Justice – and Poetry – For All: Celebrating African American Poetry

Sundog Poetry Center launched its new annual poetry event entitled Justice – And Poetry – For All last month at the Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte, VT. The series aspires to raise the voices of those in marginalized populations through poetry, and will focus on different groups each year. This new series began with a celebration of African-American poetry and included readings from Major Jackson, Rosa Castellano, Mary Jane Dickerson, Rajnii Eddins, LN, and Judith Yarnall, Julie Hornsby, and special teenagers Sirena Sawyer, Javan Nichols, and Asha Ganguly-Hickok. With turnout beyond expectations, the audience shared the gamut of emotions throughout the evening, responding to poetry jubilant, sorrowful, angry, humorous, historical, and contemporary. We would like to thank our very special hosts, Dr. and Mrs. Clemmons and their daughter Lydia, who graciously welcomed all 90 of us to their farm!

Watch MMCTV’s recording of the event below, as well as photography by Maia Buckingham.

Rajnii Eddins Mary Jane Dickerson Lydia Clemmons Dickerson Jackson Major Jackson Judith Yarnell Sirena Sawyer Julie Hornsby Javan Nichols Asha Ganguly-Hickok Rosa Castellano LN Bethea LN


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.

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