Conceived, curated, directed and hosted by internationally renowned poet, author, Emmy winner and University of Nebraska–Lincoln professor Kwame Dawes, “Everytime I Talk About… Black Voices in a Time of Change: Poetry, Art and Music” will bring poets and musicians together on the Lied Center for Performing Arts stage for a powerful, free virtual event at 7:30 p.m. April 20.
Drawing on the poetry of the late Lucille Clifton and the art of the late Aaron Douglas (a University of Nebraska alumnus), University of Nebraska–Lincoln poets will celebrate the long history of Black poets bringing often uneasy truths to the heart of America and reflect on the issues still facing the nation. In conversation with music and visual art, they will perform their own compositions and selections of poems by Clifton, whose words continue to resonate.
Dawes, describing the spirit and intent of the show, said: “Clifton reminds us that our true dignity lies in the celebration of our varied humanity, full of intellectual acuity and sensibility — this is what her art achieves even as she exemplifies Langston Hughes’ clarion call for black artists so many years ago, ‘We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.’ Hughes also described Aaron Douglas as an artist ‘drawing strange black fantasies.’ Our poets and musicians in this show continue this wonderfully human celebration of beauty — and this is the edifice that stands against bigotry and racism.”
The event will include original songs from Omaha-based artist Mesonjixx, who will set Clifton’s words to music. Featured poets/performers include Jamaica Baldwin, Chaun Ballard, Tara Ballard, Jordan Charlton, Saddiq Dzukogi, Jessica Poli and Stacey Waite, all members of the writing community in the Department of English at Nebraska.
“In the wake of the horrific murder of George Floyd and the racial justice movement that began in the summer of 2020, the Lied Center wanted to use our resources to create something meaningful,” said Bill Stephan, the Lied’s executive director. “We believe deeply that art can be a powerful force for change, and we are so grateful to Kwame Dawes for his leadership in creating this truly powerful piece. In celebrating the works of great artists like Lucille Clifton and Aaron Douglas and elevating new voices like those of our featured poets, we endeavor to shine a hopeful spotlight on how we can become a more just society.”
The virtual event is free to watch, but registration is required to receive the link. The event will also be available on the Lied Center Facebook page and the Lied at Home Roku channel. Registration and more information is available here.
The event is sponsored by Chancellor Ronnie Green, the Office of Research and Economic Development and the College of Arts and Sciences. It is supported by the Lied Center’s MOSAIC Circle.