Suffolk poet honors ProclamationPublished 10:32pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013
For Suffolk poet Nathan Richardson, Abraham Lincoln’s historic Jan. 1, 1863, executive order, proclaiming the freedom of slaves in the Confederate states, would have been a force to be reckoned with at a poetry slam.
“The Emancipation Proclamation would have actually been a great slam poem,” the 52-year-old said. “It would fit right into the context of a poetry slam contest, as it’s concise, it’s tight and it’s lyrical.”
In Richardson’s opinion, Lincoln as a writer was right up there with “the greats,” including Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy Jr.
At the Suffolk Art Gallery on Thursday, as part of a program celebrating Black History Month, Richardson will recite the proclamation in public for the third time this month.
A black man and full-time poet, Richardson says he feels an “emotional connection” when reading the proclamation.
“I work to evoke that sort of passion into what I’m reading,” he said. “Any poem that I read, or even prose that I read, I’m actually looking for the emotion that caused it to be written.
“Certainly Abraham Lincoln, in the crafting of the Emancipation Proclamation, had a tremendous amount of passion for what he was doing.”
Richardson said that as a schoolboy, he didn’t get to sit in a classroom alongside white students until the third grade — about 1969.
“We definitely need to remind young people about the Emancipation Proclamation, because the United States is pretty integrated now, comparatively speaking,” but it wasn’t always so, he said.
Growing up on a farm in a rural section of the city, “certainly there was unfairness, and farmers versus sharecroppers, that sort of thing; but still there was the community element that allowed us to kind of look out for each other and not be like some of the cities, counties and states in the deeper South.”
When Richardson was coming up, Suffolk as a community dealt with the race issue with “cordiality,” he said.
“I think it had to do with its proximity north and south to the coast, and being close to the military community,” he added.
“Suffolk people are really just very cordial … and they have a way of just dealing with the issue.”
According to a news release, Evelyn Coleman will also read children’s story “The Glass Bottle Trees” during Thursday’s proceedings at the art gallery, which begin at 7 p.m.
The evening will also include performances by a cappella group Black Keys and the Franklin Community Male Chorus.
Meanwhile, Belinda Everett will depict the African-American experience in a multi-media dance performance, and King’s Fork High School students will dramatize the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Groups planning to attend the free event can make reservations by calling 514-7284 or 925-0448. The art gallery is located at 118 Bosley Ave.