Thursday, September 17, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – JohnnieRenee Nia Nelson

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

We asked poets to give us the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.


Shades of Solace
By JohnnieRenee Nia Nelson

for “After the Storm” by Kadir Nelson 

The cyan blue patch
centered in the background
emerges from two clouds
one grayish purple
the other, gray tinged with orange,
and heralds the promise of a post-coronavirus world
-a brighter day ahead. 

The image of the hugging
and hand-clasping people
still as starfish, with raised chins 
and raised eyes trained toward the light
speaks to their once-again connectedness 
and to the collective strengths of humankind
as they dare to stare straight ahead 
at a kinder, more compassionate future. 

Just outside the frame
a golden eagle resides
inside the artist's visionary palette.

Listen as JohnnieRenee Nia Nelson reads "Shades of Solace." 

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