University of Pittsburgh
November 3, 2016

Black Poets Speak Out

Founding members of poetry-driven protest campaign present literary events in Pitt’s Frick Fine Arts Auditorium and Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy Studios Nov 9-10
Contact:  412-624-4147

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PITTSBURGH—Bringing issues of race and social injustice to the fore, three founding members of the Black Poets Speak Out campaign will host a series of community readings and workshops in Pittsburgh Nov. 9-10. The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for African American Poetry and Poetics and the Kelly Strayhorn Theater will cosponsor these events.

The Black Poets Speak Out campaign is an ongoing, multiphase project consisting of African American artists using poetry to protest acts of police misconduct. It began as a hashtag video campaign on a Tumblr site. The campaign was initiated in response to the police-involved shooting death of Ferguson, Mo., resident Michael Brown and nationwide protests that followed. Since its inception in 2014, poets from around the world have contributed videos of their work and curated Black Poets Speak Out events across the country.

The featured poets are Jericho Brown, an associate professor at Emory University; Mahogany L. Browne, founder and publisher of the independent press Black Poets Speak OutPenmanship Books; and Amanda Johnston, founding executive director of the nonprofit organization Torch Literary Arts. While all events are open to the public, parental discretion is advised for Black Poets Speak Out events due to adult language and content. The full schedule of events follows:

Nov. 9, Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., East Liberty

* At 6:30 p.m., an interactive workshop on poetry and practice will be convened by the featured speakers; ticketing information for this event can be found here.

* At 7:30 p.m., a community reading will provide an opportunity for local residents to record their poetry readings—both of their original work and that of other poets—live on stage, potentially to be archived within the Black Poets Speak Out campaign.

Nov. 10, Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, 650 Schenley Dr., Oakland

* At 5:30 p.m., the featured poets will deliver a literary reading, with Black Poets Speak Out campaign videos screened in between each reader. The reading will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience and reception.

Biographical information for each of the featured poets follows:Mr. Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his poetry collection The New Testament (Copper Canyon, 2014) and the American Book Award for his debut collection Please (New Issues, 2008). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and the Kenyon Review. An associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Brown examines in his work a multitude of hot-button social issues, including matters of race, religion, and sexuality.
Ms. Mahogany L. Browne
Mahogany L. Browne’s most recent books are Smudge (Button Poetry, 2015) and Redbone (Willow Books, 2015), which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. She is noted for assisting other artists in finding forums for their work. In addition to her position with Penmanship Books, Browne serves as executive editor for the literary magazine The Offing, co-founder of the Off-Broadway production Jam On It, and co-producer of New York’s SoundBites Poetry Festival.

Amanda Johnston is executive director for Torch Literary Arts, a nonprofit organization established to support the creative writing Ms. Amanda Johnstonendeavors of Black women. She serves as a faculty member within the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Southern Maine. She is a member of the Affrilachian Poets and a Cave Canem graduate fellow. Johnston’s work has appeared in the anthology The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South as well as the publications Kinfolks Quarterly, Muzzle, and New Literati.

The Center for African American Poetry and Poetics is part of the Department of English within Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. The center’s primary mission is to highlight, promote, and share the poetry and poetic work of African American writers.

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Black Poets Speak Out, Official Event Flyer

Mr. Jericho Brown, photo credit: John Lucas

Ms. Mahogany Browne, photo credit: Kia C. Dyson

Ms. Amanda Johnston, photo credit: Cindy Elizabeth