleagues at King Middle School created that opportunity last week through poetry, song, music and dance on stage at school for an afternoon and evening performance. Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana has mandated inclusive, capacity-building school wide engagement like this.

We all have our part in ensuring our youngest citizens believe that Portland is a city that recognizes, values, protects and celebrates all of their contributions and experience. For schools to take this on through their own cultivation of the performing arts as vehicle for sharing stories is worthy of praise and celebration indeed.

Catherine Anderson