Thousands of children gathered on the Art Museum steps in Philadelphia Tuesday to try and set a Guinness world record for largest creative writing lesson.
Whether they actually achieved their goal is still up in the air.
Michael Empric, an adjudicator with Guinness, said his organization will need a day or two to determine if the record attempt was successful. At issue isn’t whether enough kids showed up to set the mark. Mighty Writers, the non-profit who organized the record attempt, only needed to turn out 250 participants in order to establish a new world record.
The problem, says Empric, is whether those who showed up were actually engaged in the stated activity.
“Because it was so warm out today we had a lot of people coming in and out, if more than ten percent of the participants were not paying attention, did not write a story, or left during the record attempt, the entire record attempt is deemed unsuccessful,” he said.
The inconclusive ending threw cold water on what had been a high-profile, high-energy gathering. Appearances by former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, local radio personality Mina SayWhat, and the Phillie Phanatic lent an air of celebrity to the record attempt, which was one of the most prominent public events connecting kids to this week’s Democratic National Convention.
Thousands of children and their dutiful chaperone’s endured a long wait in intense heat. After a revolving door of speeches and warm up exercises–accompanied, of course, by the theme music to “Rocky”–the kids finally started the 15-minute writing activity shortly before 11. They were asked to write about what they would do if elected president.
There were a smattering of silly answers, including a couple advocates for increased dessert consumption. But the majority seemed to focus on sensitive national issues. Together, the responses painted a remarkable portrait of how children in Philadelphia view their communities and the problems ailing them. Racism, gun violence, and poverty emerged as prevailing themes.
“I wrote about how people have guns in the streets,” said Keyanna Foreman, 9.
“I would stop racism and let all races get a chance to explain how they feel about how cops are shooting people for no absolute good reason,” said Layla Osborne, 10. “It’s mostly the African Americans that are getting shot.”
“I wanted people who need love, food, and shelter to have that,” said Samiyah Colbert, 10. “And I said I want racism to end and be forgotten.”
When the 15 minutes was up, Mighty Writers volunteers collected booklets and submitted them to the Guinness judge. The number of booklets will be compared against the number of complimentary backpacks distributed to determine if 90 percent of those who showed actually participated in the record attempt.
As the event was breaking up around noon, one volunteer opened a booklet and found a response that consisted of a single sentence and was composed by a child identified only as “Jaisa.”
It read simply, “If I were president: Let them come in.”