April is National Poetry Month, and central to expression in the United States is the First Amendment to the Constitution. Among other liberties, the First Amendment guarantees Freedom of Speech, a pillar that defines American values.

Based out of Pittsfield, Word X Word is a program that embraces freedom of speech in its series “Poets Creating Conversation.The project tackles some of the biggest issues Americans face today. Connecting Point attended a Word X Word event in 2019, where in their own words and voicing their own opinions, people talked about being “different in America”. 

This story originally aired on July 4, 2019.


Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: April is National Poetry Month, and central to expression in the United States is the First Amendment to the Constitution, otherwise known as freedom of speech. It’s a pillar that defines American values.

Based out of Pittsfield, Word X Word is a program that embraces freedom of speech in its series Poets Creating Conversation. The project tackles some of the biggest issues Americans face today.

Connecting Point attended a Word X Word event in 2019, where, in their own words and voicing their own opinions, people talked about being different in America.

Melissa Cairns, Word x Word Poet: I asked my two year old daughter what different means. She kind of quirked up the side of her face and made a sound like, “huh?”

Melissa Cairns: Word x Word is — it’s a concept more than it is a group of people. It’s not one set group of people like a dance troupe or a theater group. It is this idea of bringing people together and creating community through words.

Melissa Cairns: And so tonight we will celebrate our differences.

Evan Goodermote, Word x Word Poet: Dark clothes, dyed hair hiding behind a mask, and yet here I stand wide open to all of you, do you see me or do I see you?

Steve Klepetar, Word x Word Poet: Which is why I seem so normal. Just another white kid going to school as if the world were clean and safe, a snug home with doors wide open to receive the free, the brave, the native born.

Greer Hed, Word x Word Performer: No one else shares your holidays or traditions, your peculiar family practices, tolerations of racist uncles, memories of boardgames on stormy nights, unspoken pacts to let elderly relatives pass into dementia with dignity. These are signposts of your unique, nay bizarre, identity.

Curtis Elfenbein, Word x Word Performer: What’s different? No one says diff-er-ent. It’s “diffrent.” And he’s like, “no, it’s diff-er-ent. It’s different.”

So we ran into my mom, and we’re like “listen to this! Diff-er-ent. Diffrent. Which of us is right?” And she couldn’t tell the difference, or hear the difference between the different differents.

Ollie Kipp, Word x Word Performer: A man with a smile and kindness about him walks in the door and exchanges one sweater for another.

Won’t you be his neighbor?

Mr. Rogers, who taught us what it’s like to be neighbors, who taught us everyone could be a neighbor, that everyone was important.

If robots became our new neighbors, what would you do? Would you smoke them out and run them off like we did to the Blacks, then the Irish, the Jewish, the Blacks again, the Mexican children at our borders? Or would you do something new?

What would Mr. Rogers do?

Won’t you be their neighbor?

Carol Durant, Word x Word Performer: Unless we change our view of the person to the left or to the right of you?

Who doesn’t have your hue?

Who doesn’t speak the English and has the etiquette that you aspire to?

Stanley Spencer, Word x Word Performer: You want something different? I’ll give you something different. The federal government claims we need to take care of our own.

Evidently, Puerto Ricans are not considered our own. Evidently, people of color are not considered our own.

Evidently, the Rainbow Community is not considered our own. Evidently, women are not considered our own.

For some, being yourself has no rewards. Being who you are is punishment.

You want something different? So do I.