On a warm Saturday afternoon at Government Plaza in Greensboro, poets, musicians and artists gathered at the local event, Diversity over Division, to express their opinions on topics such as social justice, political change and peace.
The demonstration took place on a stage surrounded by a wide set of stairs, which were used as seats by the attendees. After a brief opening filled with catchy instrumental tunes playing from the stage and animated discussion among the speakers, one of the poets stood up to announce that it was time to get started.
The first speaker, Thomas, wore a bright red jacket despite the hot temperatures. His speech began with a description of the difficulties of his life. He had been to prison four times, was shot and stabbed twice, broke both his legs in three different places, and has been living with HIV/AIDS for 29 years. He elaborated on his experience with HIV/AIDS by emphasizing the importance of medications, treatments and tests for the infection, which he wanted to see practiced by Greensboro’s politicians.
Deborah, who comes from Winston-Salem, started by elaborating on the importance of diversity to our nation’s culture and the need to eradicate racial-based hate.
“If we all look alike, this world would be a dark nation!” she said.
According to Deborah, a major responsibility lies in the education system, where children can be taught about different ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations and economic statuses, among other significant factors.
The next speaker, also named Deborah, read two poems that she wrote herself. The first one was written right after the Parkland shooting. She called for men to stand up in order for change to occur, and indicated that women should stand side-by-side with men rather than try to dominate them.
The second Deborah ended the poem with a finalizing quote.
“Things would be different if young boys and girls would grow into the men and women God told them to be,” she said.
Her next poem reacted to the issue of placing adulthood burdens on children, and she used a metaphor comparing their large responsibilities to “conquering dragons.”
Next, a poet named Allsworth stood up. His first poem, written in 2013, was about mass-shooting tragedies that have occurred in the United States. He repeated the phrase, “a dark knight rises over human skies,” which refers to the Aurora, Colorado shooting in 2012, and continues the metaphor to emphasize how the “dark knight” touches other mass-shooting events such as the Virginia Tech shooting, El Paso shooting and Columbine High School Massacre.
His voice cracked with emotion as he described the corruption among preachers and politicians, and ended the poem with a harrowing quote.
“The problem is, people don’t rise from the dead like in a video game,” he said.
His next speech began with him stating how “sick and tired” he is about people talking at each other rather than to each other. This can be expressed by how people listen to what politicians say in the media, even if they don’t know that it’s true.
“I challenge you to get sick and tired,” he said.
He pointed out prominent figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. The reason that they began fighting for their rights was that they were sick and tired of racism.
Nicole, the next speaker, began by making a lighthearted joke about the weather.
“If you don’t know that climate change is real, look at the sun that’s beating on us!”
She read two poems written by Virginia Satir that she found particularly profound, including “I Am Me” and “Our Deepest Fear,” which both focus on self-empowerment and the importance of confidence in oneself.
Also featured was Jennyfer Bucardo, an unaffiliated candidate running for Congress in North Carolina’s sixth Congressional District, who supports implementing health education, female empowerment and government accountability as core curriculums, among other topics.
The event finished early due to the high temperatures and lack of adequate shade, but Allsworth managed to fit in an inspiring piece of advice.
“A match can start a forest fire; we can start a fire for our own.”
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in Volume 106, Issue 1 of The Guilfordian on Oct. 4, 2019.