Bluff View seventh grader a national finalist in rap contest

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Kate Olson, 12, of Prairie du Chien, was selected as one of eight finalists from 1,000 entrants in the national Black History Rap Contest through Flocabulary. She wrote and recorded a catchy song about Edna Lewis, a pioneering African American chef and teacher. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

A Bluff View seventh grader was one of eight national finalists from over 1,000 student entrants in a Black History Rap Contest. 

Kate Olson, the daughter of Matthew and Jennifer Olson, of Prairie du Chien, wrote an original rap song about Edna Lewis, a pioneering African American chef and teacher, as part of Mrs. Michelle Kirchman’s language arts class. The 12-year-old’s confident bluster and running rhymes were a sure standout for the contest.

The rap was required to start out as a poem written about a lesser-known African American historical icon, have at least 16 lines and include a hook—or a musical phrase used to catch the listener’s ear.

“It couldn’t be someone like Rosa Parks (bus boycotter). So I just sort of picked a random name,” said Kate, whose rap about Lewis ended up 20 lines long. 

Mrs. Kirschman chose some of her students’ poems to be flipped into a rap, recorded and entered into the national contest through Flocabulary, a popular learning platform known for using creativity, culture and media to engage students through hip-hop videos and activities.

“We filmed in the band room and Mr. (Stewart) Slaman hooked up speakers and a microphone,” Kate recalled. “On the Flocab website, I could choose a beat to add to it and my background, which was Edna Lewis in her kitchen.”

Available at blog.flocabulary.com/black-history-rap-contest-results, Kate’s swaggy video moves viewers to want to rock to the beat. Her hook, “Yeah, the woman could cook!” is one that easily sticks in viewers’ minds too. 

Credited for bringing attention to southern cooking, Lewis opened a restaurant in New York City in 1948, a time period when there were few black female chefs. According to Kate, Lewis’ restaurant quickly became popular among celebrities, including Elenore Roosevelt, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Salvador Dali.

One snippet of Kate’s triumphant rap that Flocabulary especially regarded went like this:

“Edna Lewis was a chef and a teacher

Southern food is what she always loved to feature

I mean the chicken, the veggies, the pork

I know she could’ve gotten some on my fork!”

When Mrs. Kirchman and Kate learned about her rap being chosen among the eight Flocab finalists, they were excited. 

“I was awestruck to find out she had been selected as a finalist over that many submissions,” Kirchman stated. “What was even more impressive was the work she put in to turning that poem into an actual rap song with a hook, beat, background, and moves. She was a trooper and improved every single time we practiced.”

Kate said she spent between two and three hours writing her poem, about an hour and a half practicing and figuring out the beat, and another two hours filming it. “Mrs. Kirchman gave me advice and helped me practice,” Kate noted.

“We launched the Black History Rap Contest to elevate student voice and celebrate Black history and culture. The contest lets students showcase their knowledge and unique perspectives in a creative and engaging way. We are proud of all of the finalists,” said Flocabulary CEO Alex Rappaport.

The national winner was Jaden J., a freshman from Flossmoor, Ill. He won a trip to New York to film his rap at the Flocab headquarters. All entrants came from across the country in grades 3 through 12.

Kate was proud to be the only finalist from Wisconsin and shocked to be named a finalist. “I think one of the reasons I didn’t win was because I was too smiley for a rap,” she stated, innocently. But she was in the top eight of 1,000. “The recognition is pretty cool,” she said.

At Bluff View, Kate’s video was shown during Young Authors Night last month and shared with all the teachers and on Facebook. 

“Hats off to Kate and her inspiration, Edna Lewis--both of them females with a lot of heart and talent,” Mrs. Kirchman added.

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