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Brooklyn Students Turn Afghan Women's Writing Into Song for Charity

By Nikhita Venugopal | December 2, 2014 1:05pm
 Students and speakers took part in an event for the Afghan Women's Writing Project this summer in Los Angeles.
Students and speakers took part in an event for the Afghan Women's Writing Project this summer in Los Angeles.
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CARROLL GARDENS — Students from a pair of local schools are teaming up with a nonprofit for female Afghani writers to celebrate the written word through poetry and song.

About 50 Brooklyn students will be adapting poems by women in Afghanistan into songs that they will perform on Friday in an effort to raise funds for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project.

The project — which was founded in 2009 and offers workshops and classes for roughly 200 women in Afghanistan — is collaborating with the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies and the Brooklyn New School, both located at 610 Henry St. in Carroll Gardens.

The student group, which ranges from fifth-graders to high school seniors and alums, took part in a five-week workshop to prepare for the event, said lead instructor Shevy Smith, an Emmy-nominated music producer.

Smith let the students decide how they wanted to interpret the songs. Some will be peforming in a group, like one team that will be rapping the words of a poem, while others will take the stage alone, like a sixth-grader who will sing a song based on an Afghani teen’s poem.

“These kids arguably have more in common with the Afghani writers than anyone could have ever imagined,” said Smith, 31, who helped facilitate a similar event this past summer in Los Angeles.

The Friday event will feature special guests, including actors James Purefoy and Saffron Burrows, journalist Eliza Griswold and AWWP founder Masha Hamilton, who will recite a poem, followed by students singing their adapted version of the piece. 

AWWP is hoping to raise $10,000 in donations through the event to benefit their work in Afghanistan, said Lori Noack, executive director of the nonprofit.

Along with online writing workshops and classes, AWWP also hosts monthly reading salons and training sessions in Afghan cities. The nonprofit regularly posts poems and essays online and will be releasing its second print book soon, Noack said.

Workshops are currently offered in English and Dari, and Noack is hoping to expand with classes to include Pashto-speaking women.

“There are 200 women who are learning to speak out for what’s right,” Noack said. “It’s a very powerful vehicle for them.”

The Friday event, hosted at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies’ auditorium, is free and open to the public. Smith described the songs as upbeat with students primarily singing and performing throughout the event.

“It’s going to be a really moving, stunning night,” she said.

The event will be held on Friday, Dec. 5, at 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies’ auditorium, located at 610 Henry St. Donations can be made online.