They can’t feel the heart of our people
beating on 116th or
understand the holy words
of El Shabbazz
that live in the God-coiled ropes
that crown my head,
and they don’t know my soul
From “Beyond the Brownstones”
by Maria James-Thiaw
I met Maria in 2015 while we were attending the Virginia Center for the Creative Art’s Poetry Workshop in France. Maria had begun interviewing older women for her remarkable American Griot Project, a historical account of first-hand experiences during the era of Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Movement. Since 2015, Maria has taken the interviews and stories “…of learning about race and privilege and experiencing second class citizenship and love across color lines…” and translated them into a choreopoem brought to the stage in the theatrical production, Reclaiming My Time: An American Griot Project.
Maria James-Thiaw is an award-winning poet, performer, playwright, and educator. She’s the author of “Talking White” and her poetry and reviews appear in journals such as New Letters, Cutthroat, and Black Magnolias.