Saturday, January 3, 2015

Danielle Hall, Margaret Walker, and #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

What a treat -- viewing poet Danielle Hall's contribution to #BlackPoetsSpeakOut.

I first met Danielle in 2010. She showed up to one of our arts events; read one of her poems; and subsequently became one of the leading contributors for programs that we did over the years.

Danielle could have chosen to read any of her own many poems addressing the struggles of black folks, but she decided to read Margaret Walker's famous "For My People." Good look.

Walker's poem offers a collective historical sketch of black people. The recurring "for my people" signals her love for the larger community. Few poems by a black poet have circulated as widely and as long as Walker's "For My People."

By including Walker, Danielle extends the practice among some contributors to  #BlackPoetsSpeakOut of including poems by prominent poets from past generations. The poets have, for instance, presented works by Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, Robert Hayden, Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton, and Claude McKay. 

In the late 1990s, about a year  before her death, I attended a reading that Margaret Walker gave. At one point, people in the crowd requested that she read her signature poem "For My People." Walker agreed to read, but before doing so, she stated that she had witnessed young people at church programs and community centers read her poem better than she could. 

I thought of the kinds of dramatic readings that Walker may have encountered when I listened to Danielle reading. She is an experienced spoken word artist, and in this reading, she brings her performance skills (pacing, voice modulations, dramatic pauses, emphasis, etc.) to bear on "For My People."

 • A Notebook on #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

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