Event to showcase the collective power of Flint writers as ‘mirrors for the community'

A virtual performance and panel discussion featuring Semaj Brown, Flint’s first poet laureate, will explore the power of words.

Set for Aug. 13, Word Power will feature readings from Brown’s book “Bleeding Fire! Tap the Eternal Spring of Regenerative Light: Conversations in Poetry and Prose,” and include performances by Billie Scott Lindo, former artistic director of Flint’s New McCree Theatre, and Dr. James Brown, a local physician and the author’s husband.

After the performances, UM-Flint Associate Professor of Sociolinguistics Erica Britt will moderate a discussion on the power words exert over our everyday lives with discussion panelists UM-Flint student David Guster, author Xzavier V. Simon, and former Flintside Managing Editor Alexandria Brown, who will be the event’s storyteller.

Flintside spoke with Alexandria Brown, who shared her insights on the event.

Flintside: How did you become a part of the Word Power event?

Brown: I was invited by Semaj Brown, Flint’s poet laureate, after having an in-depth conversation about Flint’s writing and creativity scene.

Flintside: What are you most looking forward to?

Brown: I’m looking forward to just communing with everyone over these really special texts. It’s uncommon to find spaces like this where these conversations can even be had. I enjoy gathering over texts and being in awe in the myriad of ways that people interpret, contextualize, and reimagine what is being said. Especially with poetry, I love seeing people read in-between the lines and create greater connections and meanings.

Flintside: Why do you think words and the weight they carry are so important, especially now?

Brown: I think words have always held a lot of power. People know that consciously and subconsciously. That’s why there have been laws prohibiting certain people from reading, writing, and educating themselves. That’s why in the past, to conquer a place was also to burn the libraries and literature of the conquered. Words create, destroy, and redefine. They carry weight today, specifically the words that will be discussed during the event, because it is important for people to know that this work is being done in Flint. During times of change and uprising, there is an assumption that there is only one frontline for change. Words, literature, and narrative is also a frontline. Additionally, there are Black people actively redefining and birthing new visions for their humanity. They have been facing that frontline with the quiet work of creativity, despite all, and that is a revolutionary act.

Flintside: How do you think the community can/will benefit from participating in the event?

Brown: It is important for a community that has largely been defined by major threats like violence, environmental injustice, and disparities to bear witness to the fact that the work of imagining, writing, storytelling can belong to Flint too. I’m sure there is plenty for folks to discuss in terms of narratives for grant proposals, but full stories cannot be told there. Flint and local poets, essayists, novelists have tremendous power and cultural relevance in that they are mirrors for their communities. For the community, even just listening or sharing the event with a friend, is spreading the word that there are thought leaders and creators having these critical conversations.

The event is free and takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13 and can be accessed on Zoom or Facebook Live. Register by clicking here.

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Read more articles by Ashley Schafer.