JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Poets influenced by the Civil Rights Movement used their words to promote pride in one’s identity, honor those who fought and died for freedom, express resistance to oppression, encourage strength and share wisdom during a dark time in American history.
For some, the fight for equality still exists today, and these present-day poets illustrate that struggle through the art of spoken word.
Poetry is an expression of a moment in rhyme; stories told throughout history that withstand the test of time.
“This may be instruction, this may be encouragement, this might be a way to communicate joy. This may be something Black folks can take and teach our babies; affirmations,” said poet Amanda Furdge.
The art of written and spoken word illustrated the plight African Americans endured during the civil rights era. The pride, the pain, the glory and the terror.
“The reason they were doing poetry back then was because they were told their entire lives that weren’t supposed to, or they couldn’t do it. After freedom was given to them, most of them went off to become preachers for the religion they were taught. Most of them became schoolteachers for the English or whatever they were taught. They had to write, they had to communicate and that’s how we communicated even when we were slaves with songs. Songs are nothing but poetry with rhythm and melody to it.”
The poets said poems today are as relevant as those of yesterday. The context and the rhymes may change, but the purpose stays the same.
“All the poems written in the Reconstruction era were about morality. We’re about religion. We’re about family that’s literally what it’s about now. It’s just the context, so being relevant is the conversation around the conversation,” said Donovan Barner.
For these poets, they said their art is about relevance, inspiration, change, and engagement.
“Change isn’t only supposed to happen with us but with everybody. I feel like when everyone holds themselves accountable for the goods and the bad, we can navigate the goods and the bad together. I’m sick of the separation and the separation in us that I want to combat. That’s why I do what I do,” said Barner.
The two pieces featured in this story are Black Magic Talk by Amanda Furdge and The Ones Who Stayed by Donovan “Mastadon” Barner.
The artists believe poetry is used to romanticize the glory and sorrows of history, Black history and American history.