There is power in the people and power in the poetry! Happy National Poetry Month, let’s celebrate these black poets & writers in Detroit and elsewhere that helped pave the way for words with meaning to be shared. New or established, we can all uplift the cultural arts in Detroit, which includes supporting POC/the black literary community. It’s never too early or too late to start writing your own story and sharing your voice! We can also look to the artistically articulate black authors of the past to motivate us to keep at our craft.
Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Gwendolyn Brooks, Octavia Butler, Langston Hughes, Andre Lorde, and Alice Walker, are just some of the many that were not only creating a movement with words but also actively engaging the broader community to make radical changes.
Detroitisit is highlighting brilliant black poets and writers of color of the past and present.
AMANDA GORMAN (@amandascgorman)
Starting off this list is just a little “honorable mention”. This young lady also happens to be nationally recognized on a presidential level. Several Detroitisit readers starting their careers and following their aspirations can find inspiration in American poet and activist, Amanda Gorman‘s work. Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, as well as an award-winning writer and cum laude graduate of Harvard University. or just want to relive Amanda’s rhythmic performance through the written word, then watch Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration poem, “The Hill We Climb” for Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021. Click HERE to read the poem.
Maya Angelou is another American poet, writer, and (civil rights) activist that confidently performed poetry televised for a nation, among many other accolades. If you’re looking to rekindle an appreciation for literature and the spoken word, then watch Maya Angelou deliver her thought-provoking Inaugural Poem reading, “On the Pulse of Morning” at the 1993 Clinton Presidential Inaugural. Click HERE to read the poem. Many poets in Detroit can probably name a Maya Angelou piece and/or list her as a favorite.
ANDRE SYKES (IG: @dacocktailpoet)
You may not be as familiar with Andre Sykes’ personal words as you are with his public Detroit business which is truly one-of-a-kind. After all, he was a 2022 James Beard Outstanding Bar Program Semifinalist. Sykes is no longer a bartender at Willow, the stylish cocktail lounge that’s reminiscent of SpeakEasies. However, click HERE to learn more about the new restaurant in town, Alpino Detroit, where Andre Sykes is Beverage Manager. Keep up with the wisdom of Andre’s personal and professional work. He’s also 1/3 of the acclaimed bartending service, B.O.B.S. @blackonbothsidesdetroit on IG. Poetry: @sincerelytrulypoetic
JESSICA CARE MOORE (IG:@jessicacaremoor)
Born in Detroit, Michigan, award-winning, world-renowned poet, recording artist, book publisher, screenwriter, and actor, Jessica Care Moore, hosted Vibe Sessions at the Carr Center this past February and March in Midtown. You may have also seen the Detroit-based poet’s recent series that just wrapped up in New York City that included a performance at the legendary Apollo Theater. She has recorded her poetry with Common, Nas, Jeezy, Talib Kweli, The Last Poets, and much more. Her first children’s book, Her Crown Shines, is slated to be published in 2023 (Harper Collins). Stay tuned for her black rock duet, We Are Scorpio, this summer in Detroit.
Say hello to Jamaal May, a phenomenal contemporary poet that was born and raised in His first book, Hum (Alice James Books, 2013), won a Beatrice Hawley Award and an American Library Association Notable Book Award, and was an NAACP Image Award nominee. Like his first book, May’s other work also explores themes of community, dichotomy, and obsolescence. Jamaal’s awards include a Spirit of Detroit Award, an Indiana Review Poetry Prize, and fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Frost Place, the Lannan Foundation, and the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. He serves as a distinguished Writer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, along with other duties.
Dudley Randall (January 14, 1914 – August 5, 2000) was an African-American poet and poetry publisher, as well as a native of Detroit! Not to mention, Detroit’s first poet laureate. He saw his poems first published in the Detroit Free Press when he was 13. To no surprise, Randall graduated early. 1965 was a pivotal year for Randall and many other African-American writers. It was the year he launched Broadside Press, his pioneering publishing company run out of his home that still managed to give voice to many astounding Black authors we know today: Melvin Tolson, Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Etheridge Knight, Margaret Walker, and others. He was influential, to say the least.
Other Black Poets to Note:
Danez Smith, Ross Gay, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Patricia Smith, Jericho Brown, Tracy K. Smith, Terrance Hayes, Claudia Rankine, Reginald Dwayne Betts, and many more!
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