Write On, Read Strong
Summer Poetry Sessions Spark Community, Celebrate Culture And History
By Lauren Poteat // Photography RADENN MEDIA GROUP
For many, Will Smith’s “Summertime” (1991) is pure, classic hip hop summer anthem. It all breaks down to smooth beats, evening breezes and cool poetry.
The “Voices & Rhythms At Sweetgrass” hosted by Sistah Joy, an esteemed poet laureate of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington, Md., served as a community celebration of the Festival Of Literary Arts (FOLA), highlighting the intersection of authors, poets, screenwriters and visual artists with sessions that ran every first Thursday of each month from May through August. It was learned at the event that the monthly program will be extended through the autumn months.
“I am always looking for an opportunity to serve my community,” Joy said. “Through this series it was my goal to fill what I believe is a void within the arts. I currently reside in south county of Prince George’s and I really wanted to provide something extra special for that area. Thus far the program has been well received by all kinds of age groups.”
Well received by all age groups, with a “sold out” performance on Aug 3, the last date of the summer series, Sistah Joy explained earnest interest in continuing the sessions well throughout the end of the year.
“You know, whenever I hear people say ‘old or young’ that they are not ‘into’ poetry, I say look around,” Joy sad. “Spoken word, hip hop, it's all poetry...from Langston Hughes to Tupac. Terminologies can turn people off, but the message is still the same...the message is one. Arts together enrich the quality of life from any era and help to continue that legacy of communication.”
With more than 20 years’ experience in poetry and storytelling, being a recipient of the Washington, DC Poet Laureate Special Award 2002, and once being asked to write tributes to U. S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Sistah Joy emphasizes that poems are more than just [art], but an essential way to life.
“These series are just as much for the community as they are for the artist,” Joy said. “The quality of life carries so many facets and provides an opportunity for the youth and the people to be optimistic about life, celebrate the elder and receive inspiration. Poetry is universal and especially impactful [sic] to underserved communities who don't necessarily have the privilege to be as exposed to such things the same way other communities are. There is power in the tongue and so much power in the spoken word.”