This is a poem I’ve been working on for a couple of months. It names a number of Asheville, N.C.-based landmarks, characters, and artists, but my hope is there’s something of the universal. So many of us are witnessing the loss of our communities to the juggernaut of development and wealth, neither of which ever do much to forward the arts or the creative culture.
The Merle performing at Vincent’s Ear.
THE GHOST OF GAVRA LYNN
The man took the temperature
of this neighborhood and decided
in his boardroom that, yes, it’s time
to capitalize on what the artists
built. The ambiance of ingenuity mined
from the rubble. Construct a hotel
to tower over the coffee shops and dive
bars, over the thrift stores and book stores, over Continue reading
I started making these collages to say something that I couldn’t write down. Beauty is marred, the perception of women is a false narrative, we live in a world that neither honors nor protects what it loves. In the many and loud and frequent calls to change the government by voting Republicans out, I can’t help but think about how heavily North Carolina is gerrymandered and that the Equal Rights Amendment still has not been ratified. So yes, I’ll vote. And no, I don’t believe all votes count equally. I wish I believed that, but I don’t.
Below are my digital collages (in order) of “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, “Portrait of an Unknown Woman” by Ivan Kramskoi, “Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci” by Leonardo da Vinci, and “Pinkie” by Thomas Lawrence. The choice to use famous works by white male artists was intentional.
Maybe it’s because he’s new to town but already on the rise, already with a convertible and plans for a salon of his own. That kind of fast fame is intoxicating.
Maybe it’s because he’s pretty. Soft-faced. Feminine. Maybe it’s for that reason that his mother gave him a girl’s name and not just any girl’s name but that of a virgin saint. He is no virgin saint but his name implies trustworthiness.
“In a lot of places in the United States, you can still get a degree in English literature and not have to study any people of color,” says poet, author and educator Frank X Walker.
This postcard of a child with a book is from the The East Riverside Photographs Collection associated with the East Riverside urban redevelopment project of Asheville. Photo courtesy of Special Collections, UNC Asheville
“It’s part of the whole master narrative that displays the idea of a hierarchy in our society, that suggests whose work in this culture is more valuable. And it’s not women or people of color.”
I spent several months working on a three-part series about the history of black writers in Western North Carolina, and why the voices of those artists have been excluded from the dominant narrative.
Find Part 1 here (with quotes from Walker, UNC Asheville history professor Darin Waters and Asheville-based author Monica McDaniel); find Part 2 here (with quotes from authors Meta Commerse and Ann Woodford and poet Glenis Redmond); and find Part 3 here (with quotes from poets Nicole Townsend, James Love and Damion Bailey and author Charles Blount).
What is the responsibility of venue bookers, music promoters, club owners, and festival organizers to create a platform for artists of color? It’s a tricky conversation to introduce, because there are so many issues — ticket sales, popularity, potential tokenism — but I think it’s more important to have the conversation than to be graceful about it.
Photo by Jorge Salgado from this year’s Neon Desert Festival
So I’ll start here: Asheville, where I live, is a predominantly white town with a nationally recognized music scene and a high per-capita number of excellent concert halls and listening rooms. But peruse the lineup of at least three of the most popular venues in town and you’re lucky to find one person-of-color-led act in any given month. I recently browsed the calendar for one such music hall that lists no artists of color from September through December. Continue reading