The Conversation Speaks On Black Mecca in the American South

Nabila Lovelace’s effortless charm and charisma draws attention from the minute she walks into the bar. But when she takes the mic and opens her mouth, the real magic begins. There are few people who command a room like Nabila.  As a poet, she and her fellow featured readers hold their readers on the edge of their seats. Four members of The Conversation read at a bar in Manhattan, and the audience could not stay silent. Listeners broke out in exclamation and yelling, standing and clapping.  They are on fire setting venue after venue ablaze with sadness, strength, revelation, and power, and they’re coming full-speed to a city near you.

The Conversation is a fellowship of seventeen POC poets from a variety of backgrounds and cultures united with a single goal—to define blackness in the American South, or at least start the dialogue. The Conversation is “dedicated to bridging conversations between inter-regional Blackness & discussing what a Black Mecca can look like in the United States”. From October 16th through October 22nd,  the group will give readings in Oxford, Mississippi, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and New Orleans, Louisiana in order to reshape and document how black culture and art is connected across the country:


Given the significant contributions Black Southern American poets have already made to Black American and Black Diasporic culture, we at The Conversation seek to strengthen the connective tissue between Northern, Western and Mid-Western Black cultures to the end of imagining an autonomous, functional haven for Black people.


Behind this project are two important black writers. A Los Angeles native, Aziza Barnes’ first chapbook, me Aunt Jemima and the nailgun, was the first winner of the Exploding Pinecone Prize and published from Button Poetry. Her first full length collection of poems, i be but i ain’t, is the winner of the 2015 Pamet River Prize with YesYes Books. Her poetry has also been chosen for the 2015 Winter Tangerine Award and 2013 Gallery Prize for Radical Presence. She is a poetry & non-fiction editor at Kinfolks Quarterly, a Callaloo fellow, a Poets’ House fellow, a graduate from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a current candidate for her MFA in Poetry at University of Mississippi.


Nabila Lovelace was born and raised Queens native as well as a first generation American. Her parents hail from Trinidad and Tobago and Nigeria. She is a 2015 Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop fellow, finalist for the Emerge-Be-Surface fellowship 2014, and a winner of the 2013 Poets & Writers Amy Award. She is a current MFA candidate at the University of Alabama— Tuscaloosa.  As a literary duo, these poets’ dedication to blackness in the arts have become an unstoppable force.


There are three questions that have become the cornerstone of their mission.


What does place mean for your heritage?
How do you define where you are from?
Where does your linage begin?


These questions lay a weight on the human spirit as black identity seeks itself through frayed history and flawed narratives as well as colorful traditions and unbreakable community.  These poets celebrate their home and skin. They mourn the lost and stand defiant in the face of pain. What is most impressive, however, is the sense of community they are able to create in a single night. Groups of people of all backgrounds will gather together to find out exactly what we are capable of when we tell our own stories. This series is not to be missed this Fall. The Conversation will give you all the heat you need.

Fore more information on The Conversation and the artists involved as well as tour dates and locations, please visit https://theconversation.squarespace.com/tour/

To donate to The Conversation, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/4szfe2tw

 


Nicholas Goodly is a graduate poetry student at Columbia University. He is the current art editor of Columbia Journal Online and writing editor of WUSSY MAG.