Tyson Laa-Deng ’14 created this photo essay as his “Arts-Threaded Project” for English 9. Students in this class just completed reading the novel “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest Gaines and were asked to use an art form to express their interpretations of the book. Tyson, an enthusiastic photographer, raided the costume closet to find the perfect outfits for the three leading characters in the novel. The text deals with the themes of racism, justice, and personal and social transformation.
Classmate Mekhi Crooks ’14 created a dance for her artistic interpretation of the plight of the novel’s protagonist, Jefferson, the wrongly accused young African-American boy awaiting execution in Jim Crowe-era Louisiana in 1949. To gospel strains, Mekhi captured Jefferson’s heartbreaking struggle to become a man as he learns “a lesson before dying.”
Kenny Navedo ’14 composed a narrative poem about Jefferson. Brendan Palmer ’14 and Riley Lawton ’14 created drawings to depict the story. “Reading this novel together has been an emotional one for all of us,” says Jan Haman. “I think our empathy for the characters and issues in this novel have bonded us as often a shared experience does."