Black History deserves more than just one month for local poets


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On the first day of Black History Month, local poets are taking the time to celebrate Black artists of the past that inspired them by sharing new words of art tonight. Poetic Vibes is an open mic night organized by D. Colin— an accomplished Capital Region native who performs her work everywhere from Proctors to protests.

“A lot of my poems are driven by a quote by Nina Simone. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times,” said Colin. “Art is so essential in moving the masses toward change.” 

Colin took the time to look back on the movements of Black poetry as a student at the University of Albany. There, she learned from Dr. Leonard A. Slade, Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies.

“When slaves came to this country, we brought with us our music, and our speech pattern, and our rhythm and our culture,” said Slade.

All of this is something to be remembered, and not just during the month of February Slade said.

“Our history has value too. Our literature has value too. All of these are just as powerful, just as beautiful as other subjects,” said Slade.

From kindergarten through high school, Colin recalls learning little about Black history with the same three Black figures—Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks—on rotation for during the month of February.

This disappointment led her to spend countless hours in the library searching for people that looked like her in the books she read.

“I think I’ve been inspired by that work because it’s stood the test of time. At the same time, I wish it didn’t,” said Colin.

Although it’s difficult to know so little has changed, Colin said it’s her responsibility to keep speaking her words loudly to inspire further change.

In addition to regular performances, Colin also organizes Poetic Vibes—a weekly open mic night—where traditionally she begins the evening with a poem of her own.

Tonight the virtual event will feature Ngona. “A performance poet, multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, activist, and paradigm shifter, who for over 50 years has used culture as a tool to raise socio-political and spiritual consciousness through work that encourages critical thought,” Albany Poets stated on their website.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Slade is also a renowned poet himself, having written 22 volumes of poetry that he sells online for charity. Below is an excerpt from his book Elizabeth and Other Poems.

The Black Madonna

picking cotton on
a cold day blisters
decorated her black fingers
in the fields

She crawled on her knees
until the sun bowed
to her. Nine children
planted beneath the stars
The earth felt good to her.

You can see her now
a parched face and folded hands
she kneels in a different place
drinking blood and eating bread
at the altar

white gloves feel good to her
waving to touch the sky
hymns fill the air
They feel good to her
They feel good to her

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