Editor’s Note: The following performances were filmed as part of the event, “Black Poetic Reflections on George Floyd & the Call for Social Justice,” a collaboration of The Kaleidoscope Project (Minnesota), East Side Freedom Library and Twin Cities PBS. This project is part of TPT’s “One Year Later” effort to commemorate the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder.

As the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder approached, Rebecca Nichloson, the Kaleidoscope Project (Minnesota) founder, creative writer and interdisciplinary artist convened five Black poets from across the Twin Cities to reflect on the seismic events of the last year.

The Kaleidoscope Project (Minnesota), in partnership with East Side Freedom Library, seeks to build bridges of intercultural/intercommunity understanding that facilitates a more just and equitable state. In this convening, called “Black Poetic Reflections on George Floyd & the Call for Social Justice,” writers were asked to explore the impacts of George Floyd’s murder and the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial through writing prompts and poetry.

Their creative work examines the worldwide movement, and demands for racial justice and police reform, sparked by Floyd’s killing on May 25, 2020. And many of them reflect via spoken word and poetry on what has and has not changed in the last year.

Rebecca Nichloson Performs “Black Breath: In the Middle of the Street, In Public, In Broad Daylight”

Rebecca Nichloson is a prolific poet, fiction writer, singer/songwriter, playwright and theatre maker. She is the author of numerous creative works, including Dear America (Libretto and vocals), Mara, Queen of the World (an acapella musical), The Wild, Bold Enlightenment of Velvet the Mistress, Cooking With Keisha (or Anatomy of Pie), and Jill, Jack & the Martian Lady, a play she created for a children’s educational workshop at the Minnesota Opera. Her fiction and performance pieces include Children of the First Hummingbird, Intelligence and Zar-Baby, among others. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting (Multiplatform Writing) from Columbia University and an M.A. in English Literature. She was also the recipient of a 2019 Commission from the Cedar Cultural Center for which she created Multicolored Musings: Jewels of Love, Loss, & Triumph (a three-part collection of songs exploring her African and African-American heritage and passion for genre eclectic music) and received a 2020 honorable mention from the McKnight Foundation (Spoken Word). In addition, she is the recipient of the Liberace Award, the Howard Stein Fellowship, The Matthew’s Fellowship, an America-in-Play Fellowship and a Many Voices Fellowship from the Minneapolis Playwrights Center (2008-2009). She is currently working on a collection of poetry.

Hawona Sullivan Janzen Performs “the verdict”

Hawona Sullivan Janzen is a Saint Paul, Minn.-based writer, artist and curator who believes that art is the only thing that can save us from ourselves. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio, in publications by Sister Black Press, Coffee House Press and developed into a jazz opera at the Soap Factory Gallery. She is a recipient of awards from the Jerome Foundation, McKnight Foundation and Minnesota State Arts Board. She is currently an MFA candidate in the University of Minnesota’s Interdisciplinary Art and Social Practice Program and at work on “Love Letters for the Midway,” a crowd-sourced public art project about life in the Hamline-Midway Neighborhood of Saint Paul.

Valérie Déus Performs “Walking on Water”

Valérie Déus is a poet, film programmer and radio show host. Her work has been featured in Minnesota Women’s Press, The Brooklyn Rail, Midway, the St. Paul Almanac, The BeZine, A Garden of Black Joy anthology and Under Purple Skies: A Minneapolis Anthology. Her most recent essay is featured in What We Hunger For – Refugee and Immigrant Stories about Food and Family edited by Sun Yung Shin and published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. When she’s not writing, she is the host of Project 35, a local low-fi radio show on KRSM radio. She curates FilmNorth’s Cinema Lounge and is the Shorts Programmer for the Provincetown International Film Festival.

Wisdom Young Performs “uphil”

Wisdom Mawusi, a.k.a. Wisdom Young, resides in North Minneapolis and is an artist, educator, activist and mother of 3 divine Black children who range in age from 5 to 22. Last summer, along with Eshay Powers and Namir Fearce, she founded Black Bold and Brilliant, a north Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization that invests in community development by engaging, inspiring and empowering Black youth to tap into their purpose and become problem solvers and righteous leaders in our community

Ty Chapman Performs “PANTHEON”

Ty Chapman is a Twin Cities-based author, poet, puppeteer and playwright of Nigerian and European descent. He has been creating art with social justice themes for many years and is passionate about creating art that speaks to the Black experience in America. His recent accomplishments include creating a one-man shadow puppet and marionette show for Puppet Lab, and publishing poems through SOFTBLOW and Oyster River Pages. Currently, he is focused on crafting his debut book of poems, teaching writing through The Loft Literary Center & Little Inklings, and publishing his trove of picture book manuscripts. His debut picture book SARAH RISING is set to release in May 2022 through Beaming Books.

Special Thanks: Rebecca Nichloson, Clarence White, Peter Rachleff and David Zierott.

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This story is part of the digital storytelling project Racism Unveiled, which is funded by grants from the Otto Bremer Trust, HealthPartners and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.

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