Justice – And Poetry – For All: Celebrating African American Poetry
June 22, 2018
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Clemmons Family Farm, Charlotte
Keynote Guest: Major Jackson
Readers: Rosa Castellano, Mary Jane Dickerson, Rajnii Eddins, Vera Escaja-Heiss, LN, Judith Yarnall, and more
Free and open to the Public.
6:00 – Refreshments
6:30 – Introductions/Overview
6:45 – Reading of Selected Works in the African American Poetry Canon
7:30 – All in attendance read Langston Hughes selection together
7:40 – Refreshments
Justice – and Poetry – For All aspires to raise Vermonters’ awareness of the persistent courage shown by those deemed marginal as they have struggled – and still struggle – for respect, recognition and inclusion in American democracy. Although often cited as one of the “whitest states in the nation,” Vermont’s historical landscape reveals how its populations have engaged from the early eighteenth century in the struggles toward inclusion of the many who have sought to become Americans. These tensions of class, race, and gender are often described polemically or in the language of the social sciences. Why, then, poetry? We believe poetry’s uncanny ability to connect our outer lives with our inner selves, to give voice to what is often left unspoken, will enable audiences at the events we create to inhabit, however briefly, the lives of others.
Our series is multifaceted: literary, historical, and geographical. Inspired by Langston Hughes’s ambition to “sing America” and by the inclusive and wonderful lists of common Americans which Walt Whitman included in “Song of Myself,” this on-going series will offer a new focus each year. This cultural mapping of Vermont tells an American story of how one small rural state embodies its own conflicted stories of first peoples and settlers, slavery and the freedom trail, women coming into possession of their own lives, immigrant laborers, and 21st century refugees resettling into a foreign culture. Each year, at a significant historical location, the voices of poets and readers will create a vital link between past and present. Highlighting such a physical trail of revelation through the voices of America’s poets who have kept alive the stories of struggle in the poetry of social justice will inform us about who we are and who we want to become as individuals and as a nation.
To broaden the audience of our program, Vermont Access Network (VANS) will be a collaborator in the project. Their documentation of Justice – and Poetry – For All will enable schools and libraries to share the programming with many more than those in attendance. They will also play an instrumental role in marketing the series through public service announcements.
While there are any number of particular populations to address with Justice – and Poetry – For All, we begin the series with a focus on African American Poetry. This inaugural event will take place on June 22, 2018 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte. This event is supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council.