More than 1,000 members of Jack and Jill of America Inc. are slated to convene in Philadelphia for the organization’s 40th national convention this week.
It will be held under the theme “Living the Legacy: Honoring Our Past, Celebrating Our Present, Securing Our Future” July 24–29 at Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.
The event, which marks the organization’s 75th anniversary, is expected to draw 1,500 attendees and have an economic impact of $3.2 million.
National Jack and Jill President Tara Joseph-Labrie will preside over the convention, which will include the election of national officers and leadership development.
“This is the largest-attended convention that we’ve had in Jack and Jill’s history, and I’m just delighted to be the national president and be the host and serve as the chair,” said Joseph-Labrie.
“This convention will highlight our history, our members, our achievements and the partnerships we have forged over the years. We look forward to sharing our extraordinary history and allowing everyone throughout the Greater Philadelphia region to have an opportunity to learn about our impact as we gather in Philadelphia for this milestone event.”
Jack and Jill will host a teen summit titled “Aim to Live, Lead and Succeed” on July 24 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Children from the Philadelphia Boys and Girls Club have been invited to attend the summit, which will feature a keynote address by Marlon Smith, founder of Street Academics, a high school youth mentoring program.
A convention highlight includes a public meeting July 25 from 5:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown’s Grand Ballroom. Valerie B. Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama will be the featured speaker. Lifetime achievement awards will be presented to poet Sonia Sanchez and music legends Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Mayor Michael Nutter and representatives from the region’s National Pan-Hellenic Council’s fraternities and sororities are expected to attend.
Joseph-Labrie says community service projects are an important aspect of this year’s convention.
“I am a true believer that Jack and Jill was founded not only for the principle of the social and educational activities, but more importantly for the philanthropy, and to ensure that our children truly understand the importance of giving back,” she said.
With that in mind, members of Jack and Jill will renovate a local elementary school library during the convention.
Members from Jack and Jill chapters in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware have led the convention steering committee.
“It is with enormous pride that we welcome our members and their families to Philadelphia. This committee has worked extremely hard to ensure that everyone has an interactive and educational experience during their stay in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection,” said Henri G. Moore, chair of the steering committee.
“We look forward to our members having an enjoyable time while they carry out the business of Jack and Jill, and are empowered to return to their communities ready to make a positive and lasting impact,” said Moore.
In addition to attending meetings and participating in community service projects, convention attendees will visit regional attractions such as the Franklin Institute and the New Jersey State Aquarium.
Members of Jack and Jill say the organization has enabled their children to form longstanding friendships and prepares them for the future.
Steering committee co-chair Shelly Pullian appreciates how it is helping to prepare her children for future leadership roles.
“We are training leaders of tomorrow. Once our children become teens they actually learn how to become leaders of the organization. We do a lot of leadership building. We do a lot of financial awareness building so that our children are prepared to enter the world and be active members of society,” said Pullian.
Sandy Booth, a former president of the Jack and Jill Philadelphia chapter, joined the organization three years ago. Her daughter and stepson have participated in activities such as holiday brunches and ski trips.
“My family has really enjoyed our association. My daughter has made some of her best friends in Jack and Jill,” said Booth.
“It not only gives opportunities for our kids to be involved, but for mothers to be involved in governance of the organization and steering the direction of the group.”
Jack and Jill was founded in Philadelphia on Jan. 24, 1938, by 20 African-American mothers who wanted their children to have cultural opportunities, develop leadership skills and form social networks.
Today the organization has more than 220 chapters whose families represent 30,000 family members. Membership is by invitation only and is open to mothers of children between the ages of 2 and 19.
The organization’s national programming thrust, AIM for Healthy Living, is designed to engage and encourage children to live healthy lifestyles through chapter programming and decrease the risk of preventable diseases that disproportionately impact the African-American community.
Chapters hold cultural activities, leadership training and legislative and social events for their children, while hosting fundraisers to support the Jack and Jill of America Foundation, the organization’s philanthropic arm that has distributed millions of dollars to communities across the country since its inception in 1968.
Notable Jack and Jill alumnae include actresses Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen, Betty Shabazz and Dr. Lilia Abron, the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate in chemical engineering.
When local poetry legend Sonia Sanchez heard that the “HistoryMakers” wanted her to go into Benjamin Franklin High School and talk to students about the importance of making a commitment and keeping it, she immediately knew exactly what she would talk about.
“I wanted to make a pact with them. I wanted them to understand that they are writing history every day, and that the history they need to write is about loving, caring and forgiving,” Sanchez said. “So that is how I approached it. I’ll be back to check on them.”
Specifically, Sanchez, who spoke to students in the crowded school auditorium last Friday, wanted to express to them that violence – Black-on-Black violence specifically – accomplishes nothing and, in fact, destroys history. So when she finished addressing the crowded auditorium, Sanchez entered into a pact with the students, telling them she would be back in a year from now to make sure that the students refrain from any violence for the next year.
Sanchez’s appearance at Ben Franklin was part of the HistoryMakers second annual Back to School with the HistoryMakers. Based in Chicago, the HistoryMakers is the nation’s largest African American archive of video oral history. Dedicated to preserving the personal histories of well-known and unsung African Americans, the organization has interviewed more than 2,000 history makers, with the goal of creating an archive of 5,000 interviews (30,000 hours) for the creation of a one-of-a-kind digital archive to be used as an educational resource.
Other local history makers who participated on Friday were health care advocate Renee J. Amoore and Judge Theodore McKee (Harrison Elementary); concert pianist and cultural educator Blanche Burton-Lyles (Creative and Performing Arts High School); former City Council member Augusta Clark (Vaux High School); and United Bank of Philadelphia founder Emma Chappell (Nebinger Elementary).
Sanchez was one of 500 speakers last Friday around the country. Other notable participants included Senior Advisor and Assistant to President Barak Obama, Valarie Jarret; Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick; former Ambassador Andrew Young; hip-hop artist Common; actress Melba Moore and others.
Sanchez addressed the audience for about a half hour. After that, she fielded questions from the students in a question and answer format. Before she left, Sanchez also visited some class rooms.
Knowing in advance about the visit, Ben Franklin Principal Christopher Johnson made sure the students were familiar with Sanchez’s work. Sanchez, a former Temple professor – Temple is one of eight universities where she has taught - has authored more than a dozen books of poetry. She has lectured at more than 500 colleges, and she was the first to create and teach a course based on black women and literature in the United States.
“We had them read up on her the week before she came,” Johnson said. “We wanted to make sure that the kids knew who she was and what they were in store for. They got into it.”
Johnson was pleased that Sanchez committed to coming back to Franklin in a year to make sure that the students adhered to the anti-violence pact. Johnson and his staff also spoke with the students about implementing strategies to avoid confrontations rather than just advising them to stay out of trouble.
“We always tell children, ‘don’t fight, don’t fight.’ But a lot of times we don’t give them strategies to use when they find themselves in certain situations,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you really have to break it down and tell kids what to do in certain situations, so we did that also.”
Sanchez says that one of the best ways to avoid confrontation is to always be willing to forgive. She says she learned this when her father, who was sometimes critical of her line of work, died a few years ago.
“We had reached the point where we were holding onto anger,” Sanchez said. “We loved each other but there were some things that we wouldn’t let go. I told him one day that I had forgiven him for anything he had ever done or said to me in my lifetime. We both forgave each other before he made his transition. He transitioned in peace. We were both made better for that.”
Sanchez hammered home the ideal that the Franklin students are writing important history, too.
“They have to realize that their education is where the next faze of the civil rights movement is being acted out,” Sanchez said. “People died for them to have the right to be educated. They can’t waste this opportunity to be educated because there will be those coming behind them that will also stand on their shoulders and the history that they make.”
As part of Art Sanctuary’s 28th Annual Celebration of Black Writing, the organization hosted the Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony at The Historic Church of the Advocate.
With the yearlong theme of “Growing from Good to Great,” the organization honored JET and Ebony magazines, with JET’s Editor-in-Chief Mitzi Miller accepting on behalf of both, and Marita Golden of the Hurston/Wright Foundation — all institutions that have taken writers from around the globe from good to great.
“Ebony and JET are just part of our cultural conversation,” Miller said. “They are a part of our lives. Since their inception, their sole purpose has been making sure that our opinions and our voices are heard; making sure that our news is shared and that what we have to say matters.”
For almost three decades, the “Celebration of Black Writing” has sought to deepen Philadelphia's literary life and polish its tourist shine with a rich infusion of African-American writers and artists in all genres.
A one-of- a-kind literary feast, the “Celebration” provides writers and artists an opportunity to discuss their work with up to 1,500–2,000 students, and another 2,000–3,000 people participate in panels, workshops, teachers' symposium, Family Pavilion, main stage, and other events.
The Celebration features up to 75 professional and aspiring writers, editors, publishers, scholars, spoken-word artists, performance artists, playwrights, and filmmakers.
Some of the country’s most innovative culture leaders and thinkers have been lauded over the years including renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni, poet Sonia Sanchez and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Charles Fuller. Supermodel Beverly Johnson, who is also star of the new reality show, ‘Beverly’s Full House’ on OWN, served as event emcee on Friday evening.
“Writers write—they don’t talk about writing,” said author Bernice McFadden as she introduced Golden. “But then I read 'Migrations of the Heart ' and something in me began to shift. I felt a sense of hope return. Here was a woman, a Black woman, writing her own story, doing exactly what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it. She had not allowed anyone, or anything, to stand in the way...why couldn't I do the same? With each book I read, I became inspired as a woman and as an inspiring writer.”
Golden said writing is a calling and a mission: “Each life contains the seeds of other lives—and 22 years of working in the Hurston/Wright Foundation to create this organization has taught me that this work that the Arts Sanctuary does, that Lorene Cary has done, that I've done, is not just cultural work; it's not just political work; it is deeply, deeply spiritual work because it has such a profound impact on the minds, the hearts and the souls of people.”
The city remembered the late veteran journalist Fatimah Ali at her “Celebration of Life” memorial service on Monday, Jan. 30.
It was standing room only at the Summit Presbyterian Church, Greene Street and Westview Avenue in the West Mount Airy section of the city.
Family, childhood and college friends, journalism colleagues, sister friends and listeners to “The Real Deal with Fatimah Ali” which aired daily on 900AM WURD were on hand. They filled the church where Ali was baptized, made confirmation and grew up attending Sunday School before converting to Islam.
Among those who gave remarks were Mayor Michael Nutter, Art Sanctuary director Lorene Cary of Mount Airy, poet Sonia Sanchez of West Germantown, WURD general manager Sara Lomax-Reese of Mount Airy, Barbara Grant, the former Philadelphia New Observer editor Helen Blue of West Oak Lane, and actor Tom Page from Freedom Theatre.
Childhood friends and family members also gave their tributes during the community memorial.
For West Mount Airy native Pamela Chestnut it was an emotional experience. Though she readily admitted she never met Ali, she knows many who knew her personally and she herself has been an avid listener of her morning radio show for the past year. Chestnut used to read Ali’s columns in the Philadelphia Daily News and the former Philadelphia New Observer.
“She was such an inspirational sister,” Chestnut said. “She advocated for education, those who were incarcerated and the homeless. She was just so honest and direct. I knew that I had to come here to pay tribute to someone who affected our community so much,
“I am also concerned about her children,” she added. “I know that she had a strong family, but like most of us there are struggles. Though I can’t donate much at this time, when I get some money soon I plan to give more. I understand, like she did, that it takes a village to rear our children, and we have to ensure that hers will be okay.”
Zahfar Rashied of Germantown was busily taking photographs and video footage of what he referred to as “an historical moment.”
He was hired by Ali at WDAS-FM in 1990 when she was the news director, he said. Rashied remembered that she always patiently worked with him as he was learning the ropes of the broadcast industry.
“She was always a tremendously giving and supportive person,” he said. “When I heard the news I was saddened. I know that she’s not here — but the way she lived her life — she is continuing her journey now. God sends us persons like her to teach us how to walk on this earth.”
Among the memories that radio salesperson and photographer Saundra Ali — not related to Fatimah — had about the late journalist was their last conversation and email.
The two Alis were brainstorming about a cookbook in which Fatimah Ali, a gourmet cook, would pen the recipes and Saundra Ali would provide the photos. They also toyed with the idea of starting a national African-American newspaper.
“We said the book was going to make us rich,” said Saundra Ali, who coordinated Fatimah Ali’s Muslim funeral, held in West Philadelphia on Friday. “We were going to meet about the newspaper idea, but she sent me an email the night before she died saying that she didn’t feel well and just wanted to sleep. I am glad the last time I saw her that we hugged and she said to me, ‘You are my sister.’ That’s how I’ll always remember her.”
Among the tributes that were read by broadcaster and SCOOP USA columnist Thera Martin Millings was a testimonial from Fran Aulston, founder and director of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Paul Robeson House. Aulston and Cary noted Fatimah Ali had a commitment to the arts.
“She was just an aware sister,” said Raja Thomas of Germantown. “I learned about life from her. I started reading the One Step Away newspaper for and by the homeless because of her show. She understood what it is to be human. That’s why she’s up there with the saints now.”
Sonia Sanchez, long Philadelphia’s unofficial poet laureate, now holds the official title, appointed on Thursday by Mayor Michael Nutter — as the city’s first.
True to her role as well-known peace advocate and her vocation as a teacher, she immediately gave the entire city an assignment.
“My first assignment is for everyone in this room … for one week, do not twist and curl your tongues and say anything negative about anyone,” said Sanchez as she accepted the appointment. “For one week do not say anything negative. It’s hard to do.”
She issued the instruction to everyone in the city as a first step to ending violence.
“We’re taught to destroy people with our tongues,” she said. “When we teach our children to destroy each other with their tongues, then it’s an easy step to destroy them with their hands and guns and knives. We must initiate peace.”
As the city’s poet laureate, Sanchez will take part in Nutter’s inauguration on Monday, but more than that, for the next two years, she will physically represent the city’s commitment to the arts and culture, said the mayor.
“Ms. Sanchez exemplifies the role a great poet can play in helping define a city and helping its citizens discover beauty,” he said.
She will host poetry and spoken word events at City Hall, the Free Library and schools across the city. In addition, she will be instrumental in choosing and mentoring a youth poet laureate.
Nutter decided to make poet laureate an official city post — something he will finalize with an executive order in January — after hearing Sanchez at a spoken word program at the School of the Future last year.
The encounter caused him to reflect on the city’s cultural and artistic history — and decide Philadelphia needed an official ambassador for the arts.
“It increasingly did not make sense that this city would not have a poet laureate,” he said.
In an unconventional twist, during the ceremony at City Hall, Sanchez had Nutter put his hand on her heart — while she too put her hand on his chest — in an exercise intended to instill a sense of peace and drive home the humanity of every individual.
Its something she encouraged everyone to do.
“There is no violence in the heartbeat,” she said. “Let us listen to each other’s heartbeats.”
Sanchez is the author of more than 18 books and the recipient of numerous awards including the Langston Hughes Poetry Award in 1999, the Harper Lee Award in 2004 and Pew Fellowship for the Arts in 1992 and 1993. A professor, she has lectured at more than 500 colleges and universities, and is a sponsor of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom.
Poet Sonia Sanchez of Germantown held back tears as she spoke about the gracefulness of children’s author and former Temple University PASCEP director Muriel Feelings.
Sanchez was one of the five speakers who gave remarks at the “Celebration of Life” memorial service for Feelings held at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church East, 230 W. Coulter Ave. on Friday, Oct. 7 at 11 a.m.
The other speakers included Gwen Watson, who volunteered side by side with Feelings in Enon’s African History Ministry, and family friend and Enon member Earl Harris. Feelings’ cousin, Rabiah Asur, then introduced the late author’s best friend, Jackie Mungai, before Willie Rogers, one of the founders of PASCEP (originally an acronym for Pan-African Students Community Education Program).
“She understood what it means to be human,” said Sanchez in her eulogizing poetry. She called Feelings “pretty, smart, religious, holy” while at the same time being the phenomenal “writer, mother, poet, friend” to so many. She said that she wrote words “that changed the world” while caring for her family which included her sons, Zamani and Kamili.
“I worked with her for 15 years,” said Rogers in his remarks. He said that Feelings had a soft-spoken way of asserting herself. He recalled that rather than lecture or berate her employees she would often ask them questions so that they would come to the conclusion she was steering them towards. “She has a kind of humble strength,” Rogers said.
Mungai, referred to as Feelings’ “sister friend,” probably knew her best. She called Feelings “a healer” because of the way she would minister to others in need. Watson said the ministry developed an acronym for Muriel as maternal, understanding, relentless/reflective, impressive, enlightened and loving (agape). “She leaves a legacy,” said Harris.
The eulogy was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller, senior pastor of Enon. He said that many alluded to Feelings’ “quiet strength” and that her legacy was her “moral legacy.” He said that Feelings was not prideful or arrogant and was cognizant of the fact “we pull up people to humility.”
Feelings served as director and coordinator of education and coordinator of volunteers at the African American Museum in Philadelphia from 1980 to 1985. She served as director of PASCEP from 1986 to 2001. She is the author of numerous award-winning children’s books including “Zamani Goes to Market,” “Moja Means One: A Swahili Counting Book” and “Jambo Means Hello: A Swahili Alphabet Book.”
Martin R. Delany (1812–1885) has been called the “Father of Black Nationalism,” but his extraordinary career also encompassed the roles of abolitionist, physician, editor, explorer, politician, army officer, novelist and political theorist.
Despite his enormous influence in the 19th century and his continuing influence on Black nationalist thought in the 20th century, Delany has remained a relatively obscure figure in U.S. culture, generally portrayed as a radical separatist at odds with the more integrationist Frederick Douglass. Moonstone Arts Center Director Larry Robin is leading the local commemoration of Delany’s 200th birthday in May.
“He is just the most amazing character to have been ignored by history,” Robin said. “He is incredibly important because while there were lots of people that were anti-slavery, he’s the first person, I think, who challenges the thinking behind it. He says the thinking is wrong. The whole paradigm of white supremacy, of race, is wrong. What he does, and the reason why he is the ‘Father of Black Nationalism,’ is that he embraces his Blackness.”
Delany was one of the first Black men to found a Black newspaper; be admitted to Harvard Medical School; negotiate a treaty with the Yoruba chiefs so African Americans could emigrate to Africa; write a novel and be an officer in the Union army.
“The arch of the idea of these 20 programs is here is a guy who is neglected by most history books,” Robin said. “But there’s more than that because now with DNA research we know there’s no biological basis of race, so what does that do to those definitions? What does that do to the concept of white supremacy? What does that do to the concept of Black Nationalism — if there is no race? But there is racism, and we still need to confront that.”
Moonstone Arts Center hosts Martin Delany Week which begins May 3. The “150 Years Challenging Racism” program speakers include Molefi Asante, Bill Ayers, Erica Armstrong, Robert Levine, Frank Meeink, Alondra Nelson, Ewuare Osayande, Clarence Page, Sonia Sanchez, Linn Washington and Tim Wise. Details on all this and more about Delany is available at www.moonstoneartscenter.org/martindelany or (215) 735-9600. There is also printed material at the Philadelphia Free Library.
Poet launches ‘Peace is a Haiku’
Philadelphia’s unofficial poet laureate, Sonia Sanchez, will unveil her latest project — “Peace is a Haiku Song” — during this weekend’s First Person Arts Festival to engage the Philadelphia community and beyond in an exploration of the haiku as a vehicle for peace and urban transformation. The project will culminate in a mural this spring inspired by Sanchez’s belief that the haiku form is inherently non-violent in its intent and structure and engenders beauty, serenity, and brief reflection.
“These cities need to be investigating peace from a different level,” said Sanchez. “We need to begin to have that discussion with our children and also with other people thinking about why we should have peace in the haiku form. What I was trying to elaborate on was that the whole idea of the haiku is that it has no greed, there is no attach to it, right, there is no warring with a haiku. It has this amazing ability to help us stay alive and breath. The haiku is very mindful of nature, but it is also mindful of the nature of ourselves, myself, yourself. When you begin to to teach the haiku, you begin to make people mindful about nature, but at the same time, you make them become mindful about the nature of themselves.”
Sanchez has long been regarded as one of the nation’s cultural treasures in her roles as poet, activist and educator. She is the author of 19 books of poetry and prose, as well as two audio recordings. Sanchez has taught as a professor at eight universities and has lectured at over 500 college campuses across the U.S., including Howard University. She advocated the introduction of Black Studies courses in California, and was the first to create and teach a course based on Black Women and literature in the United States. Sanchez was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University where she began working in 1977, and where she held the Laura Carnell chair until her retirement in 1999. Sanchez received a 1993 Pew Fellowship in the Arts and has read her poetry in Africa, the Caribbean, China, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, Canada and Cuba.
Sanchez is a celebrated practitioner and teacher of the haiku. “It is an interesting form, but it is also interesting that we have become so attuned to being very loud with our poetry, you know, with a sock at the end. It’s kind of like at one point we say things so we can all say ‘Amen’ or ‘A-woman,’” said the poet. “What I’ve been attempting to do with young people is to bring back the beauty of the haiku and the beauty of also at some point being quiet ... listening to the silences ... being able to move amid and among the silences and the quiet. We don’t in any way really practice being quiet. We don’t hear when we're being attacked. We don’t hear when we're being loved, when we need to be hearing. We just, at some point, are just so busy listening to the loudness that the beauty sometimes escapes us.”
In closing, Sanchez shared a haiku: “The spoiling sound of peace/sails on the wind/ is like butterflying.”
The “Peace is a Haiku Song” project will begin at the First Person Arts Festival on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Christ Church, 20 N. American St., when Sanchez will kick off a city-wide collaborative poem made of individual haiku. Audiences can continue to contribute haiku throughout the festival. For more festivial information, visit firstpersonarts.org or call (267) 402-2055. The Mural Arts Program project culminates in summer 2012 with a new mural in Sanchez’s honor. For information, visit http://muralarts.org/peace.
Nearly four months after the death of journalist and broadcaster Fatimah Ali, close friend Aqueelah Jamal is teaming with musicians, poets and other artists to celebrate her life and love for the arts.
Jamal, who is the current host of “Jazz and Conversation” on WURD 900AM, first met Ali while working at Temple University’s radio station WRTI 90.1 FM and the two became close friends since.
“From the first time I met her, saw her, heard her first speak, there was a connection,” said Jamal of that time. “We rekindled our relationship about a year ago in March when I happened to go outside and there she was.”
Jamal would discover that Ali, who had since made a name for herself on air, happened to live right up the street from her at the time.
“Not only were we neighbors but we reignited our friendship,” she said. “We always had a strong bond but this time it became even stronger.”
The two broadcasters worked at WURD and would have coffee several days a week. One Saturday in January, tragedy struck when Jamal lost her brother. Ali made a dish of baked zucchini for the repast. This was the last time Jamal would see Ali.
“I was shocked to learn that she had passed away herself overnight in her sleep,” said Jamal, who was leaving work at the time when she heard the news of Ali’s passing.
“For me, burying my brother on Saturday and then learning of her death Tuesday, it was a bit much.”
Following her burial, there was later a memorial service for Ali where guests included Mayor Michael Nutter and poet Sonia Sanchez.
Ali was herself no stranger to the arts, according to Jamal. Apparently, Miles Davis was her favorite musician.
Ali’s sister, Brenda, is married to bassist Marcus Miller and her daughter Khadija Ahmadiya is a professional dancer. Ali had personal connection to the world of the arts.
“Fatimah was a big supporter of music, of arts and culture and she was really on a crusade to make sure that it got back out on the forefront,” Jamal said.
It’s for this reason that Jamal wanted to set aside time during Women’s History Month, to celebrate Ali’s legacy, her love for arts and culture and who love and appreciation for her life.
On Saturday, there will be an event titled “For the Love of Fatimah Celebration” at 40th and Market streets in West Philadelphia’s Natalie’s Lounge from 3 to 7 p.m.
“We just want to show our appreciation to Fatimah who left us much, much too soon,” Jamal said.
According to Jamal, the afternoon event will feature music, live entertainment and spoken word performances.
“Everybody has been touched by her [Fatimah Ali],” she said. “Musicians, spoken word artists, they’re all coming out for the love of Fatimah Ali.”
There is no cover charge for this event but there will be a donation box available for those who wish to make contributions for the children of Ali.
While the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has no poet laureate (after a decade, the title was abolished in 2003), Philadelphia has staked out its position as a thriving artistic city with its second appointment in a year. Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced last week that Siduri Beckman has been named the City of Philadelphia’s first Youth Poet Laureate in a City Hall ceremony with the City’s inaugural Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez. A position complementing the city’s poet laureate, the youth poet laureate was selected from among high school youth residing within the city of Philadelphia.
Sanchez, currently serving a two-year term, provided input to the Poet Laureate Governing Committee, whose members are Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia; Al Filreis, faculty director of Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania; Beth Feldman Brandt, poet and executive director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation; and Greg Corbin, founder and executive director, Philly Youth Poetry Movement. After a rigorous selection process, two finalists were selected, Jaya Montague and Siduri Beckman, both of whom read their original poetry as part of the event.
“It is an honor to announce that the Poet Laureate Committee has selected a young person to promote poetry and the arts to the youth of Philadelphia,” said Nutter. “The city is proud to acknowledge the power and importance of poetry as an art form. Programs like the Philly Youth Poetry Movement have shown the impact that poetry can have on the positive development of young people, and it’s significant that we are officially recognizing this impact.”
Gary Steuer, chair of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee and chief cultural officer of the OACCE said, “We were pleased to see the caliber of talent displayed by the applicants for the position and look forward to working with the Youth Poet Laureate as she begins to fulfill the duties associated with the position. We look forward to seeing her grow as a poet and develop her talents while inspiring her fellow youth to greater artistic pursuits and success in life.”
Following the announcement of the Youth Poet Laureate, Beckman and Sanchez recited poetry together for the first time. “Poetry makes us remember the best of ourselves and others,” said Sanchez. “How it keeps us constantly confronting the most important question of this twenty-first century: what does it mean to be human?”