Black Poets Speak Out

Introduction to #Blackpoetsspeakout by Mahogany L. Browne

Mahogany L. Browne author photo

#Blackpoetsspeakout, is a poetic protest which began as a tumblr page hosting a couple dozens of videos of black poets reading poetry, prayers and mantras in response to Michael Brown after his murder in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014, and the grand jury's decision on November 24 not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fired the lethal bullets. Very quickly the videos began to gain momentum and spread across the internet garnering over 250 videos (and still counting). The literary movement that encouraged the community to speak out activated a vibration of mourning and healing through literacy and was spearheaded by Cave Canem fellows: Jericho Brown, Jonterri Gadson, Amanda Johnston, Sherina Rodriguez-Sharpe, and myself. Within 30 days, Black Poets Speak Out evolved from just a website with videos, into community readings around the world, a national letter campaign, as well as lesson plans utilizing Black Poets Speak Out videos for the classroom. In this feature we present interviews with some of those BPSO community reading curators as well as lesson plans crafted specifically for some of the Black Poets Speak Out videos.

Each region approached the task of presenting a Black Poets Speak Out community reading quite differently. Some of the curators were interested in an intergenerational reading. Others were focused on highlighting the diaspora's historically rich and eerily relevant poetry by showcasing only cover poems from our literary elders. But one thing remained true: Black Poets Speak Out, as a form of art would lend to the landscape of activism with poetry, presence and power. Activism can be administered through many bodies. There isn't just one lane. There isn't just one way. Black Poets Speak Out was created out of a dire need to apply salve to some of the community's spirit. Activism looks like the sisters that founded #BlackLivesMatter & the NY #MillionsMarch. Activism can exist on a vast scale and a very regional scale. That is why #BlackPoetsSpeakOut is alive. It is rooted in a language that we been speaking. It is a truth that we been feeding our children and whispering into their hair when they sleep. With the help of the internet -- the literature can gain virality, the necessary information gained, and the legacy shared celebrated can only restore our humanity.

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