PROFILE: Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy, La. Poet Laureate
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - On the first day of Black History Month, a group of students in Baton Rouge was given a unique opportunity to celebrate Black history through the art of poetry.
It was truly amazing. Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy, Louisiana’s poet laureate, visited with eighth graders at Southeast Middle School for a project that combined Black history, spoken word poetry, and self-expression.
The students heard about the past and also shared their passionate feelings about the present.
Saloy brings history to life through spoken word, using poetry to keep the past alive. As the state’s poet laureate, she is a steward of Louisiana folklore. A native of New Orleans, her poems tell of Creole culture and African American traditions in Louisiana.
“I document Black Creole culture and write about it and publish it, so that generations later will know who we were,” said Saloy.
The eighth graders at Southeast Middle were captivated by Saloy’s every word, including 14-year-old Myles Adkins, who summoned his courage and stepped up to the mic.
“Feel the power,” he said. “Our nappy heads and custom styles get stolen all the while. Yet, we are the thieves who sneak but you gatekeep our own culture and feast upon it like vultures. Feel the power.”
Then came Tameiya Jefferson’s message of hope and self-assurance.
“I was a bird who was meant to fly, was meant to soar through the sky, and cut the piece of pie I had been saving for later,” she said.
Two different generations, expressing the Black experience in America through storytelling.
“It’s how we lived, how we eat, how we dance, how we create music, all of our traditions that we celebrate life with,” explained Saloy.
The happy times and many struggles.
“People are kind of scared to say it but I’m not because someone needs to say it,” added Adkins.
“I write from my time and my generation and it’s their turn. What I heard today from those young people ... that’s exactly what they’re doing, writing their truth,” noted Saloy.
They are also doing their part to leave their mark on history and Black culture, making the captive audience proud.
“Let’s give them another hand. They deserve it. Take a bow … awesome,” said Saloy.
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