NATIONWIDE – The Civil Rights movement was about brave deeds and bold words. Both are explored by US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and PBS NewsHour Correspondent Jeffrey Brown in the latest of their reports on “Where Poetry Lives.” Their story airs Friday, April 11.
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Trethewey and Brown join Rep. John Lewis, Myrlie Evers, Rev. Edwin King and a bipartisan group of politicians and activists participating in the annual Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. The visit was a homecoming of sorts for Trethewey, who grew up in Mississippi, the daughter of a Black mother and white father. Her family was targeted by the Ku Klux Klan, and as a young girl, she watched as they burned a cross in her front yard.
The experience inspires Trethewey’s poetry and her commitment to social justice.
“It is the scaffolding that holds up all the things that I’m concerned about as a poet,” she said.
She sees the necessity of American poetry as “a kind of recording of our cultural moment and to record the history of a people.” She recounts the cross burning she witnessed as a child in the poem “Incident” and “Miscegenation” inspired by her parents’ interracial marriage.
Previous reports in the “Where Poetry Lives” series include “Seattle’s Pongo Teen Writing Project,” which helps homeless and incarcerated teens overcome trauma in their lives by writing from the heart about difficult experiences; “Detroit’s InsideOut Literary Arts Project,” which places professional writers and poets in inner city schools to help children give voice to their often turbulent lives through poetry and writing; “Alzheimer’s Poetry Project,” which uses poems commonly memorized and recited in youth, to bring joy and to trigger long term memories in dementia patients, not just of the poems, but of family members and their own identity; and “Dr. Rafael Campo,” who uses poetry to help medical students hone the art of medicine.
PBS NewsHour’s coverage of poetry is funded by the Poetry Foundation. The “Where Poetry Lives” series is a partnership with the Library of Congress’ Poetry and Literature Center. It can be seen locally on KVIE at 6:00 p.m.