I can still remember how I felt when I first saw her on TV. She looked regal, she stood tall and strong, in a floor-length black coat. Her name was Maya Angelou a name that I will never forget. She stood at the podium of the inauguration of former president Bill Clinton and eloquently recited, On The Pulse of The Morning.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Facedown in ignorance,
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today,
You may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
It says come rest here by my side.
I was just 17, and I remember watching Maya Angelou just like it was yesterday. That was it! Instantly I knew she was what I wanted to be. I had always been a lover of words. I learned to read when I was three. My first book was Marvin Kay Mooney Wil You, Please Go Now, by Dr. Seuss. After that, I devoured books.
I remember in 5th grade there was a little White girl in my class named Lacey. My teacher would always call on Lacey to read even when I waved my hand so violently in the air that I thought my arm would fall off. I longed to be called on to read. One day the teacher said, “Everyone should read like Lacey.” I went home that night and cried. Why not me? So, I practiced reading, speaking every word clearly but I knew I would never be Lacey. It was the first time I realized that I was different and even with my abilities I would have to fight through that difference for people to see and hear me. So, I read more. I read aloud. I practice how words fit in my mouth. I listened to how they sounded to my ears. Reading aloud was like hearing a melody. I wrote. I studied. I went to college and studied Communications, graduating with honors. And still, I read more, wrote more and spoke more, never forgetting 5th grade, my teacher, and Lacey.
It was not until I saw Maya Angelou reciting her poem that I knew I didn’t have to be Lacey. I could be me. And what I had to say had value.
I believe that I have been given a gift. It is not a gift that I asked for but one that God saw fit to bless me with for a purpose. I have had the honor of performing my poetry in a multitude of places. It is always a privilege to share my work. But what is most meaningful to me is when people tell me, “You changed my life,” “I never thought about it like that,” “You have opened my eyes,” that makes it all worth it.
My writing is challenging, and for some, it is difficult to read. There was an orator and author named Lucy Parsons that was described by the Chicago Police Department as, “More dangerous than a thousand rioters.” To be described that way is when you know you are speaking truth to power. And it is for that very reason that I have been sent. My writing dares people to think differently and then to act differently. Will it be uncomfortable? Probably so however, I believe it is in the uncomfortable spaces that change can take place. My sole (soul) purpose in speaking and writing is not that I entertain you, although if you are entertained by my words as a byproduct of justice, that is alright with me. However, I am not writing for your entertainment, I am writing to shake a nation. It may not feel good, but I believe it is good for the betterment of us, our state and this country.
I am honored that The Outlaw Poet, Ron Whitehead and Professor, Graduate Director & Chair of Pan-African Studies Dr. Ricky Jones are nominating me to be the first Black female Kentucky Poet Laureate. If you would like to send a letter of support for my nomination for Poet Laureate of Kentucky, please send your letter of support to Ron Whitehead at firstname.lastname@example.org (Letters can come from anywhere in the world. You do not have to be a resident of Kentucky.) If you would like to send your letter to me directly or send a copy of your letter to me, it can be sent to my email, email@example.com. Letters should be sent by Saturday, September 1, 2018.
The salutation on the letters will be “To the Kentucky Arts Council.” You may send plain text or attach a letter of recommendation as a PDF or .jpg file via email
The committee’s judging criteria are:
1. Work is informed by living in Kentucky—I think anyone who knows my work knows how deeply my work is informed by my experience living in Kentucky. A few words in your Letter of Recommendation about my deep honoring of Kentucky in my work will be helpful in the letter of support. (I have lived in Kentucky for over 20 years, and it’s is where my entire family is from and where I call home. It is where I found me.)
2. Work’s high degree of creativity and clarity of form and style as demonstrated by the receipt of special honors, awards and other forms of recognition—any words of support that communicate your sense of the strength of my work will be helpful.
3. Nominee has the capacity to promote the literary arts in Kentucky through readings and/or public presentations— Any words you might share about what a great job you think I will do as Kentucky’s ambassador of poetry will be most helpful.
Thank you for your support.