Announcing the Black Words Matter Anthology: Poems by Baltimore Students
Two years ago this week, Freddie Gray died of spinal cord injuries after being in a coma resulting from his arrest by the Baltimore Police Department. A few weeks later, we at Real Pants published a selection of poems from a Black Words Matter write-in held by Writers in Baltimore Schools following Gray’s death.
The urgency of these poems has only intensified since then. Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions actively tried to kill needed reforms to the Baltimore Police Department—which include more training for police officers and rules against detaining someone just because they are in a high-crime area—arguing that the changes would make the city “less safe.” This raises the question of who Sessions wants to keep safe. A federal judge ignored Sessions and cleared the way for the reforms, but the battle is far from over.
Poetry, of course, is more than a battle cry, and these poems by young Baltimoreans speak to something that news articles and court briefs can’t express. As Afiya Ervin writes,
Every hashtag pounded
too loud. Every journalist
talked too much.
Voices like Afiya’s are the ones that should be raised, louder than the hashtags and the journalists. So, this summer, 421 Atlanta, in partnership with Writers in Baltimore Schools, will publish Black Words Matter, an anthology of writing by Baltimore students, edited by WBS alum Bryonna Reed and Jaida Griffin.
Editor Bryonna Reed writes,
I’ve been in love with this city for eighteen years. It has witnessed my genesis and I am witnessing its rebirth. In the past year, I have seen media come and go as the world looks upon our streets for an explanation of our pain as if it can be linked to one event. Here’s the truth: you won’t find the answers they seek on CNN or FOX News or MSNBC. You will find them along North Avenue where school children mix with adults waiting for the 13 and searching for hope in a city that once told them to BELIEVE… you’ll find it hidden in classrooms without enough desks…you’ll find it in the minds of the youth.You’ll find it in this anthology. My dream is to recognize the Baltimore Renaissance as it bursts through decades of neglect and showcase the beauty that blossoms here. It began long before Freddie Gray and in the wake of that tragedy it has been giving new life through a surge of youth activism.Let’s give life to black words. Words left to find their way in the abyss of politics and police brutality. Words from souls left to find their way in the crevasses of communities left desolate and defenseless.So it begins.The Renaissance is now.
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