Rajnii Eddins Visits Campus for a Day of Activism through Art
As part of this year’s programming made possible by the Bob ‘37 and Beth Campbell Endowment for the Arts and Lecture Series, on January 15, 2024, spoken word poet Rajnii Eddins visited our campus, bringing with him powerful messages that will surely have lasting resonance with the VA community. The day of special programming began when Rajnii led students in a creative writing workshop in our Class of 2011 Great Room. Twenty-two students participated, along with four faculty members, creating personalized written pieces under Rajnii’s guidance. They received two writing prompts, one in which they wrote to America as if it were a child, and the other which challenged the writers to start pieces with the phrase, “I will not be silent.” Some brave students shared what they wrote after receiving eight minutes to write each piece.
Rajnii also moderated a panel of ten VA students in front of an audience of their peers in the Nita Choukas Theater in Horowitz Performing Arts Hall. It was a time for reflection and collaboration as the students engaged in a dialogue with Rajnii, fellow students, faculty, and other members of the VA community. The panelists included Ricardo “Rico” Putnam-Pouliot '24, Grace Duffy '24, Darlene Tashobya '25, Jayden Watkins '24, Maya Sbardellati '25, Asper Donath '26, Sofia Bianconi '24, Lucas Hoffman ’24, Mason Evans ’26, and Duong "Chloe" Nguyen ’24, and Antisha Ssuna ’25, who introduced Rajnii to the audience.
Rajnii asked the panel several compelling questions, including “What are you most passionate about and why?” Darlene answered, saying “Giving children a right to education. That's been very real for me in many capacities. Being here is a testament to that as well: playing basketball, and leaving my home to come here and study. Making sure every child has the right to education and giving them that privilege is a passion of mine.”
Another question was: “In your wildest dreams, what would an empowered student body at Vermont Academy look like? What would people do? How would people act? What steps can we take to get there?” Rico said, “I think empowerment means different things to different people. A large pillar of Vermont Academy that we hold dear to us is that of community. Finding within our community what we can do to support one another and accept and celebrate each other's differences. This can lead us to make change not only within our community but outside it as well.”
The next event of the day took place back in the Class of 2011 Great Room, where Rajnii conducted a workshop session with the VA faculty. The time was spent reflecting on the powerful statements from the student panel. With Rajnii’s guidance, the faculty broke them down into overarching themes and actionable steps to help foster a more student-voiced community.
The greater community was then welcomed to the Nita Choukas Theater in Horowitz Performing Arts Hall for the final portion of the day. Dr. Jennifer L. Zaccara, gave an introductory speech, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 Nobel Prize Speech. Rajnii then took to the stage, performing several original songs, poems, and other excerpts from works by those who have inspired him in his career of sharing his activist art. The songs and readings made for a beautiful moment of reflection and understanding of the intention of his visit.
We are grateful for this experience and the inspiration Rajnii brought to our community, especially as we honor and remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This event was made possible by the Bob '37 and Beth Campbell Endowment Fund for the Arts and Lecture Series.