“To be black in America right now is a wound. Nothing seems to exactly describe the pain in my lower back, my chest, blooming between my lungs, hanging so, so heavy in my heart. My grief is miles deep, ancestral deep. I think of my father, my brother, my sister. I think of both of my nephews, who are so, so young. I think about Black people here, in America, and everywhere else, spread across the entire globe, and the diaspora of our people and how the world we live in now has so inescapably failed us. Every day feels like a funeral. Every day feels like rain.” - Kristina Haynes, Vice President of Basement Poetry
While there have been major conversations in national news centering around the deaths of many Black Americans due to police brutality, systemic racism, and the injustices we face every day, we feel as if this isn’t enough, at least not on a regional scale. Not right here, in the Lehigh Valley. So then, how do we get involved? How can we be more active, more visible? How can we be catalysts in these difficult, and sometimes very painful conversations? These questions, and more, have been on our minds for weeks. We want to see change. Real, undeniable change in systems that have been in place for centuries. We want to see change right now, in our lifetimes. But how to hold our grief while we do this work? How to begin the painful process of healing? How do we hold space for each other, not just as artists, but as Black people? How do we work through our pain and our suffering and our rage?
We knew immediately that we wanted the community that we love and have served faithfully over the past five years to be in this conversation with us. Through words, performance and digital media, we want to promote sustained, deep conversations within our community about racism, but we need you in order to do that. Black Lives Matter is not just a movement. It is a lifestyle. It is activism. It is a life-long fight. With this project, we wanted to create a space where artists could come together and share their work. To collectively grieve and hold space for each other. To begin the painful process of healing from these traumas. In order to do that, we’re holding submissions to spark conversation with work that consumes us, moves us, shakes us. Work that would not exist without you.
We hope you’ll share your writing, and your art, with us. We want the strange, the sharp, the bold, the sticky-sweet, the hard-to-swallow. We want the soft, the things the sun never sees. The things with edges hard as knives. We are asking, if you are interested in submitting, for 1-2 poems or prose, though we’ll happily read more if you decide to send in other pieces you’re proud of, things you’ve written in the dark, in anger, in sunshine, in quiet, in the rain. Things you’ve written that you can’t stop thinking about. We are also holding submissions for digital art – paintings, photographs and drawings, as well as your personal commentary about the things you’ve created that will inspire these discussions on systemic racism.
We will be accepting ten submissions to post on thesouthsider.org, but that won’t be the only chance you’ll have to share your work. We will also have an open mic event in September, where we plan to come together to read our work to ensure that these conversations about racial injustices continue into the fall and hopefully beyond.
At the heart of this project lies one simple truth: Black Lives Matter. Black words, Black voices, Black art, it all matters. Period.