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The Black Archives Showcases World Class Poetry

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Earlier this month, the Black Archives of Mid-America hosted Dominique Christina for their Mbembe Milton Smith Poetry Series.

Christina is a spoken word artist known internationally for her passionate delivery and literary techniques. She derives her inspiration from being a mother, the granddaughter of a Negro Leagues baseball hall of famer, and the niece of a Little Rock Nine member. The Little Rock Nine—a group of black students who broke down segregation in Arkansas at Little Rock High school—is a parallel to her poetry. It’s in-your-face, it doesn’t back down, and it is powerful enough to offend yet change.

Christina is a five-time winner of National Poetry Slam titles in 3 years and currently the only person to have won two Women of the World Poetry Championships. In 2011, she won the National Poetry Slam Championship. She’s an educator with Master’s degrees in English Literature and Education, a published writer of 3 poetry books, and a former athlete who was selected to play on the 1996 Olympic Volleyball team but didn’t compete because of an injury.

Glenn North, Director of Education and Community at the Black Archives, has relationships with various poets throughout the nation and has brought in many artists. “I’ve been here [the Black Archives] for two years,” said North. “We’ve brought in over 10 poets for the Mbembe series.” North is also a decorated poet himself – he has performed with world renowned poets like Nikki Giovanni and Amiri Baraka. Outside of working with MTV, the NAACP and having a book published, North spent some time at UMKC working on his MFA in creative writing.

North said he had been familiar with Christina’s work and wanted to bring her to Kansas City to perform. Christina has a fan base here that filled the designated space at the Black Archives. Students from the University of Central Missouri’s Africana Studies program traveled to see her. As well as the programs director, Dr. Delia C. Gillis. Arissa Calvert, one of the UCM students, was the opener of the night. She performed a piece on black history and how it is often overlooked in the American education system.

Dominique Christina centered among UCM Africana Studies students.
Dominique Christina centered among UCM Africana Studies students.

Christina did a series of poems while explaining how she was inspired to write each one. She began with a dedication to the 4 girls who were murdered in the 16th St. Baptist Church Bombing, then a poem for her mother, one for Emmett Till and more. She ended with one her most popular pieces, “Karma,” a non-stop metaphor filled description of a runaway slave coming back to get revenge on her master.

“…and as romantic as passivism is these day,” said Christina, “I dream of dictators falling head first into karma, and forget to be afraid. If I could write this shit in fire, I’d write this shit in fire.”

The fire represented the rage built from suffering—ready to be repaid once she reached the plantation. This poem was heavy and graphic, but it summed up her theme for the night: freedom.

“It was a spiritual experience,” said Sheri Hall, a fellow spoken word artist, activist and author. “She connected with history – past, present and future.”

This was a similar response from various people who attended. The crowd reactions and snaps filled every space left after Christina spoke.

“I’m always intrigued when I hear her,” said Gari Miller, a student and artist who traveled with the UCM group. “She makes my heart stop.”

By the end of the night, Christina sold all of her books, autographing them all and taking pictures with everyone who wanted one.

The Black Archives is looking to fill its seats with more millennials who are interested in history, research and arts. Visit www.blackarchives.org to see upcoming events. Visit http://www.dominiquechristina.com to learn more about Christina and her work.

rhandy@unews.com

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