Where I’m From Writing Prompt

July 15th, 2015 by Admin

Using Willie Perdomo’s poem “Where I’m From” as a creative prompt, have students write poems that express where they come from and how they view the world: their neighborhoods, homes, and experiences.

A great example of this type of poem is “I Am From” by DM, a WritersCorps youth at juvenile hall, who took inspiration from Willie Perdomo’s poem.  Read or listen to both poems. Ask students what they like about each piece.

Before writing, have students make a list of sensory details of their neighborhood. Come up with various categories and have students write at least three to five things under each category. These can include: neighborhood sounds and textures,  people/things you see, backyard or kitchen smells, etc.

Writing Assignment:

1. Stanzas should have a time continuum (morning to night or sundown to sunup, etc.)

2. Students can repeat the phrase “Where I’m From” or ”I Am From” or make up their own.

3. Students should use the categories and sensory imagery to help them describe their surroundings.

4.  Be as specific as possible. Use similes or metaphors, if you can.

5. Have students write for 10-15 minutes and encourage them to fill the entire page. Share out.

“I Am From” (inspired by Willie Perdomo’s poem “Where I’m From”)
by DM

I am from the hood where growing up is hard
Where kids have fun by throwing rocks at cars
If you ain’t good in my hood, then I suggest you don’t come around
If you claim somewhere and don’t carry a gun
You labeled a clown

I am from basketball hoops with no nets
To foil in my bike rims and riding dirt bikes up and down steps
I am from the hood where we don’t play about our guapo
Fiends is washing cars and candy houses
Selling everything, including nachos

Wake up in the morning and ain’t nothing to eat
So I grab a pack of Top Ramen noodles, crunch ‘em up
And that’s a meal for me
I am from cars riding on 24’s and dubs blasting through 415’s
Girls walking around with knives, mace, hammers and getting pregnant by fifteen
Pop Warner was the thang, it’s either that or you gon’ slang
Birthdays was cool
No cakes or presents but we got bottles
Turn up, turn up—all gas, all throttle

I am from police sirens and gun shots every night
Selling drugs to feed our family, in our head we doing what’s right
I’m just chilling with my friends, having fun, going on about my day
Trying to do right, avoid getting shot, so every night I pray

We ain’t even doing nothing, but police harassing us, trying to label us a gang
I’m just trying to protect my family and live my life
But the system
Sees it another way.

–”I’m From” was published in the chapbook Free Me Fast: Voices From Inside San Francisco’s Juvenile Justice Center, Volumes i & II (2015), edited by teaching artist Maddy Clifford. Click here for more information about this three-part publication project.


“Where I’m From” by Willie Perdomo

Because she liked the “kind of music” that I listened to and she liked the way I walked as well as the way I talked, she always wanted to know where I was from.

If I said that I was from 110th Street and Lexington Avenue, right in the heart of a transported Puerto Rican town, where the hodedores live and night turns to day without sleep, do you think then she might know where I was from?

Where I’m from, Puerto Rico stays on our minds when the fresh breeze of café con leche y pan con mantequilla comes through our half-open windows and under our doors while the sun starts to rise.

Where I’m from, babies fall asleep to the bark of a German shepherd named Tarzan. We hear his wandering footsteps under a midnight sun. Tarzan has learned quickly to ignore the woman who begs her man to stop slapping her with his fist. “Please, baby! Por favor! I swear it wasn’t me. I swear to my mother! Mameeee!!” (Her dead mother told her that this would happen one day.)

Where I’m from, Independence Day is celebrated every day. The final gunshot from last night’s murder is followed by the officious knock of a warrant squad coming to take your bread, coffee and freedom away.

Where I’m from, the police come into your house without knocking. They throw us off rooftops and say we slipped. They shoot my father and say he was crazy. They put a bullet in my head and say they found me that way.

Where I’m from, you run to the hospital emergency room because some little boy spit a razor out of his mouth and carved a crescent into your face. But you have to understand, where I’m from even the dead have to wait until their number is called.

Where I’m from, you can listen to Big Daddy retelling stories on his corner. He passes a pint of light Bacardi, pouring the dead’s tributary swig unto the street. “I’m God when I put a gun to your head. I’m the judge and you in my courtroom.”

Where I’m from, it’s the late night scratch of rats’ feet that explains what my mother means when she says slowly, “Bueno, mijo, eso es la vida del pobre.” (Well, son, that is the life of the poor.)

Where I’m from, it’s sweet like my grandmother reciting a quick prayer over a pot of hot rice and beans. Where I’m from, it’s pretty like my niece stopping me in the middle of the street and telling me to notice all the stars in the sky.

Where to Find ‘Street Heart: Love Poems to the Mission Murals’

July 9th, 2015 by Admin

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This pocket-sized book takes you on a tour of San Francisco’s famed Mission murals through the eyes of young poets.

Our 4th and 5th graders from Sanchez Elementary worked with WritersCorps teaching artist Annie Rovzar to write poems inspired by the vibrant murals and the stories they conveyed.

In a city and neighborhood increasingly threatened by the cultural erasure that is gentrification, these poems — in conversation with the artworks that inspired them — bear witness to the historical and cultural roots of the Mission. A map is included should you want to take a walking tour of the murals.

Available now at our online store and at the following local businesses in San Francisco:

Adobe Books & Arts Cooperative, 3130 24th St, 94110
Artillery Apparel Gallery, 2751 24th St, 94110
Foxglove, 3043 24th St, 94110
Luz de Luna, 3182 24th St, 94110
Mission Praxis, 3047 24th St, 94110
Modern Times Bookstore Collective, 2919 24th St, 94110
Precita Eyes Mural Arts, 2981 24th St, 94110

Cafe Sophie, 3463 16th St, 94114

Hayes Valley
Green Arcade, 1680 Market Street, 94102

Noe Valley
Folio Books, 3957 24th St, SF CA 94114

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2015 Site Pubs & Merchandise

June 10th, 2015 by Admin

We’ve updated our online store with new books and merchandise!

Thanks to all of our amazing students who we had the honor of working with this year: Sanchez Elementary School, International Studies Academy, the San Francisco Public Library, College Track-San Francisco, Oasis For Girls, and the Juvenile Justice Center.

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WritersCorps poster, Juvenile Justice Center
Cover art by Joshua Mays


WritersCorps poster, College Track San Francisco
Cover art by Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski


New t-shirt design and tote bag illustrated by local artist Andy Statmiller.

Fresh Off the Press: Our 2015 Publications

May 18th, 2015 by Admin

Check out our 2015 WritersCorps publications created by students from Sanchez Elementary School, International Studies Academy, the San Francisco Public Library, College Track-San Francisco, and the Juvenile Justice Center. We unveiled these amazing publications at our 2015 year-end event, WritersCorps WordStorm: A Celebration of Student Writing.

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(Left) A tour of the Mission murals through the eyes of young poets. Teaching artist: Annie Rovzar

(Right) Anthology of student writings about the journey of adolescence. Teaching artist: Sandra Garcia Rivera
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(Left) Sci-fi and fantasy stories, and the art and writing activities that inspired them. Teaching artist: Rose Tully.

(Right) Chapbook with poems that express the emotions, creativity, dreams, and challenges faced by incarcerated youth. Teaching artist: Maddy Clifford
Oasis Postcards     College_Track-Chapbook-Final-1

(Left) Postcard series created by Oasis For Girls students using metaphor, imagery and hand-lettering to create their unique postcard story. Teaching artist: Rose Tully

(Right) Chapbook that highlights the struggles and triumphs of being a teen through the lens of How To poems. Teaching artist: Maddy Clifford



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WritersCorps Wordstorm — May 20

May 6th, 2015 by Admin


Part open mic, part arts and literary fair, WordStorm is our year-end event where students come together to create, share and inspire each other. At WordStorm, we’ll also unveil all the books, albums, films, posters and other projects our students have created throughout the year.

WHATWritersCorps WordStorm: A Celebration of New Writing

WHEN: May 20, 3:30- 6:00 p.m.

WHERE: San Francisco Main Public Library, Lower Level
100 Larkin Street at Grove Street

COST: Free

Visit our Facebook event page: http://bit.ly/WCWordStorm

PUBLIC TRANSIT: Muni Lines 5, 19, 21, 43, 49; Civic Center BART and Muni Metro

Audio recordings of poems read by our students: http://bit.ly/WordStormPoems

Event photos by Andria Lo


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