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Beginning Again

Movement 515 evolves into SAY

Now that the dust has settled and two years have passed, the former poets of Movement 515, a poetry group under the RunDSM organization have come forward to share their experiences. There’s been heartache, there’s been grief, even guilt. These “femme-bodied alumni” (as they refer to themselves) have spoken, and they are not done.

“We all feel like we survived our adolescence because of that space,”

— Waughtal-Magiera

Movement 515 and Urban Leadership were programs offered through Des Moines Public Schools from 2013-2021. According to an article DMPS published about the program, “The groundbreaking new course is taught by Emily Lang and Kristopher Rollins who dash from Central Campus back to Harding Middle School after beginning their days with UL 101. Even though the school year has just begun, some of the students have already bought into the Rollins/Lang mantra about youth being heard/youth aren’t the future; they’re the present through their involvement with Movement 515, the afterschool spoken-word poetry program led by the partners in rhyme.”

One of the students who was heavily involved in Urban Leadership and Movement 515 as not only a student, but a mentor is Leah Waughtal-Magiera.

“We all feel like we survived our adolescence because of that space,” Waughtal-Magiera, who is now a Community Schools Coordinator at Moulton Elementary said.

Waughtal-Magiera attended North High School from her freshman year through her senior year when she got involved in Urban Leadership and Movement 515. She then became a poet mentor and later was employed by DMPS.
The students in this group always met at North for workshops which were led by Rollins and Lang. The programs continued until 2021, successfully providing outlets for students to express themselves through art and poetry, until a scandal shook the community.
According to a lawsuit filed by the victim, in October of 2019, Rollins, initiated an inappropriate relationship with a student who attended East and was a member of Urban Leadership and Movement 515. Their relationship continued on and off until Rollins was put on professional leave after the relationship came to light and ended his life on August 20, 2021. Shortly after, Lang discontinued her involvement with RunDSM and resigned from Des Moines Public Schools.
Movement 515 wasn’t just a commitment after school, this became family. Rollins and Lang were second parents to almost all of these young people. The poets knew they had to move forward, they had to keep Movement 515 alive, for them.
“They were the co-founders but it’s always been our organization, the workshops always belonged to the young people,” Waughtal-Magiera said.
How did Movement 515 survive this? It didn’t, it had to evolve. They had to stand up and keep going for the future poets.
In the summer of 2023, the mentors of SAY issued a statement on their social media account that said, “we are sad and excited to announce our parting with an entity that holds so many memories. We have dedicated ourselves to moving forward and forging a new and safer space. Serving All Youth (SAY) is that space.”
SAY becoming a nonprofit organization has brought joy. Stepping away from the DMPS has given them freedom to work with students in their own way, but the aftermath has been tough. Workshops have been hard to grow and sponsor. Teachers are stressed and overwhelmed. Students are shy and more introspective about joining these workshops and sharing their thoughts and feelings, most importantly their art. Despite these challenges, these poets never gave up.
“We can be more radical in our compassion, we can be more radical in our intensions,” Waughtal-Magiera said.
The idea of changing the organization name to “SAY” came from a poem written by the students, it was a literation that repeated in a poem. East senior Sanaa Hayes is a current member of SAY, she joined second semester of last year. Seeing the posters on the walls, she eventually found East English teacher, Lex McClellen and asked her about it.
The former mentors successfully transitioned from Movement 515 to SAY by maintaining that safe and creative space that students depend on. It’s somewhere the poets can fully express themselves in a way that heals them. Where they can release trauma.
“I think that the feeling of releasing trauma and being able to see and decipher my innermost thoughts on paper compels me to write my poems. The push of being able to share myself with at least one person in the audience who understands me compels the performance part,” Hayes said.
These poets didn’t let this experience get in the way of their passion and they never gave up their love for poetry.
“I feel incredibly proud of our team for taking the leap to become our own nonprofit. The past two years have not been easy, but we are excited by the opportunity to grow and begin, again,” Waughtal-Magiera said.


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