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Engaging Our Community

Simonette Baltazar Vermillion teaches Pre-AP English 1 at Rancho Verde High School. She is new to the oral history project and asked her students to focus on artivism. She says that the “Oral History Project gave my students the opportunity to engage with their community and offered them the chance of learning new skills they will need to be successful in high school, college, and career. I had an awesome team and mentors who gave me all the resources I needed to implement the project successfully and were quick to respond to all my questions throughout the process.”

Simonette suggests the following for educators new to oral history projects: “Show YouTube videos to introduce Artivism. Introduce students to the community and who can they contact. Give students time to compose letters to the person they chose to interview; Show sample letters. Once students had conducted their interviews and consent forms collected, let students share their experiences on what they had learned about our community. Let students brainstorm with each other on how they can present their project through art. Have an honest discussion on their findings.”

Select artwork to see the oral history of the person (the narrator) who inspired it and a brief artist statement. 

Names of narrators appear first, followed by the artist statement. 

All oral histories and artist statements have been edited for length and clarity. Oral histories and artist work/statement are shared with permission. 


A spoken word poem based on the oral history of Dr. Judy White

Anyone can say they love you 

But does that make it true 

I can hurt you with my words or my fist 

And strip you from your meaningful bliss 

That’s not love 

Love is not a hug 

Nor is it a present containing a mug 

Love is an act 

When all of humanity is one pact 

Love defeats those who are racist, sexist, prejudice, rapist and immoral 

And highlights those who are honorable and loyal 

Loyal to God’s commandment

To love thy neighbor as thy self 

For those who don’t love, don’t know God, for God is love. 

Now let that be used as empowerment 

To help people with their health and wealth 

And show them what mankind is truly made of 

But hold on, let’s not get to hasty 

We have to digest the impact 

The reason why an African American woman should have been broken but is still intact 

Well, let me tell you gracefully 

A woman who’s smart and bright who has a doctorate 

And is also in charge of a corporate 

Had to go through rough times but see you didn’t know that 

A young African American girl dealing with difficult times in her household and doubt from others 

 Has a passion to learn and a passion to exceed not only for herself but for people all over. 


She had a love for learning 

Someone loved her enough to motivate, encourage, and see her thriving 

She loves students so she supports, teaches, helps and guides young brilliant minds

Like mines and those throughout the course time. 

So to make our Moreno Valley community great, which is what many people propose 

It’s so simple because the answer will always be love! 

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