Political Activism and Poetry Collide to Bring People Together

fist_and_pencil.jpgBy Arhm Choi

Asheville has quite a history of using art as a venue of resistance. Poetry slams, such as the ones held on the first Sunday of every month at Firestorm Café, have been an alternative form of media aimed at inciting dialogue and action.

Graham Hackett, the organizer of the POETIX program, teaches writing workshops to incarcerated youth as a way to work against the growing gang problems in the area. He says, “The power of writing is a way to become more socially and self aware.” Hackett is organizing a show called “Treason” that is billed with the tagline: “seeking justice from the past to secure a brighter future,” through insightful and articulate creative expression.

Yet art is not just a way to tap into personal power and give
everyone space to express themselves: it is also a magnet drawing
people together. The drive of the annual poetry festival “WordFest”
that begins April 30  is “because poetry unites people.” All of these
manifestos are those of people who live right here in Asheville. All of
these ideas are behind a exciting poetry event hosted by Dwayne Burton
and The Flood Word Projec during the weekend of April 25.

The poetry show has been added to the Burton Street Neighbors
Clean-Up Day and is geared towards gathering support and creatively
protesting the ill effects of the I-26 connector. Dwyane Burton says “I
think that any type of creative expression for justice is good. We need
to let our feelings be known to the world for justice’s sake.  Let’s
start conversations in constructive and creative ways to solve our
differences. If you can express opinions and solutions with each other,
that is power.”

Mark Prudowsky, an organizer for the Project, wanted to plan
this spoken word event “to show solidarity. Historically, black
communities are the least considered and are often the sacrificial
lambs. We want to see if we can help stop that from happening.” As with
all these organizations, art and poetry are being used to work towards
change through the vocalization of visions, sorrows, and hopes.

There are many projects to be excited about during these times
of financial and social challenge. The Burton St. Clean-Up Day will
focus on tending gardens, cleaning empty lots, and building porches
among many other projects. This month alone is home to events that
could inspire and energize us, helping us realize that we are not alone
as we think in doing the work that needs to be done. It’s about writing
as witness to horrific and heartwarming events alike. Happy National
Poetry Month. Live as art.

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