Sometimes, the best way to express hopes, dreams and tragedy is through poetry. The Office of Intercultural Engagement and UNCG’s poetry group, Articulate, collaborated and presented “Celebrating Freedom Through Poetry” on Thursday, Feb. 21 in the Ferguson Auditorium.
What is the significance behind the name for this occasion? Creator of Articulate Honora Ankong shared that, “The event last night was created as the name suggests, a celebration of the 400 year mark since the first documented arrival of enslaved Africans to America. This was an opportunity to reflect through poetry on the current conditions of Black people in America by exploring and addressing the challenges still being faced and discussing ways in which we can work towards changing the future.”
The event began with guest speaker Dr. Da’Tarvia Parrish, who hails from a historically Black Christian college known as Livingstone College, which is located in Salisbury, North Carolina. She talked about the Reconstruction era which lasted for a little over a decade. She focused on the 13th, 14th and 15th reconstruction amendments.
The 13th amendment states that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This amendment was passed in 1865 with the conclusion of the Civil War. It was truly the most prominent mention of the institution of slavery in the U.S. Constitution.
The 14th amendment provided citizenship, which was passed in 1868. Though this amendment has about five sections, the purpose of it was that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”
Finally, the 15th amendment states that, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The ability to vote drastically changed the status of African American males in the United States, as they now had some (though limited) say in how the nation was run, and how decisions at the highest level would affect them.
Another guest speaker was UNCG’s own Dr. Armando Collins, who presented on Charles Chestnut’s “What is a Whiteman,” and “Future Americans.” He discussed the “concept of race, how it informs our present condition and how we can predict the future of Black people in America,” said Ankong.
The event also consisted of student members of Articulate presenting poems from the past and future. Articulate members such as Dakota Smith, Shannon Hollander, Jabar Boykin, Zahria Richardson, Ta’Mia King, Dejah Washington, Tiara Adams, Naiya Smith, Honora Ankong and Hausson Byrd walked onto Ferguson Auditorium’s stage, delivering powerful messages through words.
Shannon Hollander left the audience with a chilling message that created hope in times of violence and despair. She ended her piece declaring, “we do not have to be hopeless.” This message applies to all Americans who care for equality and justice for all citizens in this nation. There is still an ability to work towards better outcomes for all lives.
“Celebrating Freedom Through Poetry” was presented to UNCG during Black History Month. Before Black History Month, there was Negro History Week in 1950, which originated after the death of Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson. 1976 was an exciting year that allowed for the expansion from a week to a month.
After providing this event to UNCG students, what will be next for UNCG’s Articulate? Articulate, which serves students with interests in writing and performing poetry, meets weekly on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. in the MHRA building, room 2211. Their latest event took place on Thursday, Feb. 21, with a panel discussion and poetry performances to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Greensboro Massacre. This event is free and open to the public, and will be held at the Alumni House Virginia Dare room at 6 p.m.
For other upcoming events, UNCG students can follow Articulate on Instagram @uncg_articulate for updates on events and meetings.