A Conversation with Avery R. Young BlackPoetsSpeakOut: Chicago curator
How does your BPSO event fit into the larger arts and social justice community in your city?
The main objectives of the Chicago BPSO was to:
1. Be of service to the initiative and action at large.
2. Invite and include poets who would bridge various aesthetics of black voice.
3. Invite and include artists who are active participants in both art and social justice.
And with all these things considered, BPSO is a complete and necessary fit.
As a poet, how does your work add to the narrative of arts activism as related to the Black Arts Movement?
My work is deeply influenced by the art and activism of the Black Arts Movement in content, but I also would like to say, my work is a progression of that conversation. What I am doing with poetry is celebrating black voice and culture. Understanding the importance of self-value and self-worth. My art sports the attitude "Don't come over here fucking with me Mr. Charlie, especially when you see I don't come fucking with you." My attitude within activism is more, "Mr. Charlie. I have already told you. You got no times to fuck with me. Do it if you feel like entertaining yourself, but please buy your mama a dress to mourn her child in when you do."
What organizations or literary communities collaborated for your BPSO event?
In Chicago, the Silver Room. Any and everybody else brought or came with association but as far as collaboration, that effort was in house. The Silver Room opens its doors for many readings and programming that support local artists and nonpartisans in Chicago. Eric Williams definitely has a community approach in the way he makes the store available. I have come to a number of readings and discussions in that space. But he also a space that allows artists to exhibit and sell work. His shop is an amplified microphone for the voice of the people. He generously opened his store and staff for the event.
What poem would you suggest people see from BPSO archive and why?
I love Kelly Norman Ellis' reading of Mama Lucille's work. Mama Lucille is a writer I have been reading throughout all this to ease my mind. Mama Kelly comes attached to the Gwendolyn Brooks center. Teaching at the MFA program at Chicago State University. Many contemporary poets, black and otherwise, have her hands on them. Contextually, historically, her reading that work speaks volumes to the whole since of mattering. And not just mattering now. We been mattering.
Only other joint would be Ciara Miller's reading of Carolyn Rodgers. Actually that over Mama Kelly. Here is why. Mama Rodgers was a poet and activist from Chicago. Ciara embodied that language. The poem interrogates: who is the enemy? Them or us? How they make us our enemy? What is our responsibility in understanding that those of us that act in their behalf are doing just that? It's not just the content of the poem but the level of engagement in Ciara's voice and body. It's loud. Sure of its tongue. Art!