Friday, March 02, 2007

Catholic Spirit Article on Moi....(6.25.06)

Friends, Colleagues, Associates, Loves,

Just in case you wanted to know any more about me - and WHY I Do WHAT I DO - here's Chris William's article from the Catholic Spirit, interviewing me as a catholic in the creative life.....
Gotta rep for God and the Catholics...know what I'm saying?
We gotta lotta bad press a few years back, and I'm just doing my part to be of the GREATER Love...(the RADICAL LOVE and Justice catholic that I am...)

Beside, most of you know already how much I love preaching the Gospel, (using words only when I have to!!!..--paraphrasing my guy, St. Francis.)

Peace out,


Catholics and the Creative Life
June 22, 2006
Teacher helps young artists
deliver a social message
By Chris Williams
The Catholic Spirit

Melissa Borgmann interviews Andrew Thomas, a sophomore at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, about the artistic literacy process during a popular songwriting class at the school.

Melissa Borgmann says she is on a social justice mission to empower inner-city youth in the Twin Cities.

Borgmann, 37, is co-founder of Teens Rock the Mic, an ensemble of urban poets and youth leaders who travel around the nation to participate in performance art.

"My mission for Teens Rock the Mic is to impact society by giving voice to those without [one] — through story, experience and art of spoken word," said Borgmann, a member of St. Philip in Minneapolis and head of the Juno Collective, a nonprofit, umbrella organization for artists and groups that partner to serve communities' artistic and literacy needs.

Through Borgmann's instruction, teenage poets, young activists and artists work to promote social justice and improve life in their communities.

For example, Teens Rock the Mic student Ashley "Younique" Gilbert, a senior at Central High School in St. Paul, opened the Focus on Poverty forum in March at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in St. Paul by reciting her poem, "Poor We, Why. . . ?"

The poem, summing up Gilbert's life as a youth living in poverty, helped frame the forum's three-hour brainstorming session on how the Twin Cities community can end poverty by 2020. The session was attended by Archbishop Harry Flynn and Lutheran Bishop Peter Rogness.

Young poets from Teens Rock the Mic also attended the Peace Games, a two-week-long exhibition of athletic competition, arts and culture held last July in Minneapolis, Borgmann said.

"The goals for the Peace Games event was to show the positive side of a part of the city that is struggling with crime and poverty," she said. "My teens composed works about peace that reveal the pain, despair and hope they see around them."

Borgmann said she found her true calling in life only after working in the business world and reflecting on her faith.

"I knew that I was called to be a teacher, but I didn't want to be a teacher because I didn't want to be poor," said Borgmann, who has a bachelor's degree in English and business administration and a master's degree in teaching from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

"But after working in the publishing industry and making tons of money, I found that it wasn't feeding my spirit or making my heart happy," she said. "So I returned to what I love — that's teaching, the arts and directing live performances."

"I also learned that I can use my Catholic faith as a school teacher in a public setting," Borgmann said.

Borgmann, however, said she does not preach Catholicism to her public school students.

"I don't hammer my students over the head with Catholic doctrine and practices or tell them what is the right way to believe," Borgmann said.

"I demonstrate my faith by employing it through my curriculum and instruction and my work with each individual student," she said.

Borgmann said her desire to empower students is rooted in her Catholic faith, particularly the church's social teachings on the poor and vulnerable. She credits the late Father Greg Tolaas, who served as the University of St. Thomas' director of campus ministry from 1990 to 1997 and then as pastor of St. Philip until his death in September 2003 from cystic fibrosis.

"I knew I was a total Christian, but I didn't know I was Catholic," Borgmann said. "I didn't embrace my Catholicism until I got to St. Thomas and met Father Greg Tolaas.

"I believed in the way he preached the Gospel and talked about social justice," she added. "He taught about how we should leave our comfort zone and embrace the diversity and poverty that surrounded it.

"That's when I started being a Catholic," said Borgmann, who serves as the secretary of the St. Philip parish council and as a member of the parish social justice committee. "I claimed my faith. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to connect with him, and I wanted to be very public in my faith like him."

Borgmann said the children she teaches are the ones that are failing in school, struggling with standardized tests or don't feel successful or intelligent. She said she works to help them discover their God-given gifts and use them.

"My purpose as a teacher is how do I make the teachings of Jesus Christ real, relevant and engaging through drama, poetry and the arts so that children want to absorb it" — not by using explicit Christian language or images, but by emphasizing positive values common to the Gospel as well as broader society, she said.

Borgmann said she draws from the works of noted writers such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Barbara Kingsolver to link Gospel values "to what they've seen in their own lives, to what they are learning, whether it's through a book, a song, or something another student shares.

"Kids get that from me. They feel they are in a safe space and they were invited to make a connection between literature and invited to share and perform the understanding of the text in ways that aren't typical," she said.

Borgmann, a Nebraska native, said a sad experience when she was a teenager helped her to discern that performance art was her calling.

"I had this amazing high school speech and drama teacher, who was a born-again Christian who had the longest-running record of winning speech and drama state championships, and I was part of that legacy," Borgmann said.

On the day of a state drama championship finals, Borgmann said her boyfriend committed suicide just hours before she captured first place in the tournament.

"I don't think my boyfriend knew why he was here or if he was loved," she said.

"That was the first time I started to get it," she said. "'Why do you perform? I answered it: If I have the ability to make anybody laugh or communicate love, I am doing something greater and practicing the faith. I realize this isn't about me." she said.

"That day, I heard God speaking to me through the Holy Spirit in an incredible way about what I was to do with my life," Borgmann said.

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